neil_lichtmanWe’re nearing the End of the Fiscal Year

We have just May and June remaining in this Fiscal Year. For the Annual Program Fund, this is our “Push” period…the time we contact congregations that appear to us to be falling short of donating at their pledge levels. So, if our information gives us the sense that your congregation is going to fall short and hasn’t yet told us, you’re likely to hear from us.

First, we’ll send your congregation’s Minister and Board President an e-mail requesting we find a mutual time for a phone call. As a matter of each of us being in “right relationship” with each other, we reasonably expect a reply to this e-mail. For our District, much is at stake.

Those of you who were at District Assembly clearly saw what is at stake. The CMwD team has had to make some unfortunate cuts (all of our CMwD staff will be taking one week's furlough in the next fiscal year) to its budget for the upcoming Fiscal Year specifically due to the drop in donations to the UUA which lead to automatic cuts in the level of funding that comes back to the District.

When we do chat, we do want to hear what is going on in your congregation that might be impacting donations this Fiscal Year and perhaps the next. Of course, we’ll have a sympathetic ear. And, we’ll try to help you find solutions.

In conclusion, let me say once again that your UUA and your District leaders thank you for your generosity.

Neil Lichtman

Your CMwD APF Chair

neil_lichtmanToo often we hear about the consequences of negative actions. We condition ourselves to think of consequences as a strictly negative word. However, the word “consequences” works both ways. Positive actions have positive consequences. For our Central Midwest District Congregations, our mutual generosity has powerful positive consequences.

We thrive on excellence in ministry. Our generosity helps directly in creating and maintaining excellence in Ministry. It does likewise for Religious Education and Lay Leadership.

We share a commitment to seven powerful principles. Great principles have great prices…prices that can be measured in commitments of our time, energy, willingness to put our beliefs on the line, and, of course, financial resources. Indeed, our generosity allows us to see our principles in action. That’s a powerful consequence of our generosity.

We have built a special community. For many of us, our congregations are deeply important to our lives. For many of us, being a Unitarian Universalist is an important part of our identity. When we are generous to our UUA, the consequence is we are generous to each other, and ultimately to ourselves.

As we enter the last few months of this Fiscal Year, we ask you to think about the positive consequences of your generosity as your congregations make their final decisions about donations to both our UUA and Central Midwest District.

In closing, I hope to see you at District Assembly in Wheeling IL on April 30 - May 2.

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Rep

neil_lichtmanAs I write this, I’m aware that tomorrow is the first Monday of 2010, and it’s a working Monday for those with jobs.

As I look at my calendar, I also see that my congregation’s Canvass Committee has its start-up meeting Wednesday evening. Indeed, congregational work will be back in full swing. Making financial ends meet for this Fiscal Year, and starting to think about the next Fiscal Year are upon all of us.

My request is that whoever reads this takes it upon him/herself to download a few wonderful and important documents from our UUA and share them with their Boards.

First, may I suggest “We Build This Community”, an easy-to-read review of all the programmatic work that the UUA does with your donations. As Board members change, it may be helpful to give new members a quick overview. You’ll find this at

Second, at you’ll find excellent materials to help your Boards think through stewardship.

Third, please download the Summer 2009 Newsletter. Enjoy the article about the Central Midwest District’s very own Third Unitarian Church of Chicago: “Generosity as a Spiritual Path.”
Then read about two congregations that have worked hard to become and sustain Fair Share generosity. You may download this Newsletter at

Here’s to a Special New Year for all our congregations.

Neil Lichtman

neilHere are some important thoughts for us from Rev. Naomi King, Minister, The River of Grass UU Congregation, Plantation, Florida, and UU Ministers Association Liaison to the APF Committee. (Adapted for general use by Laurel Amabile, Director, Annual Program Fund.)


10.  You teach your congregation that we truly are called together as one association of
congregations and that our greatest strength is not individual but communal.  Together,
we overcome fear, alienation, and loneliness, creating a better today and a more hopeful

9.  You encourage generosity by modeling generosity.

8.  You connect your congregation to great stories of our Unitarian Universalist living faith
all around the world.

7.  Your congregation’s “fair share” gift models individual right relationship in expending
our individual resources.

6.  You strengthen the connection between your congregation and our family of associated
congregations – our Unitarian Universalist Association

5.  When people see what our Unitarian Universalist faith is doing through their giving
around the world, it encourages and develops heir stewardship and their sense of making
a difference.

