Congregations Create Unique Stewardship Plans Part 3

This month we are featuring the innovative ways congregations handle stewardship issues. This was started with the Up Close issue for November where featured three congregations with unique stewardship plans. Last week we featured two more here, today we feature the last along with some quote from staff and a congregational member about APF and District Fair Share. If your congregation has a new way of handling stewardship, please let us know in the comments.

First Unitarian Cleveland Changes Its Style

First Unitarian Church Shaker HeightsAfter nine years conducting its annual stewardship campaign by letter and phone/email follow up, the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland changed to personal solicitation for the 2014 – 2015 fiscal year.  The reasons for this included a desire to:

  • Increase the number of donors, average gift per donor, and overall support.
  • Build relationships and understanding through conversations that were about more than just fundraising.

Leadership came to understand that one of the keys to a successful personal stewardship campaign was the availability of volunteer “callers” –  who would approach fellow members to discuss the church’s impact and needs and ask for a specific level of support.  They also learned that these callers must have an understanding of the case for support and, most importantly, the ability to listen to better connect members to their church and the church to its members.

Church leadership recruited 39 volunteer callers who gathered for a Saturday orientation where they learned more about the campaign theme “Celebrate UUnique!”  and  received support material, tips and techniques for  conducting meetings, and engaged in role-playing sessions. A campaign kickoff celebration followed a week later to “officially” introduce the campaign and volunteer callers to the congregation.  Also, a “Why I Am Here” campaign enlisted members to briefly address the congregation on Sunday to share why they valued First Unitarian.

The results were heartening:

  • Average per-member giving increased by over 12%.
  • The campaign raised $27,456 more than the previous year.
  • Members developed and renewed relationships with fellow members.
  • Lines of communication were opened to ensure better fellowship for years to come.

This coming year, First Unitarian will expand on this success and make “Why I Am Here” a year-round program.

APF/District Fair Share

Staff are often asked about how congregations should present APF or District Fair Share in their budgets and to their members. Here are two responses to this question, one from a UUA staff person, one from a CERG Threshold Congregation member.

From Stefan Jonasson’s comments that congregational scarcity mentality is the CAUSE, not the EFFECT of financial decline.

“Congregations which do not give away at least one-tenth of their budgets to something beyond themselves — including the denomination and community benevolences — will never have enough money to look after their own internal needs. Generosity to the denomination and the larger community they serve models generosity for congregants and inspires them to be generous in their giving, whereas withholding support encourages similar behaviours on the part of members. Members learn either generosity or scarcity from the priorities established by their congregation and its leaders.”

This quote comes from the UU Growth Lab Facebook group, when someone was asking whether to include APF/District Share inside a congregational budget or ask members to contribute separately, a Metro New York President of a Threshold congregation said:

“Mechanically we use the procedure xxx articulates (APF as integral to budget). But the relationship angle is important. The congregation (not the individual) is the member of the UUA, I highly recommend that you do not talk about UUA dues being assessed on a per “member” basis. Deciding to be a member of our association is a congregation’s job, not an individual’s job. (Individual members make this decision as a group through the “democratic process”.) When a congregation decides to be a member, it decides to pay dues. Other methods of determining dues could be used. Talking to individual members about UUA dues drives weird behavior on the part of congregants – like people deciding they would like to save the congregation some money and not be an official member…which is very unproductive. UUA dues are a very small part of the cost of our ministry at UUCMC, Lincroft. I want our congregants to financially support our whole ministry…which by the way includes being a member of the UUA. (Side note: Our 7 principles actually define the relationship between the congregations and the UUA and among congregations – they are not statements about individuals’ actions. Interesting, yes?)  I think of UUA dues like this: Whatever mechanism the UUA uses to determine dues will be artificial and subject to a certain amount of gaming. I have a vague preference for the head-count model, and I think transition to any new model needs to be handled carefully. But here’s the more important thing: The UUA provides valuable important infrastructure for our congregation, therefore I am always an advocate for my congregation paying our dues. (Ditto for our district).”

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Congregations Create Unique Stewardship Plans Part 2

This weekend, the Up Close issue for November featured three congregations with unique stewardship plans. Here are two more we’d like to share. If your congregation has a new way of handling stewardship, please let us know in the comments.

“Our Financial Health” at Marietta

FUUSM (First UU Society of Marietta, OH) has begun a regular process of educating our congregation about financial stewardship called “Our Financial Health.”   This initiative began Oct 19 with a short presentation before the offertory during the worship service. Our minister, Rev. Kathryn Hawbaker, gave a brief introduction,  noted our annual service auction and made the point that, although fundraisers are important,  77% of the income of our annual operating budget comes from pledges.

We shall continue this series of brief presentations at Sunday service. Subsequent presentations will describe the other features of our annual operating budget, then a description of our trust funds and how we use earnings from these funds to support improvements & renovations of our historic building.  In later presentations we will get into how the trust funds work, a new trust fund to support non-capital projects (“Funding our Values”) and special funds (outside of the operating budget and trust funds), such as our Community Meal Fund, Green Sanctuary Fund.
This initiative  was started by leaders who believe that it is not helpful to talk about finances only one time a year at the annual fund drive. The book “Cultivating Generosity,” by Rem Stokes, has informed much of the thinking on this subject.

