Together We Can Help Huntington, WV Recover

huntington fire damageOn September 5, 2015, the Unitarian Fellowship of Huntington, WV, experienced an electrical fire that results in fire, water and smoke damage throughout the building. Thankfully the fast response by the fire department prevented a total loss and minimized the damage.

But it is estimated that nearly $8,000 of the damages will not be covered by insurance and the roof, which was in need of repair before the fire will need replacing immediately. Replacing the roof is estimated to cost over $23,000.

The congregation has already received $5,000 to help with the roof repairs from the OMD Emergency Relief Fund – a fund created for instances just like this. The money from this fund comes from Chalice Lighter Calls, Friends of the OMD donations and other fundraising activities. A true example of our district coming together to help one another.

Huntington Fire DamageThe congregation has also posted a request on which to date has had $1,745 pledged towards their $8,000 goal. If the goal is not met, they will not receive any of the money. So we are asking that you please reach out and support them on Faithify. We have heard that several congregations around the region will be taking up collections in the next several weeks to support their sister congregation. Any way your congregation can help is appreciated. But don’t delay, the drive on Faithify ends December 2.

The congregation is currently meeting in office space graciously donated to them for a brief time. This temporary space is not appropriate for the full spiritual expression of the congregation, but they count ourselves fortunate to have it. Finishing the repairs to the congregation will allow them to return to their spiritual home and resume their outreach work in the Huntington community. We need UUism in West Virginia to see our values represented where they aren’t always easily accessed!
We are Better and Stronger Together.
Beth Casebolt
Communications Consultant
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Do You Faithify?

Faithify LogoHave you heard about

Did you know there are CER Congregations who currently have projects on FAITHIFY? Yes there are (and they aren’t the first ones!). First Unitarian Church of Barneveld, NY has a project to make their church more accessible. The Delmarva Cluster (Delaware area) has one to support their Fall Cluster Retreat. First UU Church of Youngstown, OH is working to bring Rev. Clark Olsen to town as a speaker on Racial Justice.
Are you asking just what is FAITHIFY?

FAITHIFY is crowdfunding for Unitarian Universalists. If you have heard of Kickstarter, GoFundMe or other crowdfunding sites, FAITHIFY is like that with a twist. FAITHIFY is a crowdfunding platform for Unitarian Universalist ministry projects. Projects include everything from youth work to justice, service, buildings, staff positions, and emerging ministries. FAITHIFY is full of projects that are “faithified” through the direct support of others.

For those of you who are looking for ways to give money to projects that will further Unitarian Universalism in some way – here is a place to look. You check the site, read about the projects and donate to those you think are worthy. If the project receives enough donations to reach its target then your credit card is charged. If they don’t then you receive a notice telling you that it won’t. The crowd (that would be us) decides what gets funded and what doesn’t.

In addition to providing funds, individuals can also support projects by sharing them on social media, which increases the number of people who see the projects and will potentially donate. So it’s more than just providing money. You also need to engage.

Need more information? There is a webinar called FAITHIFY 101 – A Webinar for the Rest of Us –  TONIGHT – September 14th at 7 pm (they usually record them if you miss it). Details on the Facebook Event Page.

Interested in posting a project? No problem – the steps for that are listed on the FAITHIFY website, complete with a video. Need more help? Contact your primary contact. We’ll get you connected with those who can help you.
Just one more example of how we Unitarian Universalists are Better Together.
Beth Casebolt
CER Communications Consultant


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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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Have You Heard of Faithify?

At General Assembly in June an exciting new program rolled out. Called Faithify, it is a UU specific crowdfunding program. Faithify is a new way for those of us with exciting new projects that need funding to reach those who might want to fund them. Watch the video below to learn more.

The kick off was amazing and the program has been growing stronger. Thus far there have been $120,000  in donations collected, 159 folks registered on the site and the average pledge is $118. Unitarian Church of Rochester successfully had their campaign to expand the Uni-Uni program completed on Faithify this month.

