In addition to the stewardship services provided by our regional field staff teams, Stewardship for Us provides specialized stewardship consulting services to support congregations. This network of consultants provides a variety of services to individual congregations, clusters, Districts, and Regions, including:
Overview of Stewardship for Us Team Service Offerings
Next Steps Weekend: Our work with a congregation begins with a Next Steps Weekend (NSW), an intensive, comprehensive, and rapid onsite review of the strengths, challenges, and capacities of the congregation in terms of stewardship. The NSW yields insights that enable the Stewardship For Us consultant to formulate recommendations that enable the congregation to pursue its dreams through an effective and practical set of stewardship initiatives. The NSW is grounded in the notion that a congregation is a network of ministries, programs, systems, and people; and that successful stewardship must be holistically designed for that network. The output of the NSW is a thorough report presenting the consultant’s analysis and recommendations, typically including short and longer term actions resulting in immediate impact and long-lasting value.
Budget Drives: Stewardship For Us consultants bring broad experience and wisdom about all aspects and methods of conducting Budget Drives to raise funds for the operations of congregations and other Unitarian Universalist organizations. Having worked with hundreds of UU congregations, we know which processes work well and how best to implement them. Our guidance is tailored to each congregation’s unique circumstances, considering goals and objectives, congregation size and demographics, leadership culture, governance structure, stewardship experience, technology platform, staff resources, and other factors. We improve our processes continuously based on feedback, evaluations, and evolution of technology and best practices.
Financial Feasibility Studies: A Financial Feasibility Study (FFS) is a vitally important part of any successful capital or special campaign, whether for a religious organization or a secular non-profit. An FFS is an independent analysis to determine the extent of understanding, support, and likely financial commitment for the proposed campaign. It is based largely on confidential in-person interviews conducted by a neutral outsider who is a skilled interviewer, so that the responses are candid and complete, and the resulting data is valid and useful. The interview data, often supplemented by targeted surveys, is analyzed using a range of assumptions and “what-if” scenarios to help estimate an attainable campaign goal. The Study typically provides specific recommended actions that the leadership can take to increase support and likelihood of success. Consultants from s4us have worked with many congregations using this process, supporting campaigns for large and small capital projects ranging from less than $1M to over $2.5M.
Capital and Combined Campaigns: A capital campaign is often a once-a-generation opportunity for a congregation to come together and invest in its future. It invites members to dream big about what is possible for Unitarian Universalism in their community and in the world. Capital campaigns are usually conducted in support of a major building program, although some portion of campaign proceeds may be used as seed money for new program initiatives. A capital campaign requires a collective leap of faith on behalf of the members -- in one another and in a future in which Unitarian Universalism and their congregation thrive and grow in mission and impact. s4us consultants have the expertise and experience to help you with all phases of the campaign, emphasizing the key factors that will lead to success. These include creating a compelling case for the project, engaging the entire congregation and all constituencies, helping identify potential lead donors, generating and sustaining momentum and excitement, determining the optimal timing and whether to combine with the annual budget drive, and planning and carrying out the campaign effectively and efficiently.
We also ensure you have the systems in place to support collections and additional pledging over the life of the campaign, important factors to minimize slippage and maximize participation. Generally, our consulting model is to provide guidance to congregation leaders who carry out the campaign, and we also offer optional deluxe services, often suited to larger congregations and campaigns, which can increase our involvement substantially.
Endowment and Planned Giving: An active Endowment and Planned Giving program provides a congregation and its members numerous benefits. A robust endowment provides long-term security for your congregation and helps ensure that it will thrive as a beacon of Unitarian Universalist values in perpetuity. And perhaps more important, endowment funds support innovations in our ministries and expand our impact in our local communities and in the world. An effective Planned giving program responds to the desires of our members to invest a share of their estate in the future in accordance with their values. Done well, such a program can help families at all life stages with financial planning that supports their values as well as their personal and family goals. s4us consultants provide congregations with expert advice based on best practices for establishing endowments that promote congregational mission, vision, and goals.
We help you analyze options for managing your investments, whether through the UU Common Endowment Fund, which provides the benefits of a large pooled resource, or on your own. We also help put in place an active planned giving program, helping you communicate with your members about the benefits and options of different forms of legacy giving. We work with you to develop an action plan to ensure that the complete program is implemented rapidly so you build momentum and enthusiasm from the outset. We also provide ongoing support, as needed, to address questions, refine your processes, and in general are getting the most benefit possible.
Searching for the Future is a weekend program of small group workshops designed to jump-start the strategic planning process. It enables a congregation to rapidly clarify its vision and mission and develop an initial set of goals and priorities that can later be developed into a comprehensive strategic plan. The process is tailored to the specific needs and starting point of each congregation, and often focuses on the physical and financial resources needed to support mission and vision. Thus it can be very helpful for framing requirements for major facility improvements or program expansion, initiatives typically supported by building program and special or capital campaigns. The magic of the process is that it takes place in one intensive weekend and involves as many congregants as show up, thus creating a broad feeling of ownership among the members. The energy and enthusiasm create a palpable “buzz” and build momentum for future steps.
Strategic Planning: A strategic plan is an effective tool for a congregation to focus decision-making and long-term investments, including capital campaigns, in support of mission, vision, and priorities. Despite the value of strategic planning, congregations often find the process difficult and frustrating. False starts are common, planning processes tend to take too long, resulting in dissipating energy and enthusiasm, and it can be a challenge to recruit people to serve on strategic planning teams. The Stewardship for Us Team (s4us) has developed a practical and effective approach to strategic planning that is tailored for our UU congregations and linked explicitly to stewardship and resource planning and management.
Our process enables congregations to recruit, empower, and energize a strategic planning team; and our consultative approach keeps the process moving forward and on track. We emphasize a rapid approach, broad congregational engagement, and a simple, clear plan document that instills a sense of common purpose. We bring deep and broad experience in the strategic issues that UU congregations face including facility constraints, linkage of location and configuration with mission and ministry goals, and promoting strategic values such as accessibility and sustainability. Our work often builds on Searching for the Future, but we are flexible in working with congregations as to the starting point.
Our S4Us team experience indicates that this is true among our congregations as well and among those who do have such documents, many have never thought about including their congregation or the UUA in their plans. When such inclusion is introduced, many find that they are interested in making legacy gifts, and want to be remembered by us after they have gone.
Legacy giving is a win-win for all concerned. Congregations need programs to communicate these opportunities and volunteers to make it easier for people to make legacy gifts.
Our team can assist in developing and implementing an effective planned giving program, or improving an existing program that is not performing, as well as ensuring your endowment program is in good shape. Compared to other resource-gathering activities, this is a low intensity effort, requiring only a few dedicated volunteers and a modicum of time.
A fully functioning planned giving program brings a defined and inspiring purpose, effective policies, and sound investment plans. The program speaks to your mission and to Unitarian Universalist values via an effective communication and education strategy.
We can assist your congregation in developing such programs, in preparing testimonials, establishing honoring spaces and techniques, as well as a management plan for program sustainment and growth.