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:

Program Budgeting: Say “YES” to pie charts and “NO” to line items

Are you frustrated that your fixed costs and employee salary packages represent the bulk of your line item budget? Can you imagine your annual budget development process devoid of drama, line-by-line contentious arguments, and anxiety about which line items to decrease or eliminate? Because this scenario is so prevalent and fraught with negativity, I want to share this information with you.

When congregants are asked to make a financial commitment to the annual operating budget, most want to know where their money is going and how it will make a difference. At the same time, they don’t want to be overwhelmed with too much financial detail. The best approach is to develop a program budget and to communicate it through pie charts.

Program budgeting is a method designed to clarify and simplify the operating budget. A typical congregational program budget divides annual income into four or five sources and annual expenses into four or five broad categories. Pie charts show the proportion of income from each source and the proportion of expenses in each category.

A program budget does not replace a line-item budget. It serves as an introduction to the proposed budget. The program budget proposal is shared with congregants when they are asked to make their financial commitment. The pie charts make it easy to see where financial resources come from and how the congregation chooses to allocate them, including the relative significance of various programs and ministries. These priorities may be altered if the congregation chooses. After the annual budget drive, the pie charts are converted into a line-item budget and presented to the congregation for adoption.

Best Stewardship Practices for Tough Economic Times

In response to the current economic situation and several requests, with the help of my consultants and support staff, I have compiled best practices that relate to fundraising during difficult economic times.  I especially encourage congregations to remain positive in these difficult times.

Giving During Tough Economic Times

Best Practices

Compiled by UUA Stewardship Consultants

  1. Stay positive. Don’t feed the anxiety.
  2. Act and lead with confidence.
  3. Assume that all will be well . . . Don’t assume the worst.
  4. See the recession as an opportunity to revisit your congregational vision and mission.
  5. Ask “How important is the congregation to you?”
  6. Believe that caring for people always trumps brick and mortar needs.
  7. Use pie charts to depict the distribution of the previous year’s spending.
  8. Use pie charts to indicate the anticipated distribution of financial commitments when the goal is met.
  9. Develop a line-item annual operating budget after completion of stewardship conversations.
  10. Do not presume other’s financial situation. Ask everyone for an annual financial commitment.
  11. Be pastoral. Focus on “how are you doing” personal conversations.
  12. In addition to monetary goals, create a goal for the number of congregants participating in the annual budget drive. Define success more broadly.
  13. Sponsor a “turn down the heat” day each week and host a pot luck meal at church.
  14. Sponsor a job-seeking club / a referral network / a resume writing workshop.
  15. Promote open conversations about “living well in tough times.”
  16. Market a “business is booming” slogan to spread the good news of the congregation.
  17. Focus on three key words; help, hope, and home.
  18. Emphasize that the faith community is a haven during tough times.