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Part of New Leaders

By Dori Davenport Thexton

Generous and able to nurture generosity in others: Leaders are not only financially generous (although they are that indeed!) but they have and encourage a generous spirit and appreciation of the world; they are quick to inspire others, to give of themselves as well as their time, talent and treasure, and are working to find ways to be a “permission giving” organization that empowers others to move forward with ideas that help fulfill the congregation’s mission.

Before the economy tanked in 2009, we often heard in stewardship workshops that focusing on abundance instead of scarcity was the thing to do. Now, many people are not feeling that sense of abundance. In some of our congregations as many as half of their members lost well-paying jobs during the economic downturn, and some of those folks are now working two jobs and still not making as much as they did then. Many more people saw their retirement funds lost just a few years before they were planning to use them, so they’ve had to stay in the work force longer than planned. A consequence of this is that many Gen Xers and Millennials are having a hard time finding work and they are stringing together two or three jobs and/or living at home with parents much longer than they planned.

With this financial squeeze being experienced throughout the generational spectrum, we are witnessing the formation of “a new normal” in how we all look at money and spending. This, combined with generational divergences in dealing with finances, leads to the need to approach fundraising differently than we did a decade ago.

Our new leaders will need to be flexible in how they approach all aspects of fundraising in our congregations. It means being creative and thoughtful about how and how often they ask for money. It means utilizing many methods for accepting donations – especially taking full advantage of the electronic transactions available. It means being more intentional about communicating how money will be used and how it will make a difference in the congregation, in the community, in the world.

New leaders will also understand that those people entrusted with raising money for our congregations need much more than sincere thanks for their work.

  • They will need to be grounded in the mission of the congregation. Mission must be clear and present in everything that happens in your religious community. The theological value of generosity needs to be part of that mission, implicitly or explicitly.
  • They will need inspiration for their work. This could come from small group ministries – maybe some groups formed exclusively for those involved in the fundraising efforts. Inspiration could come from monthly book or resource sharing discussions, based perhaps on the award winning sermons on stewardship published by the UUA or other books written on stewardship and generosity.
  • They will need experiential education about how people, including themselves, feel about money and generosity. Money and generosity are emotionally laden subjects and our own experiences with them inform how comfortable we are talking about them.
  • They will need tools. The practical, how-to-do-it-right-now kinds of tips that will help them create, plan and organize successful fundraising efforts.

New Leaders will either know how to support and educate their members and fundraising workers or know where to go for this support. This means that those who run anything from a bake sale to annual pledge drive to a capital campaign will have all the philosophical foundations and skill sets necessary to raise money to fulfill the congregation’s mission and vision.

About the Author

Dori Davenport Thexton

Dori Davenport Thexton has served Unitarian Universalism professionally since 1983. She was the Director of Religious Education at two congregations in the Midwest before working as part of the UUA field staff from 1998-2017. Dori is passionate about growing Unitarian Universalism and sees...

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