Friday, August 15, 2014

Do You Have a Stewardship and Resources Farm Team?


Thoughts on Growing Our Own Stewardship and Financial Leaders

Bill Clontz, UUA Stewardship Consultant

You don’t have to have been a participating member of a congregation for very long before you realize a couple of very important truths:

  1. While all our volunteer efforts are genuinely important, some constitute the lifeblood of our congregation; if they go poorly, we all suffer the consequences. Foremost among these is our Resources Team: Stewardship, Budget Drive, Finance, Endowment, Fundraising, Treasurer, and the Endowment.

  2. We often put good people in bad situations. For example, we ask them to serve on our Board and to assume financial oversight and responsibility for the congregation, with little or no preparation.

Both of these situations are all too common, put congregations at risk, and stress out good leaders. Fortunately, both can be resolved fairly easily, using the same tool.

I grew up in a minor league baseball town and so baseball analogies come to me often. Some years ago, I was pondering the problems noted at the outset of this blog and a baseball analogy came to mind that anyone, sports inclined or not, can readily grasp. I was pondering these challenges and found myself thinking “We need a farm team.”

Here is the structure for solving these problems. It doesn’t happen overnight, but quicker than you might expect, it gets the congregation on the road to strength and wellness in dealing with resources and leader development.


STEP 1: Recognize that not everyone is born to be a treasurer or on the stewardship team. People need some help getting into the task at hand, so provide them with good, accurate position descriptions, a good list of references and reading, and perhaps some counterparts in the congregation or in your cluster to talk with when they hit a speed bump along the way.  The Congregational Stewardship Network, the UUA web site, the MONEY email group based out of the UUA web site, and the Stewardship Facebook Lab all can help provide these resources. Consider developing a short training program as a cluster project.


STEP 2: When recruiting someone for one of these Resources positions, let them know they will have help and guidance and they are joining a multidisciplinary team that works together. Accordingly, at some point in 2-3 years, they may be invited to take a break and then join one of the other Resource Team components. For example, serve on the Stewardship Committee for 3 years, take a year off, then come back for 2-3 years on the Finance Committee. And so on. No one is obligated to follow the multi-track path, but they are invited to do so, to become part of your congregation’s resources brain trust. They can decide one invitation at a time.


STEP 3: Provide a forum for these various teams to work together and to get to know each other in terms of their respective responsibilities. Some congregations bring them together 2-4 times a year under a Resources Council, chaired by a board member, others have the finance committee call a gathering periodically. By whatever means, they share goals, processes, best practices, and talk about possible rotation of some members over the next year or so, as well as shared lists of potential new members. I am a big fan of such teams having an explicit objective of adding at least one new member every year, rather than starting to look around when someone is ready to leave. Refresh and rotate on a planned basis.


STEP 4: Charge the leader of each of these resource teams to keep an updated and useful transition notebook to share with her/his successor. The book should have, as a minimum, the minutes of meetings, any work products developed during the leader’s tenure, and lessons learned during their tenure.


STEP 5: As farm team members go through two or more rotations, ensure your nominating or leader development team knows they have this experience and begins to consider them for nomination to the board in the near future.

That’s it. Not very complicated, is it? It does take a bit of planning an some monitoring, but once the system is in place, its almost self-perpetuating and yields outstanding results. As a side benefit, once the model begins to show results, other parts of the congregation are likely to develop similar models, to everyone’s benefits.

So, let’s...PLAY BALL!

Bill Clontz is the Southern Region’s UUA stewardship consultant and a member of the Congregational Stewardship Network. You can reach Bill through the CSN, through the Southern Region staff, or at bclontz@uua.org. Learn more about the CSN at http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/index.shtml.

This blog has a new posting each mid month. You may add it to your RSS feed. Comments and discussion are always welcome; share your experiences with us.

Monday, July 14, 2014

One Thousand Points of Light or a Mighty Grid of Connections?


