Making the Most of Our Money – Palatine, IL

We learned about this congregation’s stewardship education work through the Green Sanctuary Program application process (we do live in an interconnected web of life) and thought that it might be interesting and inspiring for other congregations.

Guest Author, David Cohen,Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist,
Social Action Committee

Making the Most of Our Money is a 9-session money management class aimed at low-income, food pantry and general assistance residents in the Northwest Suburbs. The program is sponsored by and held at Countryside Church Unitarian Universalist (“CCUU”) in Palatine Illinois.

At the summer 2007 leadership retreat for CCUU, the congregation voted for a long-term social action project to turn our church covenant of recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every person into action. Palatine Township caseworkers requested that we provide money management classes to the low-income recipients of the food pantry and the township’s general assistance clients.

We started with a curriculum called All My Money from the University of Illinois Extension Service. Eight persons and 3 Palatine Township caseworkers attended the training and received the teaching certification. (more…)


I woke up today and became inspired to write the following…it is very personal, but being still a little ‘hooked’ on generosity evangelism I wondered if it might be useful…”

One of the benefits of being a member of the “older generation” is to look back on life and realize while, yes, it is about the big choices (where to live, what career to choose, whom to marry), our life is also much more than we realize about the daily choices we make.

Early on while supporting a friend finally leaving an abusing marriage. I learned that “given all the choices you feel you have, you are where you want to be.”  I learned that change in our life is really all about relooking at the assumptions we have about our choices

Later when I was dating my second husband I found a painted stone in a gift shop – on it was written the way to my wonderful, successful new life “To love is to choose”.   What are we choosing?  Every choice — I realized.  We make our life through our daily choices.  We continually “construct” not only our life, but also who we are by our many, many small daily choices.

So, when, a few years ago, a dear and close friend gave me one of those little books of wisdom about choices, I was open to learning from The Secret by Michael Berg of the Kabbalah Centre.  Michael gave me my most important “pithy” insight to my daily choices.  “The only way to achieve true joy and fulfillment is by becoming a being of sharing”.

Slowly over time I shared with family, friends and others all those things I had that I didn’t need. With less stuff, I was easily moved to buy less stuff. I then looked at the spending I wasn’t doing and increased my giving.  I found myself celebrating every gift as a gift to myself. I am now continually becoming a being of sharing and generosity.  I now tithe to my congregation and am able to give more than I suspected to two other non-profits.

Today, with joy and fulfillment, my choices are the gifts of giving love and the gifts of sharing to myself.  Generosity gives me more than I can give.

Greening the Plate

A Story of Doing Good Work on a Small Scale – and Finding Bigger Results to Follow
by Bill Clontz

Our congregation, the Mt Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria VA, hosted a workshop some time ago at which UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultant Larry Wheeler shared a story that was so simple, yet so powerful, it became a part of our approach to generosity.

Larry was working with another church sometime ago, and a friend of the church mentioned that when he first began coming to the church, he was struck that when the collection plate came around on Sundays, it was almost always empty. He could not help but wonder if this was an indicator that the congregation did not support the church. When he mentioned this to members of the church, they assured him that there was no lack of support, but that most people contributed by automatic deposit or by check through the mail.

Still, his question got them to thinking about appearances and symbolism; from their reflection, came the idea of “Greening the Plate.”

Now, congregants who have contributed by other means simply put a dollar or whatever they wish in the plate when it comes around on Sunday; no one lets it go by untouched. It’s a symbolic act, and perhaps only a dollar, but what an effect. At the end of the passing around, the plate is full, the new visitor, and the members, have a visual cue that people here care enough to put something in the plate, and even though its only small amounts, you would be surprised how that adds up over a year. The money goes directly into programs and other church needs. (more…)

Give Until It Feels Good

This piece is from the First Unitarian Church of Portland‘s Annual Fund Drive Brochure
written by Rev. Thomas Disrud, Associate Minister

A friend describes his spiritual approach to generosity quite simply: “I give until it feels good.” I try to remember that in my life. Giving is not primarily an obligation, nor a duty and certainly not a burden. Generosity is an opportunity to make real our connection to others and to that which is larger than our-selves. Generosity is one of the important ways we participate in the Spirit of Life.

Generosity and most spirituality grow out of a sense of gratitude. We work hard and many of us struggle to overcome obstacles and oppressions. But we have also been given so much. We did not create our talents or our energy. The wonder of the natural world, the capacity to love and to be loved, to know beauty and to treasure friendship, life itself…these are all gifts we did not create.

The Spirit of Life calls us to respond with gratitude. One great theologian said that if our only prayer is “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” that would be enough. But that feeling of gratitude for all we have been given also calls us to give back, to find ways to bless the world as we have been blessed.

Generosity is making love manifest in the world; it is offering our gifts in the service of building the Be-loved Community. Generosity to this church supports a community of caring, compassion and hope with a ministry that goes deep both within and beyond our walls.

