Worship Web Resources for Tough Economic Times

Most of us continue to struggle through unsettling economic times. Yet money talk is still hard, generally unaddressed in our congregations.

How can we find words that will help us to talk about money?

How can we acknowledge that money provides us with the resources to live our ministries?

Take a look at the the UUA’s Worship Web for some helpful resources and please note that additional contributions (from you!) are requested.

In faith and occasional discomfort

As a stewardship consultant, I work with lay leaders, ministers, DREs, DMEs and others in how best to create a culture of generosity within congregations.  The discussions almost always lead to identifying where there is a consumer mentality rather than a transformational one.  Those with the consumer mentality are seeking Sunday school for the kids and a good sermon for themselves while those with a transformational mentality are seeking a congregational community that informs and shapes how one lives daily life.

Sadly, this article (“Congregations Gone Wild”) in the NY Times points out how for many ministers of many denominations, the culture of consumerism all too often is reflected in what people will accept from their experiences in a church community.  It seems that what we church goers want is confirmation that we are already living life correctly, some entertainment and not too big a bite out of our weekend schedule.  If we don’t get it, we leave.

I like to say that ministers are here to comfort the afflicted while consultants come to afflict the comfortable.  However, ministers do have an obligation to afflict some discomfort by challenging each of us to really live within our shared principals every minute of every day. After all, a traditional strength of faith communities is referencing the emotive story of “what ought to be.”

How well do you reward your minister for calling you to action and service?

Read this article and decide if you are part of the solution or the problem.  Your feedback would be most welcome.

In faith and occasional discomfort,
Mary Gleason

De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 3 (of 12)

We’ve all heard myths about fundraising.  These often lead us to do the exact opposite of what we should be doing to raise money.  We’ll be running a twelve part series de-bunking fundraising myths to take a close look at these false assumptions about giving.

This is the third in the series and we will run one each month (if you can’t wait to a year to read all of them you can purchase the book Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship and read them in Chapter 1: The Spiritual Roots of Stewardship).  We all feel the pinch during an economic downturn; however, this does not spell disaster for our faith communities.

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.

Fundraising Myth #3

Myth: During periods of economic downturn, people can’t be expected to give as much money to their faith community.

Truth: When faced with limited discretionary income, people choose their charitable organizations more carefully. If a compelling case is made in support of the annual budget drive or a capital campaign, they will make significant financial commitments. If a case is not made, potential donors think that the faith community does not deserve to get their money.

Household Giving is on an Upward Trend

Mary Gleason, Congregational Stewardship Consultant at the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA), recently came upon an article that was posted on the Association of Fundraising Professionals for Washington website and shared it with the other Congregational Stewardship Consultants. We thought that it was such interesting and positive news that we wanted to share it with you.

Mary writes:

“There is good news on the horizon for the success of annual budget drives.

In 2009 non-profit organizations experienced a downward trend in household giving, the kind of giving our congregations rely on.  Blackbaud, makers of fundraising software, monitors giving on many levels and has noted some positive trends in the quarter April – June 2010.

Their study shows that small non-profits with annual revenues under $1 million experienced a 12.3 percent increase over the same time period last year.  That’s good news for congregations with late spring annual budget drives.  Mid sized non-profits with annual revenues between $1 million and $10 million still had a decline of 2.5% but is considered recovering because it is less of a decline than for the same time last year.

The study also reports that online giving is up by 13.1 percent for small organizations. If you are not using online giving as an option for your annual budget drive and other gifts you may want to consider adding this opportunity.”

You can read the article at the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the full report at Blackbaud.

If you’re looking into on-line giving, the UUA Office of Congregational Stewardship Services encourages congregations to explore Vanco Services.  Currently over 8,500 congregations nationwide are served by Vanco’s electronic giving solutions.

It all comes down to making a compelling case

Quite often, I receive phone calls from congregational lay leaders who want to explore various techniques to ask congregants for annual financial commitments. Our experience has been that there are a number of techniques that can be implemented as an alternative to a stewardship conversation-oriented annual budget drive. Beyond Fundraising provides descriptions of several techniques, including commitment Sundays, cottage meetings, annual congregational dinners, faith promises, pony express, telephone conversations, and direct mail appeals.

We have found, however, that the technique is not nearly as important as making a compelling case. Congregants will make financial commitments if they understand the significance of their gift . . . what difference it will make. In this era, the successful annual budget drive requires that congregants understand the connection between their gift and the vision/mission/ministry of their congregation.

I welcome stories about successful annual budget drives that you have conducted. How did you ‘make the case’? What technique did you use? How did you define success (beyond meeting your financial goal)? How many lay leaders were involved in the drive?

Financial Stewardship Campaign Case Statement – Chapel Hill, NC

Making a compelling case is one of the most important elements to a sucessful annual budget drive or capital campaign.  Congregants want to know “what difference will my contribution make?”  So when a congregation is preparing for an annual budget drive or capital campaign its extremely important to take the time to draft a compelling case statement about what can/will happen when the annual budget drive or captial campaign goal is met.  Congregational Stewardship Consultant, Frankie Price Stern, shares with us this Financial Stewardship Campaign Case Statement from the Community Church of Chapel Hill, UU, her home congregation.