4.  You are having the greatest effect on our home mission in planning new congregations,
strengthening existing congregations and reaching people with the good news of
Unitarian Universalism.

3.  When you give at the “fair share” level to our Association, you model your congregation
living our values of interdependence, mutuality, cooperation, and hope.

2.  You strengthen the identity of your congregation as a mission- and service-focused

1. Your gifts enable your congregation to expand our living faith values of love, reason,
freedom and justice – healing and transforming our world here and now.

Why contribute to APF?
Because we can be and do more together than we can be and do on our own.

neilThis month’s column has two purposes: (1) encourage each of our Central Midwest District Congregations to make pledges to both our District and to the UUA and inform us of them using the reply forms you have received, and (2) provide direction to resources for congregations who face financial stress.

I realize you think I’m a broken record on the first issue…at least if you’re old enough to know what the expression “broken record” is. Pledging is very important to us because it allows us to budget with some precision. Pledging should also be important to you because it is an act of faith in maintaining and building UUism beyond the borders of your church grounds. It is your promise to help all UUs. It is also your best guarantee that if and when the day comes you need assistance it will be there for you.

I believe that many congregations have already put contribution line items the cover your donations into your current Fiscal Year budget. We are asking you share them with us if you haven’t already, whether they be Fair Share or less, or for the rare yet praise-worthy congregation, more than Fair Share. Yes, these do exist!

We also know that a few congregations have intentions to donate but have not put numbers into current budgets. Nevertheless, we are asking you to share those intentions.

We also know that a few congregations cannot make a donation to both the
CMwD and the UUA, but we still need to know your plans.

Ideally, we’d like you to think of your donations to the CMwD and the UUA as one consolidated donation for the good of all, but we realize this will take some doing.

My second goal here is to give easy direction to Stewardship Resources.

Here are some excellent web sites:

Thank you for sharing and caring.

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF District Rep

Neil LichtmanThere are two things I’d like to share with you in this month’s message.

First, a report on how the UUA’s Annual Program fund ended here in our district - CMwD congregational support to the UUA’s APF in the just closed Fiscal Year was $450,413 down from the previous Fiscal Year’s support of $491,345. This 8% drop exceeded our national average of a 2% drop.

We recognize the impact the economy has had in general and the specific struggles of a small number of our congregations. Meanwhile, plentiful resources exist to help congregations create generosity in difficult times.
As you’ve read here a number of times before, both Ian Evison and I are available to help you reach those resources or discuss your issues.

The second thing I wanted to let you know about is pledging to both the UUA-APF and the district.   A bright spot in the last Fiscal Year was that 90% of our CMwD congregations told us their intent via pledging or formal letters during the year. This is very, very helpful – just as knowledge about pledging is crucial to your congregation in financial planning.

Given how tight both the UUA and the CMwD need to budget for this current new Fiscal Year we’re in, we very much need to know your intentions now, if you haven’t already pledged. We hope that every congregation has these numbers in their new budgets and we request you share them with us either formally by filling out pledge forms mailed to you or e-mailing us personally.

Thank you,

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Chair

neil.jpgJust today a leader in one of our congregations suggested that his congregation could use a reminder of what a congregation receives for its donations to the UUA. I find that appropriate as we come close to the end of our fiscal year when we ask our congregations to reach one last time into their budgets to meet their pledges.

To that end, I quote, with permission, the thoughts of Rev. Naomi King, UUC of Utica, NY who has summarized the benefits more eloquently than I could have:

Why do we contribute to our District and the Unitarian Universalist Association?

10. Our gifts support General Assembly and District Assembly, leadership development and training, the monthly newsletter for congregational leaders, and small group ministry programming and training.

9. Our gifts supported the development of our hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, and the new hymnal supplement, Singing the Journey. Our gifts also support other worship resources that we use regularly.

