The purpose of this brief article is to connect you to wisdom and inspiration provided by Unitarian Universalists among us who have given deep thought to the issue of financial leadership and have demonstrated strategic financial behavior in these troubling times.
First, I'd like to point you to the article in Interconnections entitled "In a Challenging Economy, Keep Congregations Informed" by our Congregational Services Representative, Rev. Ian Evison. Ian discusses the success congregational leaders are likely to have if they openly discuss financial issues with their congregations. This should be done not only before making any drastic cuts, but done in a way that does not make drastic cuts a foregone conclusion. Ian alerts us to two things: (1) drastic cuts made in moments of panic may later appear to have been unnecessary yet extremely difficult to rescind, and (2) financial problems often uncover deeper congregational problems that had been masked by financial well-being, so do not be surprised if that happens. Additionally, Ian strongly suggests that congregational leaders develop financial strategies in anticipation of a revenue drop so future discussions, if necessary, do not take on a sense of panic. And, Ian suggests, good time or bad, congregational financial leaders seek financial efficiencies.
Second, I'd like to point you to uua.org/giving/annualprogram/51886.shtml where the 7 newsletters of the APF can be found. The most recent one has examples of three congregations that have demonstrated financial leadership in these times: UU Church at Washington Crossing, UU Church of Silver Springs, and the UU Church of Central Nassau. Each, in its own way, has done much of what Ian discusses. Additionally, this issue contains a valuable column by Barb Brown "Extreme Make-over: Can This Budget Be Beautiful?"
In closing, let me note that overall donations to both the UUA and the CMWD remain strong despite the fact that we have a few congregations facing stiff financial challenges...challenges that arose before the present economic turmoil yet have been deepened by it. That donations remain strong is not unexpected. Data on churches during previous periods of financial stress indicate that people, on average, consider their support of their faith to be among the very last cutbacks they make. That this has been historically true for UUs is a testament to how we feel about being UUs.
Annual Program Fund Chair