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:

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…)

Does Your Congregation Have a Healthy Distribution of Financial Commitments?

Have you ever wondered if your congregation’s distribution of financial commitments (annual pledges) is healthy? Because so many lay leaders have asked that question, the UUA stewardship consultants created a chart that illustrates a healthy distribution of financial commitments:

The first 25% of total dollars is coming from the first 10% of the household donors
The second 25% of total dollars is coming from 15% of the donors
The third 25%of total dollars is coming from 35% of the donors
The final 25% of total dollars is coming from the last 40% of household donors

We believe that this distribution is healthy and we recognize that it is not the norm. We encourage congregations to use this distribution as a guide, not as the one and only answer to healthy finances.

Over the years, we have consulted with many congregations in serious financial trouble because they were overly dependent on a few household donors in the first quartile of giving. If 10 percent of household donors contribute the first 25 percent of total giving, a congregations is not too vulnerable if a top donor moves away, reallocates their financial commitments to other causes, or dies without having left a bequest to the congregation. On the other hand, if only 5 percent of household donors contribute the first 25 percent of total giving, a congregation will have a serious financial problem if a top donor ceases to contribute financial commitments.

Financing options from the UUA

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) has several financing options for congregations looking to acquire land, build a spiritual home, or make improvements to their existing buildings.  Below is a list of the current financing options offered by the UUA.  Click on the link(s) for additional information about the specific program(s).

Building Loan Program
The Building Loan Program provides affordable financing for three types of project:

  1. building or buying a new spiritual home
  2. repairing or renovating existing facilities where substantial construction is not required,
  3. expanding current facilities where substantial construction is required, especially to make facilities more accessible.

The interest rate is set at the time of closing and is based on the seven-year Treasuries plus three-percent.

First Home Grant Program
The First Home Grant gives money to congregations seeking to purchase their first piece of land and/or to construct their first spiritual home.  The program is not designed for congregations that already own a building.

Loan Guarantee Program
The Loan Guarantee Program offers to guarantee a loan made by a local lender in cases where the lender requires this support before agreeing to loan money to a congregation.

Site Acquisition Loan Program
The Site Acquisition Loan Program assists growing, financially healthy congregations that are without significant financial equity to acquire their first piece of land. The UUA, in consultation with and acting as an agent of a qualified congregation, will purchase a site in a location where demographics indicate a high potential for the growth of Unitarian Universalism.  Note: this program is a loan and not a grant or gift.

Small Projects Loan Pilot Program
The Small Projects Loan Pilot Program promotes congregational growth by financing relatively inexpensive projects that can improve congregational life and well-being. Smaller, shorter term loans can create positive changes in congregations by providing a new tool to tackle issues that may seem beyond their current financial means. The program focuses on three broad categories of projects: mission-oriented, environmentally friendly, and critical/emergency in nature.

Green Construction Award Pilot Program
The Green Construction Award Pilot Program provides financial awards to congregations that build or renovate green and have received LEED certification.  This pilot program is in effect until as many as six congregations have earned an award.  Only one congregation has received this award.  Congratulations to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wayne County in Wooster, OH for obtaining LEED Gold certification.

Accepting Loans From Congregants

There has been recent talk on the UU-Money email list about accepting loans from congregants. The following information might be helpful.

The staff and consultants of the UUA Congregational Stewardship Services program are not supportive of seeking loans from congregants, especially when those loans are used to help balance an operating budget.

There is, however, one situation in which congregant loans might be a reasonable option. If a capital campaign has been completed and there are still insufficient funds available to complete a renovation or to grab that perfect building or piece of land that suddenly appears, congregant loans might be a short term, temporary solution. Even then, there are many issues to consider before seeking congregant loans.

Building Fund, Capital Campaign Commitments, and Personal Loans

Ideally, the congregation will have created a significant building fund in anticipation of this occurrence. And/or they will have recently completed a capital campaign in which enough money was raised to pay for a renovation project or to make a down payment on a building or piece of land. If the congregation exhausts its building fund and completes a capital campaign but more money is still needed, lay leaders may seek congregant loans. It is important to note that, in this scenario, the possibility of seeking loans should not even be considered until all of the capital campaign contributions have been committed. For obvious reasons, it is far better to receive contributions rather than asking for loans.

Opening Our Hearts to Stewardship

Love heals, love reconciles,
love helps us move when we are stuck,
love helps us cast out all fear…

– Rev. Laurel Hallman

Photo by Gabe Caby

Stewardship is a holistic concept that encompasses and connects how we understand and appreciate:  what we have been given and inherited, what we have earned, how we track and account for those resources, what we decide to do with them (according to our values/beliefs), and how we ensure that they are skillfully used to those purposes. As such, it is integral to our spiritual, ethical, and philosophical lives.