8. Our contribution supports telling the great stories of our living Unitarian Universalist faith all around the world, through The UU World magazine, publicity campaigns, the International Association for Religious Freedom, the Church of the Larger Fellowship, and Skinner House and Beacon Press.

7. Our "fair share" gifts support youth programs, youth empowerment, and resources for youth and youth advisors.

6. Our gifts support religious education training, curricular development, communication among religious educators, the comprehensive sexuality education program, Our Whole Lives, and the UU World insert for children, UU & Me.

5. Our gifts support our association taking important action and witnessing what our faith really means in the world: supporting human rights and democracy, caring for those who are being left behind, and advancing science and education.

4. Our gifts plant new congregations, provide resources to struggling congregations, and reach out to people who have yet to hear about the good news of Unitarian Universalism.

3. Our gifts support Unitarian Universalist theological education, ministerial search, internship programs, the long process that leads to fellowshipping ministers, and systems that provide pension investment plans, disability insurance, and dental insurance that maintain, develop, and grow our ministers.

2. Our gifts have developed programs such as Balancing Acts: Keeping Children Safe in Congregations; materials for Conscientious Objectors; the Washington Office on Advocacy; the Planned Giving Workshop; and the SpiritPlay Religious Education Training.

1. Doing so supports all of our congregations in becoming even better and more amazing places. Our greatest strength is communal; we are not alone. Together we're creating not only a better today, but a better tomorrow.

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

neil.jpgDear Fellow UUs:

I’ll keep my remarks for this month very short.
Simply, I hope you can attend District Assembly and while there stop by my display of our Wall of Generosity. I would like to hear from each attending congregation how you are faring financially in this difficult period.

As usual, we’ll be handing out ribbons to Fair Share and Merit congregations while thanking all congregations who have donated past or present.

As Ian Evison has written and spoken, this is a period for leadership. In fact, historically, times like this allow congregations to develop and emerge the kind of leadership that augers well for the return of better times.

Additionally, we have
solid resources for congregations to help in the large area of financial stewardship and I’ll be glad to help anyone get their hands on those.

See you at DA!

Best regards,

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD Annual Program Fund Chair

neil_lichtman.jpgBefore getting into the meat of my message this month, once again I’d like to draw your attention to the e-mail survey from your CMwD requesting a very brief update on your congregation’s financial situation and latest expectations for donating to both the UUA’s Annual Program Fund and to the District for the remainder of this Fiscal Year. If you have not yet responded, please Click here for the Finance Survey.

As you well know, donating to the APF and District are just two line-items in your budgets. Your financial concerns likely encompass a host of issues if not your entire budget in good times not to speak of our current less-than-good time.

Just in case you would like some perspective and help of stewardship, I have easy access electronic copies of four documents that you may request by simply e-mailing me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

These presentations are good for Treasurers, Board Presidents, entire Boards, and even for those members of your congregations who would likely attend a meeting built around stewardship.

They are:

1. Laurel Amabile’s “A Great Program of Stewardship: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship for UU Congregations.”

2. Anticipating the Effects of the U.S. economy on Congregational Giving in 2008-2009

3. Giving During Tough Economic Times

4. Stewardship and Generosity Resources for Congregations

I’d be glad to e-mail you one or more of the above.

Additionally, I’d like to draw your attention to the very latest newsletter from the UUA’s Annual Program Fund (which, by the way, is in a file of all our newsletters since their inception) which can be found at

And, thank you for continued support of both our UUA and our District.

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Chair

neil_lichtman.jpgThis message is a short follow-on to last month’s. As you are probably aware, our CMwD District Staff have been keenly interested in the issue of leadership and stewardship during difficult times. Hopefully, you’ve benefited from some of the columns and blogs, workshops or podcasts that are available on our district website.

By now your congregation has received an e-mail survey from the CMwD requesting a very brief update on your congregation’s financial situation and your latest expectations for donating to both the UUA’s Annual Program Fund and to the District for the remainder of this Fiscal Year.

If you have not yet replied to our survey, please accept this reminder. We really need your participation. Click here for Finance Survey.

As we come into the back half of the Fiscal Year, we need to tighten up our expectations for both the APF and the District.

