We want our congregations to be welcoming to people of all ages, genders, races, sexual orientation, and economic levels. Our congregations may be Welcoming of LBGT people and handicapped accessible. Yet if we are giving people either specific financial amounts or no guidance about that we expect them to contribute, we are excluding people. They either cannot give at that specific level, or if they are not told something may fear they will not be able to afford whatever the expectation turns out to be.

The Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide (SFSGG) allows people to find their own capacity to give and to determine what level of giving they want to reach for. This means that a very low income person can find themselves on the chart and know that they are being just as generous, with their own level of financial resources, as the wealthiest person in the congregation. There is perhaps nowhere else in America where a very low income person and a very wealthy person can give at the same level. The Guide can allow your congregation to be such a place.

Let me give you a concrete example. If you were going to have a “Leadership Givers Event” next month, how would you know who to invite? Most congregations would take a list of members, sorted by financial contribution, and invite the top dollar amount givers. That is not a bad thing to do, because you know who those people are – you can identify them easily. And based on the amount they give, you can presume a fairly high level of dedication to the congregation and its mission. Those are folks you want to gather and talk to. However, you are missing an opportunity to invite people who may be just as dedicated to the congregation, and are giving just as generously, yet their resources are more limited. Some of those lower income people may actually be stretching themselves more – and feeling it more strongly – than the higher income folks.

If a good number of people in the congregation use the Guide, and are willing to indicate that they do by their own self-report, you will have a better idea of who is being generous to the congregation. And in this instance, their level of financial resources will not divide out people who have more resources from people who have less.

Using the Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide, you can provide an environment where congregants can stand together – low, median, and high income. All are welcome, all can feel that they contribute their share, all can feel generous for their own financial contributions. Imagine a leadership givers’ event that includes more than the usual members; it might include people from all socio-economic levels, yet who are dedicated and generous in relation to their own capacity. Now that is economic justice lived in our own congregation!

About the Author
Mark Ewert
Mark Ewert is a congregational stewardship consultant for the Unitarian Universalist Association; his focus is on helping congregations to grow their cultures of generosity. In addition to 10 years as a fundraising professional, Mark has been a fundraising consultant, facilitator, and teacher for nonprofit organizations. He has a practice as a leadership coach in the tradition of the Georgetown University Leadership Coaching program. Mark has been a lay leader at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, DC since 2002. He formed and led their Development Ministry Team (now called the Stewardship Committee) and has served the Generosity Campaign (Annual Budget Drive) as the co-chair, as a committee member, and as a sub-committee chair coordinating all messages and communications pieces. He writes regularly on generosity for his blog, www.generositypath.com/blog, and is writing a book about generosity.

Comments

  1. Wayne Clark

    Thanks, Mark!

    The SFSGG is based on equal sacrifice, as opposed to equal giving. This is why our UUA stewardship consultants (Mark is one of them) are not supportive of across-the-board requests for all congregants to increase their annual giving by 5%. For some donors, especially lower income folks, a 5% increase is too high. For other donors, especially those with higher income, a 5% increase may be too low.

    Let’s hear from congregations that have used the SFSGG approach. What has worked well? What hasn’t worked well? Have any of you taken a SFSGG approach to your Leadership Givers’ Event?

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