Congregation in “Rust Belt” Increases Pledges 30%

You don’t have to be in a growing area to see growth and vitality in your congregation. What you do need is energy, focus and a strong sense of purpose. Recently, Andy Crabb, the President of the First Unitarian Church of Youngstown, OH, posted how his congregation had a significant increase in pledges this past Fall.  -Rev. Renee Ruchotzke, Primary Contact

UU Youngstown Congregation

The First Unitarian of Youngstown, Ohio just had our pledge drive in the fall and got an almost 30% increase in pledges.

We are going to present a balanced budget at our congregational meeting later this month.  The keys for us were to have an integrated pledge program and to be as transparent as possible about what we were spending money on and why we wanted more.  That doesn’t mean we buried people in financial details, but rather that we explained key points:

  • that we wanted to increase our UUA contribution to be closer to fair share,
  • that we wanted to have more hours for our office administrator to do the routine communication tasks that everyone asks of her,
  • that we wanted to continue to support involvement in community activities,
  • that we want to give raises to our staff (including our new, freshly ordained minister) so they see that we have a viable career path for them,
  • that we need to operate the building, and
  • that we have had shortfalls for the past several years that required late year special appeals and we don’t want to have to do that anymore.

Anyone who wants financial details can have them, but most people don’t need or want them, at least at first, so we didn’t bury them with numbers.

One of our stewardship co-chairs is a new member and she observed that we never talked about money when she first came to us.  We’ve changed that.  We now bring it up regularly as a fact of life.  Again, transparency is the key.  No one is trying to get away with anything or trick anyone or be cute about pledging.  We all want to see UUYO do well and we are being clear and open about what it takes to make all of the things that we came to UUYO to do, happen.

Key elements of our Stewardship Campaign:

  • We had a plan and a financial goal before the campaign started.
  • We made a brochure that focused on what we do and why, then stated the costs and the income needs.  We spent a little bit ($200 or so) to print up a very nice, quality color 11×17 single fold brochure with lots of relevant pictures and mission stories that really impress.
  • During the stewardship drive, we had a special dinner for our biggest givers to thank them and encourage increased giving, especially to help bridge the gap until newer members can reach higher giving levels.
  • We personally contacted and where possible met with all other members to review our plans and clearly state our financial plan and goals.
  • We promoted automatic giving as a prominent part of our pledge campaign with great success (we use Vanco).

Stewardship is integrated into the life of the congregation by:

  • Having an active membership program for new members that gets them involved right away and that presents the same information as we give our members about money.
  • Having active worship associates and hospitality teams with broad participation to keep all members involved and feeling connected to and invested in our vitality as a group and promoting this in the pledge campaign.
  • Making as many opportunities as possible for members to do things and feel connected to and valued by the church because that is how people come to where they want to give to and support the church.
  • Looking for where we had entrenched individuals and/or groups always doing “everything” and bring new people in to help.
  • Separating “governance” activities from “mission” activities.  Both are necessary, but most people came to us for “mission” activities, so we focus on making sure there are plenty of them and keep “governance” to just where it is really needed.
  • Creating opportunities to learn leadership skills.  These are valuable in all aspects of our lives and provide great opportunities for personal growth and enrichment of our lives.

In closing – it seems to me that whether we do year-round-pledging or all at once pledging, closely tying the pledge campaign with the members and the activities of the church is critical for the success of the pledge drive.  If the pledge drive doesn’t clearly tie to the mission and activities of the church, it will be less effective because the connection with the members and what brought them to UUYO is what really made the pledge campaign a success for us.

-Andy Crabb, President, First Unitarian Church of Youngstown, OH. (UUYO)

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Hellos and Good-byes

The Central East Region has some staffing changes we want to announce.

Amy Kent
Amy Kent

First we want to welcome Amy Kent, our new CER Events Coordinator, who started work on January 2nd. Amy is a committed Unitarian Universalist, who has a passion for planning and organizing events and programs. She has spent the past 5 years working in workforce development, helping individuals in the Allegheny County Jail get training and jobs in the manufacturing sector. Her belief in the inherent worth and dignity of everyone was a guiding force in working with individuals overcoming several barriers. Before that position, Amy worked as office manager, church administrator and even travel agent. She is the mom of a high school senior who along with her husband have raised UU at the South Hills UU Church in Pittsburgh.