Stewardship Team Works Year-Round

Wooster Stewardship TeamThis year, the UU Fellowship of Wayne County (UUFWC) Stewardship Committee has been:

  • Shifting to a year round committee – to create a culture of giving
  • Working with the Leadership Development Team (LDT) and Volunteer Coordinator – to increase the volunteer base
  • Working with Finance to determine the annual budget needs – to increase communication about financial stewardship between committees and to the fellowship
  • Working toward a definition of a successful campaign (dollars and participation)


  • We increased participation – 75% responded to the “how do you want to be contacted?” survey
  • We used a multi-prong communication approach – email, face-to-face, telephone; still worked out as an every member canvass
  • Faster & easier canvass – most people preferred email; 79% of pledge goal reached in 30 days (versus 80% in 70 days during last year’s drive) – very few visiting steward requests allowed for quicker pledge responses
  • We encouraged fellowship leaders (X-team, volunteer coordinator and committee chairs) to help communicate concrete examples of what a pledge actually supports and allows the fellowship to provide.
  • We created and presented a celebration of giving service to thank the fellowship for their generosity
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UUA Stewardship Team – Finding Stewardship Help for Your Congregation

This blog kicks off a three week series on Stewardship connected to our November Up Close issue.

This week we will look at the changes happening in the Stewardship office of the UUA and where you can find the resources you need. This Friday the November issue of Up Close will come out featuring three congregations with successful stewardship programs. Next week we will feature two more congregations with innovative stewardship programs here and the following week we’ll finish up with one more congregational feature and some resources to help congregations learn more.

UUA LogoWho are the stewardship consultants now serving on The Stewardship Team?

Barry Finkelstein, Mark Ewert, Bill Clontz

How do congregations contact the Stewardship Team?

If congregations have an existing relationship with Barry, Mark or Bill, it is fine to reach out to them directly.

If your congregation is reaching out for the first time, or in a long time, please contact your primary contact to help you get connected. You can find out who your primary contact is here.

Where can I or congregations find out more information about the service offered by The Stewardship Team?

What services is The Stewardship Team providing?

Two basic types: Major annual budget drives and capital campaign consulting & targeted support services to regional teams (as well as other UUA staff)

As in the past, The Stewardship Team will offer major, UU-specific consulting services to support congregations with annual budget drives and capital campaigns. Congregations will continue to contract directly with The Stewardship Team for these services. In conversation with UUA staff, The Stewardship Team will update and adapt these major consulting services to better serve congregations of all sizes as well as “beyond communities.”

The Stewardship Team also provides targeted service to our regional teams of staff. Examples of these targeted services include:

  • Coaching, mentoring, and stewardship training for Congregational Life & other UUA staff as requested.
  • Tailored stewardship support to cluster and learning circle activities.
  • Tailored stewardship support to emerging groups and “beyond” efforts.
  • Stewardship workshops (in coordination with and along with CL Staff) at district, regional and associational (GA) gatherings and leadership development events.
  • Webinar workshops as requested by Regional teams.
  • Stewardship information and training resources Regional and/or Congregational Life webpage archives.
  • Monthly stewardship blog produced by the team specifically developed for the UU community.
  • Support, coaching and collaboration regarding the implementation of GIFT models.
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CERG Youth Con Successes!

This is a post from the Con’s senior co-dean Lilly Kahris, information on bringing some of the programming to your congregation is at the end of this post.

I have found that car rides are a good time for thinking. I have been to 10+ youth conferences; many have which required a long drive. Usually I listen to music, or chat casually with the other people in the car, but yesterday’s drive was different. I spent my four hours reflecting on the past weekend, the second CERG Youth Conference.

This was a milestone in my youth career. I have been a conference dean before, but there was something really special about working with youth and adults from other districts to make this come together. Despite all of the cultural differences between each district, I think ultimately the event was successful, one that facilitated learning and personal growth for all.1383266_772502776145004_3708294956359316113_n

The programming we planned was a conglomerate of traditions. We made sure to include the dance for SLD youth, just as we included an “All-Con” game that was familiar to MNY and JPD youth. The workshops we planned proved to be a great success. We offered three workshops, broken down into two 1.5-hour sessions on a variety of topics. David Glasgow presented his “Empowering the Word” and “The Soul of the Song” workshops. Jess Halperin along with Eliza Steffen led a workshop on reproductive justice. Rounding off the exciting workshops, Eva Beal and Clare (lastname) led an Anti-Oppression, Anti-Racism workshop. Other highlights of the weekend included “People of Queer” and “People of Color” meetings, as well as an advisor workshop, where advisors from the different districts could get together and discuss advisor culture in their various districts

I found one of the most fulfilling parts of the whole con to be the Sunday morning worship service we did in partnership with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County. This was a multigenerational service where the youth and adults worked together to present a service about how as a region; we really are “better together.”

Overall, many lessons were learned this weekend. We learned that regionalization is a process, and will take time. Even though we worked out many kinks at the first CERG youth event last year, there were still many cultural differences. This was a fantastic learning experience, and gives me hope about youth regionalization movements in the future!

By Lilly Kahris

p.s. You might want to bring some of this programming to your congregation!

Eva Beal is the youth group coordinator for the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh and loves working with UU youth on anti-oppression and service learning. Claire Galpern does community organizing with teenagers for a quality, just education system in Philadelphia.  Claire and Eva are all about youth leadership and making social justice work full of play, connection and fun!  They started doing anti-oppression work together in their UU youth group and are excited to share this journey with you. They are available to run programming at your church, just email Eva or Claire.

David Glasow is a UU musician and presenter on many topics related to worship and music. You can read all about what he has to offer here.

Eliza Steffen is working with her congregation to produce a curriculum so other churches can do the kind of social justice retreat she helped plan at the UU Church of Columbus Ohio. Email Director of Religious Education Lane Campbell if you’re interested in this resource.

Jessica Halperin works with the UUA’s Multicultural Growth and Witness Office on many topics including Reproductive Justice. To get in touch with that office look here.

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