Is the Fair Share Giving Guide Fair for Fixed Income Retirees?

In Beyond Fundraising, Wayne Clark introduced a revised Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide. (SFSGG). The guide is an adaptation and expansion of a model used at the Henry David Thoreau Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Stafford, TX.

In my consultations with congregations, I often hear that the SFSGG is unfair to congregants who are retired and living on a fixed income. My response is that it’s pretty normal for these fixed income congregants to be among the highest annual donors.

Congregants have two pockets to give from: annual income and secured assets. For those with only annual giving pockets, I suggest that they make their financial commitment based on their adjusted gross income from their IRS forms. Once they have done that, I ask them to consider using the SFSGG to make a Fair Share commitment based on the percent that is suggested for that income level.

I have found that these UUs are smart enough to do just that and the good news is that one of two things occur: they look at the chart and decide that with just a little extra level of giving they can be a Fair Share donor. This is particularly true where the dollar value of the gifts is not that high.

At the other end of the scale are congregants who have a significant nest egg but haven’t been giving much to their congregation. By checking the SFSGG and their financial capabilities, many congregants are motivated to increase their giving levels.

I have found that the SFSGG helps many UUs consider a variety of ways in which they can become more generous to their congregations and feel better about themselves at the same time. Give it a try.

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!

Furry Vengeance – Film Review

Recently, I was approached by an individual from the company Different Drummer, a Fan-mobilization agency, about attending a premiere of the movie Furry Vengeance. I took this opportunity and ran with it as I was interested to see how big a role the theme of sustainability and respect for the environment would play in it. Additionally, I was intrigued by the fact that there was a campaign running simultaneously with the release of the film. The campaign, as their website states “will focus on the importance of endangered species and habitat preservation. A customized package including activities and materials, distributed to elementary students nationwide, will engage and educate future environmentalists. It will offer tools and opportunities for students to explore the natural areas of their communities and develop skills and deeper knowledge of habitat and animal protection issues.”


Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day

On this 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, may we hold the Earth delicately in our hands and reflect on how we may become better stewards of the Earth both individually and collectively.

There are many things you can do to celebrate Earth Day both locally and globally.  Invite you to join me by finding at least one way you can celebrate.  Here are some ways that you might want to celebrate:

Whatever you end up doing, I hope that you take some time to sit and reflect on the reverance of this beautiful planet.

My UU-UNO Spring Seminar 2010 Experience

Two weeks ago I traveled to the United Nations Church Center in New York, NY for the Unitarian Universalist-United Nations Office (UU-UNO) Spring Seminar 2010, Thursday April 8 – Saturday, April 10. About two months prior I met with one of the UU-UNO Board members, Connie Baker,  to talk about the the Green Sanctuary Program.  Connie told me that their upcoming Spring Seminar was going to be about climate change and asked if I would be willing to attend.  I said “sure.”  The next week, I received an email follow-up requesting that I also speak on a panel to which I also agreed.

The theme of the seminar was “A Climate of Change: Heads, Hearts, and Hands Around the Planet.”  As the Program Manager for the Green Sanctuary Program at the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) I am expected to be one of “the” voices for the UUA on the environment and environmental justice.  I was slotted to be on the Friday after-lunch “Hearts” panel “Faith-Based Perspectives on Climate Change.”  I left for New York with a handful of notes for my time to talk on the panel.

Welcome abundance and generosity into your life…

I was invited to speak on a panel at the UU-UNO 2010 Intergenerational Spring Seminar – A Climate of Change: Heads, Hearts, and Hands Around the Planet.  The panel topic was: Faith-Based Perspectives on Climate Change.  When I speak at Unitarian Universalist events I like to start with a reflection and/or reading to get participants thinking in a certain way.  The reading I chose for this particular event comes from Earth Bound: Daily Meditations for All Seasons by Brian Nelson and just so happens to be today’s (April 12) entry so I decided that it would be interesting to share on this blog.  It addresses stewardship in the broadest sense and in the sense that my office approaches stewardship.

“As the days get longer and the temperatures get warmer, animals start shedding the fur that helps them weather the winter and hoard their body heat.  Unless they shed this fur, they’ll overheat in the months to come.

Similarly, the longer we act as though we’re in a winter culture, a culture of scarcity and deprivation, the more likely we are to overheat now that it’s spring.

Stop living in a winter of your mind and shed the barriers that keep things at bay.  Act as though abundance and generosity are not only possible but imminent.  Welcome easier times and they will happen more often.”

The “Ripple Effect” at South Church in Portsmouth, NH

Environmental activists, often on the verge of burn-out, ask themselves “Does my work really make a difference?”

The answer to this question is “YES!”

As Unitarian Universalists, we seek out action that has meaning in our lives.  We find that meaning by looking to the UUA’s Seventh Principle “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”  I’d encourage people to see how each of the Seven Principles calls us to be good stewards of the Earth.

The Green Sanctuary Program, originally founded and managed by the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth, was designed to give roots and wings to the vision that, together, we can create a world in which all people make reverence, gratitude, and care for the Earth that is central to our lives.  The Green Sanctuary Program offers a way to join our efforts, both symbolically and explicitly, with thousands of other Unitarian Universalist congregations across the country.  Additionally, the Green Sanctuary program projects have deepened the inspiration of many individuals in their congregation to make personal changes in their lives.