Nationally, the APF is running 3% behind last fiscal year.

To put this request into context, the CMwD’s contributions to date to the UUA’s APF are ten percent below last year. Some of this is due to a couple of congregations experiencing new and severe financial problems, and some of this is due to donations coming in somewhat slower than last year.

The situation for donations from our congregations directly to the CMwD are similar.

Given this data, you can see why we need to get a handle on our financial situation. Please participate in our survey so we can achieve district wide accuracy.

Thank you.

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Chair

neil.jpgYou could have knocked me off my treadmill Saturday morning (Nov. 29) when I saw a Headline News segment featuring the Unity Church Unitarian of St. Paul, Minnesota. The report showed that they had held services on Black Friday. Their goal was to initiate a movement for what this holiday season should truly be about. For lack of a better phrase, we could call that Ethical Christmas (or Ethical Chanukah or Ethical Kwanzaa). Instead of Religious Christmas or Commercial Christmas, they proposed a balance between the religious aspects and the commercial aspects held together by the ethical idea of helping people in need.

neil.jpgAs your Annual Program Fund Representative, I can assure you that the APF is fully aware of and monitoring how our congregations are faring financial these days.

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 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

Neil Lichtman, Annual Program Fund ChairAs Summer draws to a close, I imagine our Ministers, Board Presidents, Treasurers and Office Staffs preparing to tackle their in-boxes after a few months of tending to only the most pressing matters.

I suspect, based on what I've learned from conversations with Ministers, Board Presidents, Treasurers and Office Administrators, that many Annual Program Fund pledge forms are resting peacefully in various in-boxes. Now is the time to yank them out and work them through your system!

As mentioned in previous columns, pledging is an important part of our Annual Program Fund donation cycle. And, please recall, an act of pledging is not necessarily a promise to make a Fair Share Pledge as much as we hope you do. What we do ask is that you fill out the pledge form with your best prediction of what your congregation will donate this fiscal year.

The obvious reason the Annual Program Fund needs a pledge from each congregation is for budgeting. This is especially important in our shaky economic environment. We're hearing from all kinds of organizations that depend upon donations giving is down. Meanwhile, we hope that when it comes to our UUA, whose already tight budgets are focused on matters that mean so much to us, our donations remain strong. (If you think your donation is on shaky grounds because of the current economy, I have some ideas that might help. Call me at 630-913-0685.)

Filling out the pledge card, and the important conversation your congregation will likely have around that, will allow you to think deeply about this commitment. Please recall that a pledge is a promise, and your promise to support your UUA is your promise to support UUs everywhere. And your promise should act as a catalyst to all congregations to join in the act of supporting all UUs everywhere by filling out their pledge cards.

Enjoy the rest of Summer.

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Chair

Neil Lichtman, Annual Program Fund ChairBy now you may have seen the request from our UUA for this Fiscal Year's pledge to the Annual Program Fund and wonder why it has arrived months earlier than usual.

The reason is that our soft national economy has already been seen to a slight degree in the wrap up for the Fiscal Year we have just completed. This has sensitized our Development Personnel to the possibility that we may see more than a slight decline in this Fiscal Year. That said, we still hope our congregations do not use the economy as an excuse to pledge and donate less unless, of course, your congregation has been hit hard.

Nevertheless, we suspect all congregations will feel this economy to some degree. That means that it may take a little more work than usual to hold the line in your budget process. We understand that and are here to help.

Back to Pledging itself. As I've written a few times last year, we'd like every congregation to pledge even if you cannot pledge Fair Share. Pledging is critical for getting the UUA's budget under control. However, if you recall my pleas of last Fiscal Year, pledges are promises. The congregations that pledge are the congregations that promise to support all of us. I sincerely hope that this Fiscal Year every congregation in the CMwD will promise to support all of its fellow congregations by filling out the pledge card and mailing it soon.

Meanwhile, enjoy the fleeting Summer.

Best regards,

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Chair

Neil Lichtman, Annual Program Fund ChairIn my previous column, we departed from the issue of pledging and re-engaged on the issue of turning pledges and intentions into actual donations. We discussed the spirituality of giving...putting our financial resources where our hearts and minds are.

