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neil_lichtman.jpgMy purpose this month is to update you on how your contributions to the UUA’s Annual Program Fund are faring.

First, in terms of total contributions to the UUA, the Central Midwest District is running 7 percent below last fiscal year. Meanwhile, nationally, contributions are running at only 1 percent below. Clearly, we are underperforming compared to the national average, and this decline will impact UUA contributions which are given back to our district.

Our analysis shows that we have had a slight downward drift in the percentage of congregations in our district donating at Fair Share (a likely 65% this fiscal year, 66% percent last fiscal year, and 68% two fiscal years ago). This is not a major downward shift during a current challenging economic period. A few congregations have come up to Fair Share, and a few have gone below.

What we do know is that a number of our congregations are facing special circumstances where there is severe competition for limited congregational canvass donations during a time of decline in pledge amounts. We sense that a number of congregations have been struggling near or below “breakeven” for a few years, and now are experiencing weak canvasses and the cuts which are required when congregational income falls substantially below congregational expenses. Additionally, a few congregations are committed to major costly projects that must move forward even though this year’s canvass has been problematic. Some of these congregations have been able to hold the line on contributions to the UUA and CMwD, and others have not.

Recognizing these issues, the UUA has gathered a significant number of formal documents which can be quite helpful to our congregations. Some of these are available through the UUA website.  Starting places for this are the Stewardship section of the Leaders Library, the Interconnections section of the Leaders Library and--for oldie but goodies -- the Money subject in the Interconnections archive. This is an excellent time to focus upon doing the basics of stewardship well, and for that the basic text is Wayne Clark’s book, Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship.   This is not, alas, available free online but available through the UUA Bookstore and you can browse before buying it through Google Books.  These and many more are included in Finance and Stewardship Resources on the UUA website.

I do want to recognize some good news: 80% of our CMwD congregations did make a formal pledge this fiscal year. Yes, our little  “pledge drive” kicked this number up from 65% for the previous fiscal year. Please remember, pledges are important, even if they are pledges below Fair Share.

In closing, I want to thank all our congregations who have donated this year regardless of the size of the donation.

Best regards to all.

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Chair