Reflections from UUA General Assembly 2014
by Bill Clontz, UUA Stewardship Consultant


This year’s General Assembly is now in the history books, and a fine one it was. A record number of workshops (including one co-hosted by yours truly), a healthy turnout, and an air of transition, as many long time leaders at various levels of the UUA are retiring or ending elected service about now.

One of the best things about GA is that it encourages, almost forces, us all to get out of our shell and think about the broader meaning of being a UU beyond our campus, experiencing being in community with thousands of other UUs. It’s a lesson we can apply in stewardship as well.

I am always a bit surprised when I find a congregation struggling with some aspect of its stewardship program as though they were all alone and they were facing a completely unique problem. Each situation does have unique aspects, but so too does each have aspects that many others have faced successfully.

GA is the physical embodiment of the connectivity that awaits us, if we choose to reach out. It is a reminder that we have help all around us. There are hundreds of UU congregations out there ready to share their lessons learned with you as well. Here are some of the options available to you right now to tap into that collective wisdom.


The Congregational Stewardship Network (CSN): The Congregational Stewardship Network has provided stewardship consulting services to hundreds of Unitarian Universalist congregations since 1985. CSN provides a variety of services to individual congregations, clusters, Districts, and Regions, including Next Steps Visits, support for Annual Budget Drives and Capital Campaigns, advice on Planned Giving, Financial Feasibility Studies, Mission and Vision Development, Strategic Planning, and advice on Building Loans and Grants. Find CSN at http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/consulting/index.shtml.

UUA Email Groups (list serves): Over 200 specialty groups exchange ideas and archive discussions. Two of the best are those dedicated to LEADERSHIP and MONEY (stewardship included). Find them at http://www.uua.org/lists/.


UU Facebook Labs: There are well over two dozen of these , one in particular focusing on stewardship. Good discussions often lead to private follow on exchanges of helpful information. To find them, sign into Facebook and enter “UU Lab” in the search window and you will find a list of sites you may join.


FORTH: FORTH is a stewardship development program designed to help Unitarian Universalist congregations grow a year round culture of stewardship. The program includes FORTH Partners, an interactive community of congregational leaders who meet online, on the phone, and sometimes in person. Find out more about FORTH at http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/forth/development/index.shtml


Clusters: Clusters are, in my view, the wave of the future. They are small groups of congregations that come together to share information and ideas. Most are located close to each other to facilitate face to face meetings, but some are focused on particular issues and may be thousands of miles apart. They communicate quite well using Skype, Zoom, AnyMeeting, or any number of other tools ready to use. Clusters also pool their resources to sponsor stewardship workshops with their Regions and the Congregational Stewardship Network. Send me a message at bclontz@uua.org if you have questions about such workshops.


UUA, Regional and District References: Many districts and Regions have substantial online resources in the form of samples, on demand workshops, etc. , as does the UUA (www.uua.org/stewardship) Take a few moments to peruse UUA, regional, and district sites for information on stewardship. By the way, you can usually gain access to the information available in other districts and regions, not just your own. The Central East Regional Group (CERG) in particular has a vast library you may wish to check out (www.cerg.org).


So you are not all alone out there! Reach out, learn from others and offer your lessons and experience to others as well.

Bill Clontz is the Southern Region’s UUA stewardship consultant and a member of the Congregational Stewardship Network. You can reach Bill through the CSN, through the Southern Region staff, or at bclontz@uua.orgbclontz@uua.org. Learn more about the CSN at http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/index.shtmlhttp://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/index.shtml .

This blog has a new posting each mid month. You may add it to your RSS feed. Comments and discussion are always welcome; share your experiences with us.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Suffer the Children to Come Unto Me" or "Hey, You Kids, Get Off My Lawn!"

Wondering Why You are Losing Youth Members?
There Might be a Stewardship Connection.  
   

