Stewardship in a Time of Pandemic

By Lauren Smith

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Headshot of Lauren Smith

Rev. Lauren Smith

Dear Congregational Stewardship Volunteers,

Thank you for helping to lead your congregation’s annual stewardship campaign. In my experience, stewardship volunteers are among the most stalwart and dedicated volunteers.

The coronavirus landed at a time when many congregations are deep in the process of their annual pledge drives and budget process. Many congregational leaders have expressed anxiety about fundraising at this time. We want you to know that at times of social upheaval and disruption, people need and value religious community most. Many of the members and friends of your congregation will be especially grateful to be part of a community of care at this disorienting time. Many will be grateful for the opportunity to be of service to others. Our congregations are filled with thoughtful, caring people.

To help you in your fundraising efforts, I thought I’d share some concrete guidance:

  • Reach out to and thank the members of your church as soon as possible. Thank them for all that their financial support makes possible. In financially volatile times, giving patterns do change. Donors are most likely to continue supporting the organizations with which they have the strongest relationships. It’s the organization that’s eighth on their priority list that’s likely to lose their support. Reach out to remind member/donors—who are likely people you know and care about—why they were motivated to give to the church in the first place. Early, clear outreach matters.
  • Emphasize core mission in your communications. Our present social reality is dramatically different from the social reality of two weeks ago, but the core mission of your congregation remains unchanged. Each congregation articulates its mission in its own way, but there is a great deal that we all share in common as religious communities. We exist to accompany people through times of suffering and beauty, to provide spiritual guidance that helps them navigate their lives, and to strengthen communities of care in which people help and are helped by one another. Our Unitarian Universalist churches are communities of service that strengthen the social fabric of the places we call home.
  • Have faith in the value and meaning of your church’s ministry and be bold in articulating it. In an era where the social safety net is frayed and torn, congregations provide a vital serviceShare what you can about how your congregation is beginning to respond to the moment.
  • Strengthen your online and electronic giving opportunities. Links to UUA resources are included at the end of this message.

We know you may be overwhelmed. You have your own personal concerns, loved ones to think about, and your life is necessarily shifting and changing under the current circumstances. We want you to know that your messaging need not be complex. The reality is actually quite simple: we exist to care for one another. The reminder to Unitarian Universalists that their congregations continue to center this startling and elegant truth will serve as a tremendous comfort in this time.

To be connected to your larger community of faith, I encourage you follow Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray’s weekly messages. The UUA is compiling resources from across our movement and sharing them out as quickly as we can. Join a Zoom call to connect with other volunteers and staff working on budget and the pledge drive (details below). We really are all in this together.

After I finish this letter, I will sit down to write another letter to individual donors to the Unitarian Universalist Association. I chose to write to you first because you are the reason I do this work. I believe passionately in the ministry that takes place in our congregations. I have faith in you, the lay leaders, staff and clergy who take up that ministry. The UUA exists to equip congregations for vital ministry, train and support leaders, and advance Unitarian Universalist values. I am so grateful for your congregation’s leadership and for your ministry.

I hope to see you on an upcoming call.

All my best to you,

Rev. Lauren Smith

Director of Stewardship and Development

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Virtual Stewardship Salon

Gatherings for leaders working on the budget and pledge drives in UU congregations

Hosted by UUA Stewardship and Development

Offered weekly through May on Mondays at 4 pm Pacific/5 pm Mountain/6 pm Central/7 pm Eastern

  • Leaders from Stewardship and Development, Regional Staff, and Stewardship for Us Consulting will be on hand for conversation about your stewardship efforts in this time
  • To access the Salon: Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 650 678 9566

Webinar: Electronic Giving in Congregations

Webinar description: First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis recently started an electronic giving program and share with us what they are learning. Presented by Allan Callander, Former Finance Director at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis. Host: Rev. Sharon Dittmar

By First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN, Sharon Dittmar, MidAmerica Region of the UUA | 10/3/2018

Watch the Webinar

Don't Leave Money on the Pew!

Two decades ago, you could be pretty sure that people in your church would carry a checkbook, cash, or at least a spare check or two in their wallet. Today, it's becoming less and less likely that people carry cash or checkbooks. Yet, the ritual of the offering plate continues, and it is less likely to be filled with spontaneous gifts. Some congregations have been paying attention to this trend, but has yours? Here are some technical ways to make it easier for people to give to your congregation.

Read the Article

About the Author

Lauren Smith

The Rev. Lauren Smith was appointed Director of Stewardship and Development at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in February 2019. She oversees the UUA’s fundraising efforts, including Annual Program Fund contributions from member congregations. Rev. Smith’s ties to Unitarian...

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