FORTH: A Stewardship Development Program has officially launched

We have some exciting news . . . .

FORTH: A Stewardship Development Program has been launched after four years of input from hundreds of congregational leaders. FORTH has been created because we know that some of the healthiest faith communities focus more on stewardship than fundraising. As noted in chapter one of Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship fundraising emphasizes the need of the recipient; stewardship addresses people’s spiritual need to give.

Take a look at FORTH. Start by watching the 8-minute introductory video and decide if you would like more information about how your congregation can adapt this year-round program to fit the unique needs of your congregation. You may also want to look some other new FORTH resources including The Art of Thriving and the Stewardship Self-Assessment pages.

You can join the FORTH Community by completing the Congregational Self-Assessment. Upon completion, you will have access to many free and helpful resources:

  • Several short videos of lay leaders who have had some experience with FORTH
  • Suggested Year Round Calendar
  • Recommended Stewardship Language
  • Sample Stewardship Team Job Description
  • Recommended Stewardship Team Formation and Charge
  • Stewardship Information and Ideas
  • Sample Organizational Charts
  • Annotated Bibliography (currently more than 130 items)
  • Operational Support for Effective Stewardship
  • Suggested Four-Year Activities

Once you have completed the Self-Assessment, you will receive an email from the Congregational Stewardship Services Administrator with information on accessing these resources. In this e-mail, the Administrator will include a link to the web pages with these resources and the username and password required for logging on to these pages. Please save this information.

Want to get your leaders involved in an exciting interactive process? Become a FORTH Partner by asking five of your congregational leaders (lay and/or professional) to complete the Congregational Self-Assessment and your congregation will gain access to all the resources listed above, plus these free interactive activities:

  • Closed Facebook group
  • Regularly scheduled conference calls
  • Occasional webinars hosted by UUA congregational stewardship consultants
  • Updates distributed through Constant Contact

After five of your congregational leaders have completed the Self-Assessment, Wayne Clark will create a profile for your congregation, sending it to your FORTH Partner contact person. Information about FORTH Partner activities will soon follow.

Interested in some on-site consultation from a UUA stewardship consultant? Ask us about our fee-for-service program, with a sliding scale to match the size of your congregation.

Questions? Contact Us

Wayne Clark, wclark @ uua. org (207) 829-4550

Mark Ewert, mewert @ generositypath . com (202) 722-8888

Brent Jurgess, forth @ uua . org (617) 948-4272

Creative Ways to Explore Giving with your Congregation

Recently, a UUA staff member attended a service at First Parish Brewster, Unitarian Universalist, in Brewster, MA. This congregation happened to be leading a service about happiness and its connection to giving. For congregations who are struggling with ideas on how to incorporate these types of discussions into their church service in a creative way, First Parish is a great example of a congregation who is using creativity to start conversations about stewardship.

Here is an excerpt from First Parish’s sermon, which built a connection between personal happiness and giving generously. In this excerpt, Rev. Mary McKinnon Ganz discusses a few ways to practice compassion as a means of finding your happiest self. Compassion and happiness are linked with stewardship in a story about First Parish’s own church community:

 

“…Find a community to practice with – a group of people who are mutually committed to each other’s practice of compassion. A lot of the small groups in this church partake of this happiness. In Small Group Ministry, six to 12 people come together with a mutual commitment to listen to each other, to hear one another’s stories non-judgmentally, with compassion in their hearts. If you’re not in one of these groups this year, please consider whether you might be able to join in the fall.

 

The happiest people I’ve met in this church were in a group that met only three times. This was a class gathered by Judy Jollett to consider a practice of giving one gift a day for 29 days. People report that this helps them to focus on what it is they have to give and not on what their limitations are. The third meeting of that group, not quite a month ago, virtually rocked with joy. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.  People reported finding joy in the most ordinary things – large and small ways they had discovered that they could give to someone else. Like taking the time to look in the eyes of a harried checkout clerk, and smile, and say, “Don’t worry. I’m in no hurry.” When we take the time to pay attention to what we have to give, our hearts overflow with generosity. Giving becomes a way of life, a path that leads to happiness.”

There are also members of the congregation who have gotten involved in stewardship conversations in their church. Here is an excerpt from a testimonial, titled “This I believe,” which was written by lay leader Kevin Lowey.