By Bill Clontz, UUA Stewardship Consultant

Many congregations report that after their Youth graduate from high school, the congregation and the denomination lose them. Some return in a few years, some not until they have children of their own, some never return. This is not a uniquely UU problem, but that is cold comfort, and we should not be willing to accept this as inevitable. How you approach stewardship with these valued members may be a part of the problem you may not have considered.

I am struck how many congregations have no approach at all to engage their Youth in stewardship. The dominant thought, to the extent it has been raised at all, is that teens don’t have many resources; expecting any financial contribution is unrealistic.  This is problematic.

First, it communicates that a Youth member is not a real member, but some sort of junior affiliate. Membership should entail some commitments; to exclude an entire group from this part of membership leaves them outside the circle that connects the rest of the members.

Second, this devalues membership. People value something to which they commit resources more than something that comes free and without commitment. I worked for several years on programs providing training for developing countries. Without exception, we found the recipients far more committed and more demanding of themselves and others when they made even a modest financial investment in the program. The same usually applies to individuals as well as communities and governments.

Third, this approach fails to start a life-long pattern just when it should be in place. It is certainly true that most teens have very few resources; the amounts are relatively unimportant.  Living the ideal that we share what we have and we invest in those values is what is important. Not doing so communicates we don’t mean it when we say being a part of a UU community is a major decision.

Some congregations get this; the difference it makes is striking. I have visited congregations in which even very young children are a part of the stewardship process, helping collect food donations for special Sunday collections. It is clear to Youth members at the time of joining that they are expected to share and contribute as they can. Young members serve on the stewardship committee, provide testimonials, and serve as visiting stewards. In other words, they are full members. Their contributions are valued. Youth who mature in such an environment know they are respected and are full members of their communities. How about your young members?






Bill Clontz is the Southern Region’s UUA stewardship consultant and a member of the Congregational Stewardship Network. You can reach Bill through the CSN, through the Southern Region staff, or at bclontz@uua.org
 Learn more about the CSN at http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/index.shtml

This blog has a new posting each mid-month. You may check this site directly, or add it to your RSS feed.


Comments and discussion are always welcome; share your experiences with us.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On What Foundations Do We Build Our Stewardship? Part 2

By Bill Clontz, UUA Stewardship Consultant


Last month we introduced a set of stewardship principles developed by a UU lay leader and a UU minister that lays out in clear language what a healthy stewardship environment looks like and what standards such an environment called for from UUs.

We reviewed the first five principles last month. Herewith, are the remaining five.  Enjoy and reflect – this is good guidance.

Principles for Healthy Stewardship

6. Human and financial resources are precious, and must be used responsibly.   
Our stewardship program must not depend on large numbers of volunteer leaders or hundreds of hours of professional staff time; nor should it ask our members to make substantial time in their schedules for stewardship activities.

7. A ministry of stewardship needs the consistency and support that can only come from professional leadership. 
Stewardship is such an important ministry in the church that its leadership should come from a minister and/or other professional staff member.

8. Different people are motivated to give for different reasons, and prefer to make their gifts in different ways.  
A complete ministry of stewardship needs to appeal to a variety of motivations, and provide a variety of avenues for giving throughout the church year.

9. Our children are our future, and we need to include stewardship in programs for children and youth. 
The goals of stewardship education are similar to the goals of sexuality education: to remove the stigma through openness and factual information, and to develop healthy attitudes and behaviors.

10. Everyone needs to be part of the conversation. It’s not OK to opt out. 
Practicing liberal religion is at least as demanding as more dogmatic faiths. We believe that talking about stewardship one-on-one or in a small group every year or two is a necessary condition for the health of this church and for our own development as members of a religious community.

Bill Clontz is the Southern Region’s UUA stewardship consultant and a member of the Congregational Stewardship Network. You can reach Bill through the CSN, through the Southern Region staff, or at bclontz@uua.org. Learn more about the CSN at http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/index.shtml .

This blog has a new posting each month, at midmonth. You may check this site directly and you may add it to your RSS feed. Comments and discussion are always welcome on this site; share your experiences with us.