Congregations Create Unique Stewardship Plans Part 3
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 After 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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