One UU Church that decided to embark on the Green Sanctuary journey together was South Church in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  In their Green Sanctuary accreditation application they discussed sustainability and how it has become a major issue in Portsmouth. They have become a huge supporter , as well as a prominent leader, in the wider efforts in the New Hampshire seacoast region.  In addition to that, they were able to the see the “Ripple Effect” of the Green Sanctuary Program.  The list below is a sampling of the change effects that have resulted from what congregants describe as personal lifestyle modifications that were likely the result of the work of the environmental activism work of South Church:

‘Til the River Runs Clear – Film Review

             The Hudson River is considered the largest Superfund site in the United States, with over 200 miles of water scheduled for cleanup after the river was contaminated with PCBs from General Electric and various other industrial manufacturing companies over many years of dumping in the river. In the 1960’s, when there were virtually no environmental laws yet passed to protect our natural resources, an organization named the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. was launched by folk singer Pete Seeger and other advocates.

In the PBS short film (approximately 30 minutes) ‘Til the River Runs Clear, the community organizing effort put together by Pete Seeger & others is chronicled. The film begins by telling the story of how Pete Seeger and other activists got the idea of cleaning up the Hudson River. From there, the decision was made to build a traditional wooden sloop which was a replica of 18th and 19th century sailing vessels. The hope in building this particular type of ship was to encourage people to preserve the rivers beauty. Once the ship was launched in 1969, people began to take notice of just how powerful environmental advocacy could be. Today, Clearwater focuses on education and advocacy, bringing people on board to sail and experience the beauty of the river. The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Inc. is one of the pioneering organizations that drew attention to this river that was once dying.

While so many activist movements have great intentions and promote something that I believe in, I was particularly moved by this documentary for a few reasons. The first reason is because it is close to my heart; I grew up in New Jersey, very close to Manhattan, and remember going for walks with my family down by the rivers edge. I remember thinking that such a grand, beautiful place should be able to be enjoyed by its citizens, instead of simply saddening them. Also, as a famous folk singer, Pete Seeger was (and still is) in the public eye for his popular music. I do think that there is something to be said for an individual that is a potential role model to millions of individuals to be part of such an important, environmental project.

In addition to the Hudson River Sloop educating and advocating for environmental awareness and change, each year the organization holds the Clearwater Festival in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. This year, the River Revival takes place on June 19 & 20. While the lineup of performers has yet to be announced for 2010, past years have brought some famous names to the stage. A few of these artists have been Arlo Guthrie, Ani DiFranco, Taj Mahal, Tom Paxton and Toshi Reagon. For more information about this year’s lineup, check out their website.

Future of Congregational Stewardship Services

bluechaliceThe Future of Congregational Stewardship Services

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Perspective of Wayne B. Clark, Director

January 28, 2010

As congregational lay leaders become more knowledgeable about stewardship and generosity, we continue to move toward a more collaborative model. We take our services to a higher level as we acknowledge the importance of spiritual generosity in a consumer centric world.

We provide a more flexible template of services by partnering with professional and lay leaders to promote healthy congregational growth. We emphasize the stewardship of shared ministry and fair share giving. We introduce resources (web sites, communication forums, blogs, workshops, articles, books) while not necessarily delivering these resources.

We provide guidance through conference calls, video conferencing and webinars. We continue to decrease our travel to congregations. However, we are still on site to share our wisdom and experience through assessment visits, strategic planning weekends, orientation workshops, annual budget drives, financial feasibility studies and capital campaigns.

We continue to expand the Green Sanctuary program, supporting an ever-increasing number of congregations that are intentionally pursuing stewardship efforts to protect the Earth. We provide a green sanctuary manual and offer workshops for lay leaders. For the past 20 years, we have provided financial support to qualifying congregations. We continue to offer building loans, loan guarantees, grants, and awards to facilitate the growth of our congregations.

We ask more questions, searching for congregational success stories to build upon. We take an appreciative approach, helping congregations identify their strengths, rather than looking for problems to solve. Our assessment visits continue to evolve from the medical model of diagnosis and treatment to an exploration of what’s already working well. We encourage leaders to become experts on the root causes of success while we guide them away from cycles of blame and defensiveness.

We build upon what has been learned during the three-year FORTH stewardship development project; a stewardship development program is most successfully implemented when there is at least one leader with an understanding of, and passion for generosity and spiritual stewardship development. This is especially true when that leader receives guidance from an external coach.

We launch Champions of Change, an 18-month lay leader development pilot program. The program offers a way to help build congregational stewardship. It is not offered as a “silver bullet” solution to all congregational ills. Five lay leaders have begun a coaching alliance with Wayne Clark. These leaders are being encouraged to discover meaningful actions that are compatible with their spiritual values. Wayne coaches them to find their own answers, to focus on personal growth, and to help move their congregations forward.

We add outcomes based evaluation to our well-documented outputs analyses. We begin each congregational relationship by gathering baseline data. We look for our impact upon congregations.  We measure growth and progress that occurs during and after our consultation. We measure specific outcome indicators; what is seen, heard, read, enhanced, increased, altered, begun.  From this data, we continue to tweak our services to help create healthy, vibrant and growing congregations.