You have found a religious home here at First Unitarian Church. I hope you will express your gratitude and your dedication to this community with a pledge generous within your means. Give until it feels good.

Study Shows Americans Plan to Give More to Charity in 2011

For the first time since the recession began, Americans say that in 2011 they are more likely to increase their giving to charity than decrease their charitable support, according to the annual Dunham+Company New Year’s Philanthropy Survey conducted by Wilson Research Strategies.

Compared to 2010, there is a 29 percent surge in households that say they plan to increase their giving in 2011, a 20 percent jump in households that say their giving will stay the same and a 48 percent drop in the number of households that say they will decrease their giving.

Overall, nearly 1 in 5 respondents (18 percent) say they plan to increase their giving in 2011. (more…)

Generosity Prayer

by Congregational Stewardship Services Consultant Mark Ewert, inspired by many others…

Spirit of Life, God of Many Names

The abundance of this world is an example for us

The universe is full of stars; this planet is full of different peoples, animals, insects, plants, stones, and elements
Everywhere we look, everything we hear and feel is quantity and richness

The beauty of this world is an example for us

Each species and landscape is lovely in its own way
The sky and the earth and all of its living and non-living manifestations carry your beauty

The love in this world is an example for us

From people we know and do not know, from animals and even the sun shining on our back, love can be felt all around
Whether we create it or deserve it or not, love is always offered to us

Help us to open out hearts and let these examples feed us in times of joy and sorrow
Help us to use these examples to know our own wealth, no matter what our financial situation
Help us to understand that what we have to give is limited only by our fear of not having enough for ourselves
Help us to follow your example and create

Abundance, beauty, and love all around us
With everything we have to give”

De-bunking Fundraising Myths – Part 7 (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 seventh 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).  Are large givers going to barricade the road we wish to travel down?

As always, we encourage you to leave comments.

Fundraising Myth #7

Myth: Generous givers feel entitled to complain loudly when things do not go their way. They attempt to “hold the congregation hostage” by threatening to eliminate their financial and volunteer support.

Truth: There may be a few generous givers who feel entitled , but not many. Fundraising consultants have an axiom that says, “People who give the most complain the least; those who give the least complain the most.” People are more committed to faith communities when they give joyfully of their aptitudes, abilities, and money (their gifts), when they willingly proclaim the faith community’s good works (their call), and when they participate in the work (spiritual vocation) of their faith community. With few exceptions, the most committed congregants are those who are helpful and supportive to a fault. The people who are vocal obstructionists often lead with their heels, giving little of their gifts, call, or spiritual vocation to their faith community.

“The Power of Giving” – Book Review

When many people think back to the best times in our life, often a part of this memory is the experience of giving to another. One of my fondest memories was when I participated in a volunteer trip two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated many parts of New Orleans, LA. Our volunteer group participated in the clean up of both a day care center and a school library. By the end of the week, many of the trip members (including myself) felt this experience to be so profound that it changed our lives forever. In fact, it was so profound for me that it had some weight in my decision to go back to graduate school and pursue my Masters degree in Social Work. So, when I started reading The Power of Giving by Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon, memories of experiences in my life where I had given something came back to me, and I was reminded of how impactful the feeling of generosity can be.

A Quiz and the FORTH Report

This week we have a quiz for you.

Answer yes or no to the following questions.

  1. Yes/No Does your congregation have enough money?
  2. Yes/No Do you have an active planned giving program?
  3. Yes/No Is there a predominant culture of generosity in your congregation?
  4. Yes/No Are your board and committee meetings conducted in a consistently positive manner?
  5. Yes/No Does your congregation have a common definition of stewardship?
  6. Yes/No Do you have a year-round calendar of stewardship-related activities?

If you answered no to any of these questions, there is a recent report that might be helpful.

Book Review: The Giving Book by Ellen Sabin

Teaching Youth How to Give Back to the World

Stewardship is “the spirit that influences” giving, receiving, and generosity (as Wayne Clark defines it in his book, Beyond Fundraising). As adults, while many of us give our time, money, or energy to worthy causes, one must recall where that desire came from. Think back to your life as a child; did you help others as you were growing up? In what capacities were you able to help? Who taught you how important it is to give back to the community? Wayne Clark writes, “People are not born with the giving gene,” so we must teach individuals to be successful stewards. If a culture of giving is created at a young age, becoming a successful steward as an adult is a likely reality.

The Giving Book, which is geared towards children ages 6-11, is a 64-page activity book written to stimulate a child’s creativity and thoughts around the ideas of giving, donating, and saving. Some of the activities in this book include:

  1. creating a list of people who have been giving to you or have shown you acts of charity, making a list of what you are thankful for,
  2. compiling a list of special skills and talents you can share with others, and
  3. creating a giving bag in which you save up your money and then give to your charity of choice