“I know we are capable of this type of abundance. Here’s just one sign of our changing prosperity. Last year our open plate collections totaled $14,000. Guess how much has been collected this year to date?…If you guessed $28,000, you’re right!! There’s a growing momentum and a renewed vision here at First Parish. If we can put the same spirit of generosity and abundance into the commitments we make this spring to support our church, it will allow our leaders to build a budget that will make good on the potential that I think all of us are feeling. I know I’m feelin’ it!”

While each congregation may approach stewardship conversations differently, this blog was meant to illustrate how thoughtful church members and staff can be when discussing stewardship. Special thanks to Rev. Mary McKinnon Ganz, Rev. JD Benson, Allison Beavan and Kevin Lowey for their permission to highlight their work on our blog.

The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects by Barbara Lewis: Book Review

Stewardship isn’t just about graciously giving of monetary resources; it is also about graciously giving our time. Some adults have a longing to engage in service, yet don’t know where to start. Or some adults live their live s without giving any of their time to volunteer work, and reach a point in which they feel unfulfilled. The giving of time is not only good for your own personal satisfaction; it’s appreciated by those on the receiving end of service. If early in life we teach kids about not only the value of service but als o about how to get creative in choosing what service projects they decide to get involved in, we are creating future caring stewards.

In Barbara Lewis’ book, The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects, the author spends each chapter listing idea s of small and large service projects that kids can participate in in their own communities. All of these ideas are basic in nature and can be built upon by the child by investigating the resources that are available to the student in their specific community. Some of these projects are those where a child would follow the direction of others, and some of these projects are those where a child can take initiative and be a leader in creating and implementing the project. Prior to fully committing to a service project, the child should spend some time thinking about what is important to them. Is the environment an issue that they feel is close to their heart? Do they get really revved-up when talking about politics or government? Do they believe that health and wellness are the keys to a great service learning project? The child should spend some time thinking about these things, and Ms. Lewis spends the first few pages discussing in more detail how a child can help decide what service project is right for them.

Here are some examples of chapters & projects that are in The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects. These projects can be adapted and implemented for kids up through teenagers.

Animals:

  1. Contact your local humane society or animal shelter to get the latest statistics on the numbers of homeless dogs and cats in your community. Ask their advice on what needs to be done
  2. Contact your local zoo and ask which animals need help. Find out what animals need the most.
  3. Join a wildlife organization. Be an active member.

Politics and Government:

  1. Telephone unregistered residents and explain how to register to vote.
  2. Provide a voter pickup and transportation service for seniors or other people with special needs who might not be able to travel to the voting booth.
  3. Petition a student position on your community council, neighborhood committee, school board, or any state or local agency.

Community Safety:

  1. Assist an after-school little league or other sports program for younger children
  2. Create a play that teaches children how to stay safe at home while their parents are away.

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…)

Why do donors give?

I was recently at a guest speaker presentation called “Why Fundraising is Everyone’s Job.”  Abbie J. von Schlegell, guest speaker, shared these reasons as “Why Donors Give”

  • To experience the joy and happiness of giving
  • Because the asker offers an opportunity to meet certain needs
  • To affiliate wit those who have like values
  • To enhance community resources
  • Because of a relationship between the donor and the organization
  • To make a difference
  • Because they are asked

This cartoon, shared by Mark Ewert, UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultant, demonstrates the first reason “To experience the joy and happiness of giving.”

Are there other reasons you 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…)

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…)

Nurturing Young Stewards

UU Society of Sacramento, kids planting a garden

When visiting with different congregations I encourage the leadership to think about how to help the children become good stewards of their faith community. Even the littlest ones can plant a bulb on the grounds and watch it grow over time. By the time they are teens, however, they are able to articulate in joyful and powerful ways what their faith community means in their daily lives. They freely share what they like, what they wish were different and are almost always so willing to help bring about their desired future. Adding teenage youth to your discussions about the future, in your committee meetings, and sitting at the table with the adults is a wonderful way to grow their understanding of stewardship in the fullest possible meaning. Teens also serve as a powerful reminder to adults that their decisions today will impact the next generation.

How is your congregation including youth in their most important discussions? Are they prepared to be givers of time, talent and treasure as they become adults and members?

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.
(more…)

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

(more…)