Study finds that Donors that give more to Church also give elsewhere

“Houses of worship and other charities often aren’t in competition for dollars but instead tend to reap donations from similar donors, a new study shows.

Slightly more than 50 percent of people who financially supported congregations also gave to at least one charitable organization in the last year, according to a study conducted by Phoenix-based Grey Matter Research Consulting.
Researchers also found that the more Americans give to a house of worship, the more they donate to other groups. And the trend continues with the generosity of the donor.

For example, donors who gave less than $100 to a house of worship also donated an average of $208 to other charities. Those who gave between $100 and $499 to a congregation gave an average of $376 to others. Donors of between $500 and $999 to places of worship gave an average of $916 to others.”

To read the rest of this article, you can visit the Beliefnet Blog that highlights this report.

Book Review: The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood

“Thank you” – a simple phrase, but one that can go a long way and can often make someone’s day a little brighter, make a person feel appreciated, and recognize that what they do is important and meaningful. Giving thanks is one of the key components of generosity. To be a gracious giver, one must also be a gracious receiver, so it’s important to know how to give and receive thanks.

But when do we learn that saying “thank you” is so important? For many, we learn as children that it is important to say thank you. The phrase is viewed as a common courtesy, it is viewed as a sign of respect, and it is just… what you do. But the true meaning of  giving thanks is an important concept for a child to learn and understand. If we can teach children that thankfulness and gratefulness are the keys to happiness,  then we will undoubtedly see very happy children with a strong sense of compassion.

When I read through the childrens book “The Secret of Saying Thanks” by Douglas Wood, I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for this text. The book is beautifully illustrated, the text is simple and easy to read, and the message is powerful. The beauty of generosity and thanks abounds through the pages and you are left with a positive and encouraging feeling when you’ve finished reading it.

This text is short and can be read with a child as a good bedtime story, but what makes it so special is the message of how important gracious giving and receiving is. If you are a Religious Educator, a parent, or simply someone who wants a refreshing short book to remind them of importance of giving thanks, “The Secret of Saying Thanks” may be a great book to pick up.

CSS at UUA GA: It’s really not alphabet soup!


The annual General Assembly (GA) of Unitarian Universalists (UUA) was recently held in Charlotte, North Carolina. During those five days, the Office of Congregational Stewardship Services (CSS) conducted four workshops.

Because worksho p attendance was greater than expected (over 400 attended the four workshops) we ran out of handouts. As promised, here are the links to those handouts:

FORTH Introductory Video
Appreciative Inquiry and the Annual Budget Drive PowerPoint

During these same workshops, small groups of participants were ask to answer these questions and the links to their responses are at:

FORTH Short-Term Goals
FORTH Long-Term Goals
Characteristics of a Stewardship Team


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.


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.

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.

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”

Stewardship as Spiritual Discipline

A Mini-Sermon by Barry Finkelstein
UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultant
Emerson UU Church, Marietta, GA
November 14, 2010

I am one of the crazy ones – the people who sign up to do stewardship in our churches.  Go around and talk to people about money.  Both in my own church and as one of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s congregational stewardship consultants – which is how I come to be among you this weekend.

When I ask myself why I do this, an image pops immediately into my mind.  An image of one of my former churches – South Church Unitarian Universalist – in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.   We’re in the sanctuary – a beautiful historic sanctuary inside a granite monument of a building – and it’s January 1 2008, a  Tuesday.  On what might have been an ordinary New Year’s Day, the church is filled with people, with energy, with magic.  A beautiful, powerful magic that changed the world. (more…)

“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.

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