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General Assembly 2008 Event 3007
Speakers: Rev. William G. Sinkford and Gini Courter
Gini Courter, Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Moderator, and Rev. William G. Sinkford, UUA President, met in a crowded Broward County Convention Center room with the more than 250 presidents of Unitarian Universalist congregations present at the 2008 General Assembly (GA).
Sinkford and Courter co-convened the gathering—the fifth held since 2004—and fielded questions on a variety of topics, including the UUA's national marketing and outreach campaign, initiatives at the congregational, district, and national level which might be more 'green' and cost-effective, and how to encourage deeper connection among our Association of Congregations.
As Sinkford shared info rmation about the UUA's marketing and outreach campaign this past year, which included ads in Time Magazine and promotion through Google Adwords as well as a number of regional campaigns, questions came up about whether the UUA might advertise in Oprah Magazine and whether advertising is effective in attracting new members to congregations.
Sinkford said that one insertion in Oprah would cost about $60,000, which is prohibitively expensive. He noted that "while the focus of the national advertising campaign is about building awareness, which is harder to measure, the emphasis for the regional campaigns is on driving seekers to our congregations. And this success is quite measurable." In Kansas City, he said, "we have five years of data. And the seven congregations who were involved in that first advertising test have grown by fifty percent in adult membership in those five years [since the ads debuted]."
Courter then moved participants on to another topic, saying, "Gas prices are higher. We have a growing concern for the environment, and increased expenses. Every place costs more to get to. If you live where I live [in rural Michigan] and you drive to work, it costs $25 to go to church each Sunday. It costs to go to district meetings. So within the UUA Board of Trustees, we are talking about how to have fewer meetings of committees. We are having webinars, conference calls, rather than coming in a day early for Board of Trustees meetings. So the idea of what we have had to do as a Board is to have a deep and engaging conversation about what impact environmental concern and energy costs have on what we do."
Sinkford added, "The UUA has about 220 staff, including those serving Beacon Press. We are seriously looking at the costs of travel related to how we do business. How can we deliver consultation to your congregation rather than having to fly someone to you for a half-day meeting, who then has to get on a plane and fly back? In almost all your districts, your District Executive (DE) is saying, 'I will come if you are having a cluster training, but probably not for an individual cluster meting.'"
Courter added, "We have more people out of work. What influence does the economy have on how we operate?" Sinkford said, "If you haven't already, you will see the impact of this on congregational life. There will be people who want to support one thing, and not another. You know how important money is as a manifestation of our faith. The contributions you make allow us to do what we do. But you will be having different conversations about these things."
With that, Courter asked the congregation presidents to gather in small groups. She said, "Please talk about what things are already on your agenda that result from changes in the environment or economy, and that you will need to have your board discuss in the coming year." The participants engaged in animated conversation. When they reported back, they shared these ideas which would be helpful for the Association to nurture:
Following this feedback, other comments were taken from the presidents on a variety of issues. Comments included these:
After a few more concluding observations by participants, Courter and Sinkford concluded the meeting, thanking the congregational presidents for their work within the Association.
Reported by Deborah Weiner.
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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