A phrase that captures the spirituality of giving is "reciprocal generosity." In one-on-one discussions across the District and our Denomination, everyone I have spoken with agrees that there should be rough equity in giving and receiving. No one has argued for either a principle of "free riders" or deep inequity between giving and receiving. Our goal now is to get the concept of reciprocal generosity embraced by all Boards and Congregations.

One way to develop congregational enthusiasm for reciprocal generosity is to lift content from our quarterly Annual Program Fund Newsletters and distribute it to your Board and congregation. You can easily access both the latest newsletter and the four previous ones in the archives here.

Each newsletter delves into issues of generosity and stewardship and recommends plenty of resources. Issues also highlight congregations that have made great forward strides. The latest issue has, in particular, a wonderful article about our own CMwD congregation Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton, Wisconsin. You'll enjoy reading it.

I look forward to our Central Midwest District becoming a leader in reciprocal generosity. May I offer a thank you to all our congregations for your support.

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Chair

Neil Lichtman, Annual Program Fund Chair A UU friend from Maryland sent me a copy of the book "The Soul of Money, Reclaiming the Wealth of our Inner Resources" by Lynne Twist, founder of The Soul of Money Institute. While I have some areas of philosophical and theological disagreement with her, I found her central thesis very compelling. Quoting her: "The kinds of connections that truly protect and preserve us are those that emerge from the context of sufficiency and the sharing, diversity, reciprocity, and partnership found there."

It's my contention, that among the many things our UUA and CMwD do, protecting and preserving our values is highest among them. Our donations preserve their missions to work for our congregations. And, those among us who stretch to Fair Share or donate at our congregational limits provide much of the financial strength that we share with each other. One congregation's donation is, in a sense, reciprocating the donation of all congregations. This month I transition this space from asking for pledges to asking for donations. While I have not received final pledging data for the Central Midwest District, I believe we made some solid progress. Now, it's time to discuss the act of donating.

For many congregations, what I say is nothing new. They are the ones already donating to the UUA and CMWD at Fair Share or donating at the limits their members can afford. For others, however, I hope to light a small spark.

Another quote from the book: "Your relationship with money can be a place where you bring your strengths and skills, your highest aspirations and your deepest and most profound qualities. Whether we are millionaires or "dollar heirs," we can actually be great with our money and be in great relationship with it. In a world that seems to revolve around money, it is vital that we deepen our relationship with our soul and bring it to bear on our relationship with money. In that merger and that commitment, we can create a new and profound spiritual practice." Our congregational donations to the UUA demonstrate one of the important ways we can be in right relationship with each other as congregations.

A final quote: "...the power of money is really derived from the intention we give it and the integrity with which we direct it to the world." To me, our donations to the UUA are a visible reflections of our intentions, and the integrity with with we approach our UU mission.

Happy New Year.
Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Chair

Neil LichtmanThe aim of this column is to expand on the e-mail I recently sent to our CMwD Congregations requesting each make a formal pledge to our UUA and CMwD this year. As I mentioned there, a pledge may seem like a technicality we can survive without. And, yes, we can. Yet, pledging does help us plan, and you budget. That may not seem like much to some of us, so I'd like to encourage us to look at pledging a little differently.

At GA, I purchased a slim volume called "The Essential James Luther Adams." In a number of essays, he writes of the centrality to our faith of what we do in groups, in community. He writes of shared activities, some we do in the presence of others, and some we do separately, but we all do them. Critical to this community is the concept of Covenant, the group promise. As I think about pledging, that too is a promise. (I just checked that our with our friend Webster.) In one sense, a pledge to the UUA is a promise to the UUA.

However, I'd like to propose the idea that it's a lot more than that. It's a promise one congregation makes to all our congregations. Every congregation that has pledged has made a promise to you. Every time you pledge, you join that community of promises.

Our record of pledging in the CMwD compared to other districts has not been strong. Let's agree to act to change that. Let's increase our level of promise to those who have already made their promises to us.

Yours in a small religion making a big difference.

Neil Lichtman
Your CMwD APF Chair