So, what are you waiting for? Does your congregation have an innovative program you’d love to put in place but just need the funds for? Go to, find out what you need to do in order to put your project on Faithify and post it there. Then we’ll help advertise it by sharing it on our facebook pages and twitter accounts. This is the way to reach folks well beyond your cluster or even district borders. Faithify is international. You can reach UUs everywhere. What makes it work is how much people share your information on their facebook, google + and other social media platforms. This could be the answer to being able to try those innovative programs out.

Not sure if your program or idea would fit? Go to the Faithify website and check out what projects have already been successful. Read the information on the website on how to post a project. Ask questions and get them answered.

Don’t have a project but interested in supporting one? Check out the current projects on the site and go back regularly to see what new projects have been added. Projects can only stay on the site for a maximum of 60 days so they are always changing.

Together we can help each other reach out and grow.

Beth Casebolt
OMD District Administrator & CERG Communications Consultant

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Introducing Faithify….

Faithify LogoDebuting at General Assembly this year is a UU specific crowd funding program called Faithify. You can find it at

What is Faithify? It is the crowdfunding for UU projects. Think of it as Kickstarter for UUs. Or Chalice Lighters on steriods.

Have a project that needs funding? You can put it on Faithify and reach UUs across the country to see if they are interested in funding your idea.

Want to help Unitarian Universalism grow? Visit Faithify to find out new ideas and “vote” by liking them and donating towards them. Currently projects on the site range from youth trips, to leadership programs to the CLF Prison Ministry. There is something for everyone on the site. You can view projects by category, or just scroll through them all.

This project debuted at GA on June 25th. In less than one month it has raised $43,418 for 24 projects!

Learn more from their video:

Projects that receive 100% of their requested funding (or more) receive their funds. Projects that don’t receive at least 100% of their funding, aren’t funded at all. This is an all or nothing funding model.

This is a new project, so visit the site, learn more and like and donate to the causes you feel are worthy. And please, spread the word, share with your friends, put it in your newsletter.

Crowdfunding, one more way we are Better Together.

Beth Casebolt
OMD District Administrator
CERG Communications Consultant

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The Season of Generosity


The holiday season is in full swing with Thanksgiving and Hanukkah already behind us.  Black Friday has corrected the market, and everyone sighs some relief as Cyber Monday seals the deal.  Everyone, that is, except many Unitarian Universalists who interpret our principles in a way that clashes with the commodification of our values in a consumerist society.  We shun the early morning black Friday deals in exchange for shopping at small businesses.   But at the end of the day,  we still feel empty because those purchases still feed the consumeristic nature of giving rather than the generous giving from our hearts.  We may make this turning to some extent in our family, but still have to face the relatives who feel the need for a gift exchange, even if they know it burdens family members who may not be able to afford this.  And we are often caught in the middle of unrealistic expectations, high demands and competing needs.  We gather with friends and families to eat and drink too much, and by January, we are exhausted and purge the holiday memories through a new strict diet and exercise regimen.

We work hard in our church communities to resist this trend, and I’ve seen some real success. Southwest UU in North Royalton, OH, formed a simplicity circle a few years back where people exchanged concrete ideas on how to handle the holidays.  One of these ideas still stand out to me:  instead of exchanging gifts, they give the gift of “experiences.”  Now it may involve some cost, but they may have bought tickets to a movie that they could see together, or a concert, or art museum- some interest that was shared that they could talk about after the event.

Children at First Unitarian Rochester display collected gifts

Other successes involve people- First Unitarian Rochester involves the children in generous giving.  The Youth was selling soup to support one group, while another table was staffed to fund microloans to the community and food to the area food shelf.  What is their secret to success?  As Rev. Tina Simpson says, “There are two parts to giving. There is the generous heart that gives and also the generous heart that receives. Both are equally important.”

Knowing the needs of the receiver can make a huge difference.  The best gift I ever gave?  Cleaning my grandmothers house from stem to stern when her mobility limited her from cleaning the way that she would like.  She didn’t want presents, she wanted to make the food, but she sure did appreciate a clean house when company came for Christmas.  Somewhere deep inside us, is a holiday spirit that matches a need that we can meet, and makes us feel good and generous.  That is the spirit in the season of generosity.

Rev. Chris Neilson
Congregational Life Consultant, St. Lawrence District

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