Stewardship at MPUUC 2023-2024
by Valerie Stewart, Canvass Chair
This document about Stewardship is part of our annual canvass information. This year, it is a little different, please read on. Last year we created a Congregational Covenant with lots of aspirations and these inspiring words:
. . .we come together as an inclusive and diverse community, growing in love
and truth, courageously collaborating to liberate one another from hurt and
hate and to create hope and justice.
Our Congregation is a shared community, collectively owned and entirely operated by the vision, volunteerism and support of the membership. Before we talk about budgets and money, there is more to be said. Stewardship comes from the word ‘steward’, someone who in the past had the position of a ‘guardian’ of a household, estate, or a monarch, of all things important, the people, the property and the treasury. When I think of “Stewardship” at Mission Peak, I think first about how we care for one another, how we look for ways to help out, guarding one another when we can, when the losses in life come our way, and celebrating the good times together. That is the kind of Stewardship that brings us together, it is part of the spiritual practice of living our values that we strive for at Mission Peak. It is not without cost. It costs each of us; our time, our energy, our interest, and yes, our money. And, it is always Better Together!
Because a number of people come into congregations without a great deal of background on how they operate, we want to share these simple facts.
Unlike other denominations (such as Catholics or Methodists or Lutherans, for example) who have regional oversight and regional support, UU congregations have a different ‘polity’ (the rules by which our churches operate). ‘Congregational Polity’ means that each one of the roughly 1000 UU Congregations in North America has complete autonomy about what happens in the community. No outside body (i.e. regional or denominational body) tells a congregation how to organize, what minister to call, what staff to hire, what policies to put in place, what to say in their bylaws, how to organize, what to carry out worship on Sunday mornings, what hymns to sing, what justice projects to support, and what to teach the youth and children. Those decisions – and the authority to make and change such decisions – belong entirely to the members of each congregation. However, with full authority comes full responsibility. This means that each congregation is self-supported financially.
UU Congregations are not subsidized by the denomination. There is no ‘mother-ship’ that operates as a benefactor. In fact, each congregation, besides supporting all their own staff and programing and building management expenses, also contribute approximately 5% of their budget to support the denomination’s work. In return for these ‘dues’, congregations reap tremendous benefits from 200 staff who manage things like
- Credentialing and continuing education of ministers;
- Ministerial Search Process of connecting ministers looking for a congregation and congregations looking for ministers, so each has has the information they need to decide, for themselves, which minister to choose;
- Publishing house that produces Children and Adult Education Curricula, Music resources (Hymnals, etc.);
- Taking public stands on major cultural issues such as Marriage Equality (for which UUs were instrumental in advancing legislation to legalize), Anti-racism, anti-oppression, etc.;
- Field staff to support congregations with resources, trainings, counsel, etc.
This year (22-23) the total budget for Mission Peak is approximately $280K. Expected revenue however, is $278,350.
Revenue comes in one of 5 ways:
- “Pledges” aka dedicated contributions ($250.1K /89.9%
- Fundraisers ($20.2K /6.0% )
- Sunday Collection Plate ($4,5K / 1.6%; Once a month, our collection goes to an outside agency with whom we partner in our values-driven justice efforts)
- PPP Loan Money -the last of it- $3.5K / 1.3% (for sabbatical salary).
- Deficit Spending of $2.4K. and drawing from a quickly diminishing Restricted Fund. MPUUC has been making an effort to wean itself from reliance on this fund.
The expense side of our budget includes many costs.
- Staff and contract employees ($195.4K / 69.7%)
- Rent ($46,7K / 16.7%)
- Denominational Support ($10.4K / 3.7%)
- Program Expenses ($7.1K / 2.5%)
- Admin Expenses ($9.6K / 3.4%)
- Misc ($5K /1.8%)
(Note: Property management and Staff expenses run at close to 90%. This is pretty typical for non-profits.)
For the 2023-24 fiscal year, the estimated budget will require revenue of at least $271,461. This amount only includes small increases for our major expenses, rent/facilities and staff.
Under our congregational guidelines, membership at Mission Peak requires a “contribution of record” from each member. Not everyone who contributes to Mission Peak has actual membership status. There are those among us who contribute to the welfare of MPUUC in the status of “Friends” and they are just as much a part of our Beloved Community as everyone who signs the Membership Book. To understand the unique “Pledging” or ‘Member Support’ history at MPUUC, it is important to know the following.
- There are approximately 86 members/friends of MPUUC. Since most who are married/partnered make one pledge between them, there are 46 pledge units.
- This equates to overall “average” of $5,438 per pledge.
- However, the math doesn’t reflect that there are 3 extraordinarily generous pledging families which significantly skews the average, if we take those pledges out and calculate an adjusted average, it is $4,329 per pledge
- In our geo-index(cost of living in our area) , average pledges for congregations range between $2,000 – $4,000 / per pledge.
There is no fee for membership in a UU congregation. Unitarian Universalism places a very high value on inclusion. We know that some members/families are not able to afford to pledge the average and STILL be able to afford basic necessities for themselves and their family. We also know that some members/friends can pledge well above the average. We count on those who CAN pledge more to help make it possible for those who CANNOT.
At MPUUC, pledging ranges from those who can’t give a financial pledge, to those who pledge a couple hundred dollars to those who pledge $25,000. Donors of limited means choose this congregation bringing their vision, leadership, partnership and love when they feel invited, welcome and included. Many make contributions of significant amounts of time and talent. Donors of significant financial means choose this congregation and dedicate their time and treasure to supporting our Beloved Community, as long as they don’t feel taken advantage of, or that they are being asked to accept a disproportionate responsibility for the community’s future.
A healthy, resilient, committed congregation strives to have a bell-shaped curve of financial giving where most folks are giving around the average (some giving more and some less). Having large donors who can make it possible for those without any discretionary income is essential. But, our reliance on just a few donors to provide almost a third of our pledge income critically endangers our financial stability for our future.
EVERYONE who has the resources to financially support our Beloved Community ensures our ability to support and steward one another, because we are Better Together in community; achieving our vision of being in Fellowship together and reaching out to one another and our larger community to grow spiritually, offering support, solace, meaning and care to one another with our values and principles of inclusivity.
To meet our budget goal for the coming year and operate without a dependency on reserve funds (which are quickly disappearing) or a dependency on our most generous donors, the numbers show we will need to increase our total pledge amount by $5,000, or about $115. for each pledge unit.
We’re excited to share that we have $15,000 that has been generously donated in matching funds to incentivize us toward our goal. For all who increase their pledge, the increase will be matched two-dollars-for-dollar, in effect tripling the amount you can increase your pledge! Matching will apply as long as we have Matching Funds. Please take advantage of this incredible opportunity.