As Unitarian Universalists, our programs and communications addressing stewardship must be congruent with our core belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people. These approaches follow the same paths that we have learned are effective in challenging sexism, bias against sexual preference, and in anti-racism: We seek to reduce generalizations and discrimination (based on giving and economic status or the indicators of status), to encourage self-examination, to promote consciousness-raising, and to understand all people as interdependent, multi-faceted, and developing over the lifespan. Shaming, judgment, assumption, reproach, guilt, pressure, elitism, censure, and demanding language (or programs built on these concepts) are inappropriate and ineffective tools to open people’s hearts to deeper stewardship.

Aligned stewardship programs and communications use:

  • Orientation toward individual spiritual needs as well as the needs of organizations
  • An appreciative inquiry approach
  • Empowerment and choice models
  • Facilitation of personal development and spiritual growth
  • Inspiration and leadership
  • The provision of rich information (mission, planning, accounting, etc.) to increase motivation
  • Respect for each person as a rich repository of diverse resources as well as individualized needs
  • Caring systems (not cold, inhumane processes)
  • A respect for the challenges inherent in countering our consumer culture by aligning our values with our resources
  • An understanding of the reasonable fears and past wounding that may challenge a broadening of generosity
  • A view of giving and receiving as dynamically linked

Below is a hotlink to a chart intended to provide language for responding to people who are negative, frustrated, or angry about the stewardship of others. Just click on the line below:

Language Choices in Stewardship

How do you see loving stewardship as opening hearts and hands to both give and receive in your congregation? What language do you use to help you convey that?

Champions of Change: Growing Effective Lay Leaders

ChangeAs we approach the completion of the FORTH stewardship development demonstration project, several elements of success have been discerned. Among the findings, we have determined that the chances of successfully implementing a stewardship development program are improved when there is one committed lay leader with a big picture understanding of stewardship development. The successful lay leader has an understanding that raising money for the annual operating budget is but one of at least five stewardship components; stewardship education, joyful giving, ministry and good works, the annual budget drive, and planned giving.

Further, we have learned that chances of success are improved when the lay leader receives consistent guidance from an external coach. The role of this coach is different from the traditional consulting arrangement in which a consultant uses her expertise to tell a congregation how to “do it right.”

A coach, on the other hand, works collaboratively with a client (a Champion of Change lay leader in this case) as a partner to define the lay leader’s goals. Through the coaching alliance the coach and the leader discover appropriate actions, compatible with each lay leader’s values and desires for their particular congregation. In this partnership, the coach and the lay leader work together to find each lay leader’s own answers, to facilitate personal growth, and to help move their congregation forward.

Five lay leaders from the Beyond Fundraising course at the recent Southwestern District Conference have been selected to become champions of change. Each leader is teaming with Wayne to create and implement an 18-month personal plan for leading change in their congregation. Wayne’s role is to guide and coach. The five leaders are doing the heavy lifting. Each has committed to twice monthly phone conversations with Wayne.   The five participants have each identified their individual growth goals, indicated below:

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.

Book Table – A Fundraiser for External Ministries

Are you looking for a way to fund an external ministry? Maybe raise some money to support your partner church in Transylvania? Or money for earthquake-ravaged Haiti? Rose Hanig, our UUA bookstore manager, wrote the following article. You can contact her directly at if you have any questions.

bookseller Help…

I just volunteered to run my church book table

A number of UU congregations have books available for sale before and after Sunday services.  Some use the bookstore as a way of raising funds for church programs and others simply to make members aware of the resources that are available.  The UUA Bookstore is always happy to help churches start their own bookstores (also known as book tables and bookstalls).  It is a great way to get our books distributed to people who are not familiar with the UUA Bookstore and to people who prefer to see books before they purchase.

The following are some of the most commonly asked questions about running a UU church bookstore (A.K.A. a book table or bookstall).  We hope this information will be a handy reference for both novices and experienced church bookstore managers.

1.) What kinds of discounts are offered to church bookstores?

We offer Skinner House and Beacon Press books for re-sale at the following discounts:

  • 1-9 books (assorted titles published by Skinner House or Beacon Press) = 20% discount
  • 10 or more books (assorted titles published by Skinner House or Beacon Press) = 40% discount.

2.)    Can I get discounts on books that are not published by Skinner House or Beacon?

You will notice in the UUA Bookstore catalog that there are a number of books by other publishers.  The only discounts offered on those titles are quantity discounts: 5-9 copies of the same title qualify for a 10% discount.  10 or more of the same title qualifies for a 20% discount.  There are no re-sale discounts offered on hymnals, pamphlets, or curricula. These discounts do not apply to any edition of Singing the Living Tradition, the Meditation Manual Sampler to any of the sets (Storybook Set, etc).

3.)    How do I find out who publishes a book?