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In challenging economic times, bold action must be taken and tough choices made. For a number of our Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations this year, income has not kept up with budgeted expenses. Many of our congregation leaders have been managing financial crises in which difficult decisions have resulted in cuts in funding for staffing, programs, and contributions to their district and association. Despite the significant challenges we are facing, ongoing stewardship efforts and good financial leadership are required. This is the story of two congregation presidents who have stepped out in front to articulate the importance of effective stewardship and contributing to support our Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).
The UU Church of Minnetonka (UUCM) in Wayzata, MN, has been growing with its new settled minister, Reverend Kent Hemmen Saleska. They hope to resume their plan to build a larger building as part of their vision for the future. The church had an unbroken record of Fair Share giving to the Annual Program Fund and the Prairie Star District for over two decades... until this year. In recent years, the church had begun to leave Annnual Program Fund (APF) contributions and district dues out of the budget in order to present a balanced budget, and scramble at the last minute in a stressful process of fulfilling these commitments.
In April, Steve Sundby, President, shared a newsletter message to the congregation after attending the Prairie Star District Annual Meeting with over 300 other UUs from seven states. His first such event, Steve found it energizing—and it gave him a sense of excitement about being a part of a larger UU community. Steve writes, “For months now, I’ve sat at the UU Presidents’ dinners (a Twin Cities monthly gathering) and somewhat smugly thought, ‘I’m glad we don’t have the budget struggles they do.’ But it is because we are living a lie. The other congregations put their UUA and Prairie Star fair share dues in their budget.” He went on to further challenge the congregation’s thinking:
It is simply not fair for us to be expressing our opinions, and benefiting from these groups, while not being a truthful, paying member who demonstrates our commitment and support of those groups by paying our full share. By not paying, we are actually living off of others. Paying dues is not just an obligation; it demonstrates support of what we believe in and reflects who UUCM is in our mission, goals, and vision.
Steve and the other members of the UUCM Board took bold action. They put together a budget that included the full contributions to the UUA and Prairie Star District and challenged the congregation to step up to the challenge of funding their programs, mission, and vision. After two informational sessions to address specific questions and concerns about the budget, the budget was presented for approval at the church’s Annual Meeting in May. The congregation members did their part to sustain the church’s vision, and the vote of those in attendance was unanimous in support of the proposed budget!
Phil Lund, who serves as the Lifespan Program Consultant in the Prairie Star District, comments, “This story shows the importance of connecting congregational leaders with their peers in other congregations, as well as the importance of sending leadership to district and associational functions.”
Jan Larson is the President of the All Souls UU Congregation in New London, CT. All Souls has been a loyal fair share contributor to UUA’s Annual Program Fund for all but three of the last 25 years. The congregation has been growing in membership and recently purchased an additional building. The indicators are present for continued growth, health and financial vitality. However, the downturn in the economy has had its impact on the congregation’s members, causing a shortfall in income this year. All Souls’ leaders hope to raise $18,000 to offset the shortfall over the coming months and make the goal of funding their Fair Share commitment to the UUA and Clara Barton District.
Jan gained renewed energy after her participation in a stewardship workshop offered at the Clara Barton District’s Annual Meeting in April. She began using the resources immediately in her stewardship efforts and imagined the possibilities for an effective campaign to raise awareness and the much needed funds. Jan wanted the campaign to be fun and energizing, with a message that resonates with many of the active congregants. Dori Abel, Fundraising Coordinator, works alongside to coordinate the details of the program.
The sum of the per member contributions requested by the UUA ($56) and the Clara Barton District ($22) is $78. That’s it—$78! There will be direct asks to 78 leaders and members for $78 each in additional contributions. “78 X 78 Clubs” will be formed to engage the congregation in the fundraising effort as well as the fun. The first 78 people to sign up to contribute will form the “Class of ’78,” to be recognized in September with a back to school theme, and with activities relevant to a time that many will enjoy revisiting. By January, the congregation will encounter the “Blizzard of ’78,” which was a storm in New England that those who experienced it will never forget!
Commitment + Creativity + Energy promises bring success!
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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.
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