She has taught RE, chaired the service auction and served on the board of trustees. Active at Summer Institute, a UU week long family camp, Amy was on the planning committee, served as chair and most recently has been registrar. When Amy isn’t working she loves sports, Broadway musicals and travel.

So welcome to Amy! You can find her contact information on her UUA webpage.

And with the welcoming of Amy, we say good-bye to Sue Tabone, our regional administrator. Sue started out as the District Administrator for the St. Lawrence District and moved into the regional position after the regionalization vote in 2016. She is retiring to spend more time with her family, enjoy her garden and several other things – her list keeps growing!

We say a very warm thank you to Sue for her years of service and we very warm welcome to Amy as she joins our work.

 

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An Old Covenant in a New Way

You should have recently received information about the new formula the Unitarian Universalist Association will be using for congregational giving in the Central East Region beginning in July – a formula that uses your operating expense budget as a guide, rather than the number of members you have in your community. (Lots of information about this – including webinar/online discussion dates – can be found in your purple packet about the New APF or at www.uua.org/amplify)

I want to talk about our continued covenant of faith.  Faith, in bold with a capital F!

Unitarian Universalism is a faith of relationship and mutual support. You can feel that in your congregations. In church, you aren’t individuals who happen to be occupying the same space. You are a community, where each can bring their gifts for the good of the whole, and each can be honest about their needs, in hope that the community will support them.

Same with the Unitarian Universalist Association, as an organization. Congregations have needs – resources, consultation, a listening ear, even a shoulder to cry on sometimes and certainly a voice to help celebrate. The UUA works to support those needs with the skill set that comes from being a national organization with a view that is long, in terms of history, and wide, in terms of seeing the whole landscape of Unitarian Universalism. In order to do that work well, the UUA as an organization needs to be supported through congregational giving. We who work for the Central East Region of the UUA are supported every day by the energy, enthusiasm, creativity and love of our member congregations. And we are supported every day by the financial gifts of our congregations.

This new Annual Program Fund (APF) model has been decades in the making and represents our efforts to streamline and remain responsive to congregational needs in a changing religious landscape. It’s a model that strengthens our shared covenant – the one where each brings their gifts, so we can support each other in our shared work. This covenant is not new; it has bound us for centuries. With this change, we are stronger… so we will be able to share in the work together for centuries more.

I ask you to recommit and to re-prioritize your support for one another and this collective faith through your contributions to the Annual Program Fund, which make the work of the UUA possible. Your congregation’s full contribution is needed so that all of our congregations can receive the support that they are depending on, and so that our Association can meet the challenges of our time.” ~ UUA President, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray

  By the Rev. Megan Foley, CER Regional Lead

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Happy New Year!

Our staff are still on holiday break (most will return to our offices tomorrow) so we bring you a reading from Worship Web as we start a new year.

Please note that the Annual Congregational Life Staff meeting takes place next week. The staff will be with their colleagues Jan 8-11 and will return to our home offices over the following weekend.

In between, liminal, that space where we wait.
Between moments; events, results, action, no action.
To stand on the threshold, waiting for something to end,
And something new to arrive, a pause in the rumble of time.
Awareness claims us, alert, a shadow of something different.

In between invitation and acceptance.
In between symptom and diagnosis.
In between send and receipt of inquiry and question.
In between love given and love received.

Liminality, a letting go, entering into confusion,
ambiguity and disorientation.
A ritual begun, pause … look back at what once was,
Look forward into what becomes.
Identity sheds a layer, reaches into something uncomfortable to wear.

In between lighting of the match and the kindling of oil.
In between choosing of text and the reading of words.
In between voices and notes carried through the air into ears to hear.
In between creation thrusts ever forward.

Social hierarchies may disassemble and structures may fall.
Communities may revolt or tempt trust.
Tradition may falter or creativity crashes forward.
Leaders may step down or take charge.
The people may choose or refuse.

In between, storm predicted, the horizon beacons.
In between, theology of process reminds us to step back.
In between, where minutia and galaxies intermingle with microbes and mysteries.
In between, liminal, that space where we wait: Look, listen, feel, breathe.

 

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