“How Will We Love This World?
2010 Financial Stewardship Campaign
Community Church of Chapel Hill, UU
Case Statement

Transformational love is at the heart of our faith and history as Unitarian Universalists and as members and friends of the Community Church of Chapel Hill:
(more…)

De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 2 (of 12)

We’ve all heard myths about fundraising.  These often lead us to do the exact opposite of what we should be doing to raise money.  We’ll be running a twelve part series de-bunking fundraising myths to take a close look at these false assumptions about giving.

This is the second in the series and we will run one each month (if you can’t wait to a year to read all of them you can purchase the book Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship and read them in Chapter 1: The Spiritual Roots of Stewardship).  Just because people say that it is true and have repeated it over time does not mean that it is the truth much like the existence of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.

Fundraising Myth #2

Myth: Because baby boomers (those born just after World War II) are generally self-centered, materialistic, and achievement-driven, they do not give much money to faith communities or other charities. Furthermore, they do not have the time to offer their call or spiritual vocation to their congregations.

Truth: Research conducted in 1994 by the Barna Research Group indicates that baby boomers were the most generous generation of the twentieth century. Barna states, “If we compare their giving to that of prior generations when those people were the same age, boomers emerge as more generous.” His research indicates that boomers might be willing to give more to faith communities if furnished with sufficient motivation to do so. It is the “show me what difference my contribution will make” mindset of many boomers that often frustrates older congregational leaders. In contrast, these older congregants come from a generation that sees giving as an obligation and an expectation. When older leaders fail to understand the motivation of boomers, they are unsuccessful at raising money from boomers and often unsuccessful at recruiting them for leadership roles.

Does this sound familiar? (Endowment Fund Question)

“[My congregation] does not have a coherent policy regarding earmarked gifts, special funds, special fundraising etc… We also have a history of programs raising their own funds as well as some history of people who participate in just one aspect of church life not pledging to the whole stewardship campaign but contributing to their favorite program, if at all…”

That statement has been excerpted from a current discussion on the UU-Money email list.  The following information might be helpful if your congregation has experienced the same dilemma.

Sample Endowment Investment and Distribution Policy

A. General

  1. The Endowment Fund Committee shall invest the assets of the endowment with the objective of earning an average total return of 8 to 12 percent consistent with moderate risk.  The Committee shall endeavor to invest the assests of the endowment in a socially responsible manner. It is intended that reasonable restrictions placed on any gift by the donor will be faithfully followed, subject to the Committee’s determination of the integrity and best intersts of the endowment.
  2. (more…)

Congregational Stewardship at GA

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations’  49th Annual General Assembly in Minneapolis, Minnesota is only 20 days away.

General Assembly, GA, is our yearly meeting of congregations where we come together “to take part in the governance of our Association, to build together a vision for its future, to learn from each other, to work, talk, play, and imagine together, to grow together” (from the opening of the General Assembly Program). 

Congregational Stewardship Services traditionally has a presence at GA.  Wayne Clark and Robin Nelson (Director and Program Manager, respectively, for Congregational Stewardship Services) will be attending, leading workshops, meeting with leaders, staffing “the booth”, and available at GA.  Additionally, some of the Congregational Stewardship Services consultants will be at GA.  Notably, Mark Ewert, will be co-leading a workshop #3009 Stewardship as Authentic Presence with Dr. Sharon Groves as well as leading a discussion group

For a complete listing of all of Congregational Stewardship Services offerings at GA:

Congregational Stewardship Services is part of the larger Staff Group called Congregational Life.  As such, we will be in the Congregational Life “booth” #642 in the Exhibit Hall.  If you have questions for us you can stop by “the booth” and leave a message for us and we’ll be sure to get back to you as soon as we can. 

See you at GA!

De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 1 (of 12)

We’ve all heard myths about fundraising.  These often lead us to do the exact opposite of what we should be doing to raise money.  We’ll be running a twelve part series de-bunking fundraising myths to take a close look at these false assumptions about giving.

This is the first of the series and we will run one each month (if you can’t wait to a year to read all of them you can purchase the book Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship and read them in Chapter 1: The Spiritual Roots of Stewardship).  Just because people say that it is true and have repeated it over time does not mean that it is the truth much like the existence of unicorns.

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.

Myths About Giving #1

Myth: Those in low-income households don’t have money to contribute, so they offer their time instead.

Truth: The myth that people contribute money or time has been disproved. Recent research by Ian Evison, formerly of the Alban Institute, shows that, in general, financial contributions follow an investment of time. Those who give more time also give more money. In addition, anecdotal observations by fundraising consultants indicate that people with limited income often contribute a higher percentage of that income than those with larger incomes.