I did a post a week or so ago on the upcoming election for the new president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), and in the past couple of days there have been three or four new comments that I think are worth reading. Start here, and keep reading down. Feel free to continue that conversation over there….
What’s going to be really interesting to watch between now and the election at the end of June is this — will the candidates have anything to say about the dire financial realities of the UUA? The financial crisis has hit the UUA hard, and from what I hear, UUA staff are slashing the budget right now, before the fiscal year has even ended — yes, things are that bad. I’m sure there will be little room for the new UUA president to start any new initiatives; instead, the new president will have to cut budgets, tighten belts, and lay off staff. Given where the economy is going, it will continue to get worse for at least a year.
So here some questions I want the UUA presidential candidates to answer: (1) Contemporary non-profit management requires increased efficiency because expenses for staff are rising faster than revenue; so what will you do to increase efficiency at the UUA? (2) A true fiscal conservative looks at both revenue and expenses; so in addition to cutting costs, how will you work to increase revenue? (3) One of the things many non-profits are doing these days is using more volunteers, and using them more effectively, especially considering how many Baby Boomers are retiring right now; so how will you work to extend the work of the UUA through volunteers?
That’s what I want to ask the UUA presidential candidates right now. What about you?
I just rolled out bed… I’ll write more in a bit. Maybe on my own blog… but what I love here is you wrote in plain English. There is no jargon here. There is no constructed language. Just practical language worthy of …of promoting practical goodness in the world… (as my Church’s Covenant puts it). Why can’t the candidates speak like that more often? Maybe it’s me, but I always feel like I need to translate what they say/write.
Re: volunteers… use them and you have a power issue by the way. You control a volunteer very differently than paid staff.
Have you seen UU World’s report this week on the cuts to the UUA’s FY2010 budget? Or UU World’s report on spending cuts in the current fiscal year?
You can sign up for weekly email updates from uuworld.org to keep up with the latest news.
Bill @ 2 — I agree with you, except that I would say that it’s not a power issue so much as that you manage volunteers differently than you manage paid staff. I believe one of the key issues for today’s non-profit administrator is, in fact, learning how to effectively manage volunteers — and at this point, not many organizations are particularly good at managing volunteers.
Philocrites @ 3 — Sad to say, as someone who pretty much lives on the Web, I forgot to check the UU World’s online reports on this topic. Thanks for pointing this out — and thanks for being one of the people who has helped create such an excellent online news source for the denomination.
P.S. As a Web denizen, you may also like subscribing to UU World’s RSS feeds. Just pretend it’s a blog.
I’m very partisan, so forgive me. Two things I want to quote:
a) Check out the answers to the January Question of the Month posed by the UUA elections commission: “Imagine five years have passed and imagine that your vision for UUism is fully alive and thriving. What three to five goals have been realized?”
Answer Laurel Hallman: “2. Our UUA endowment will grow to a sustainable level, and our dependence on its income for operating expenses will diminish.”
When I read this my jaw dropped.
Peter placed his and her answers on his homepage to let it speak for itself.
b) I was at the Denver candidate forum 3-14-09 (and filmed it). The budget crisis question was raised by one of the Mountain Desert District board members. Laurel Hallman, after talking at lenght about the fact that she herself tithes, said in essence that deepening people’s faith will strengthen their commitment and their donations.
(And yes, she does have a track record doing both very well in the context of her Dallas church.)
I won’t paraphrase what Peter said because I transcribed it from the audio (the recordings have been sent to the UUA and should be online in a while, Dan, if you don’t want to wait I can mail it directly):
Transcription of Peter’s answer to the budget question at the Denver MDD forum: (not edited)
The priorities as we inevitably have to cut back on the total expenditures – that’s simply a given – what we need is a very disciplined process that maintains all that is essential to maintain both the health of the movement now and our services to congregations that contribute to that health and to use the farmers’ phrase: that we not eat our seedcorn. That we preserve those things that are going to make us a healthy and thriving movement ten years from now, twenty years from now.
So what that would mean practically is: Direct services to congregations, like district services: Top priority.
The things that support Religious Education, the essential programs in those congregations – those are our top priority.
There might be some other things that can wait, say in publishing, things like that. You have to take a hard look at those things. You look at what is essential to the ongoing functioning. Another one of those is our work in public witness because we dare not back off that and not be a prophetic voice at times like this.
For example this economic crisis cries out for a religious perspective, saying that this was brought about not only through immoral behavior but promoted by a culture that has gone crazy on individual greed and acquisitiveness. And we need to make a cultural critique about that. So: Public witness needs to be there and services to congregations.
The seedcorn part of that is that we need to prepare a ministry for a new America. We are going to lose almost half of our ministers in the next decade, about half, and the vast majority of them in our larger churches. We need to recruit, mentor, train, develop a new ministry, not only in the parish, but community, and Religious Education, because that is our seedcorn, and we have to increase the diversity of that ministry.
How you go about that as a leader is you go through some things that are unfortunately painful but department by department you ask people to say: What would you cut if you are going to cut 25% of your budget? What would you keep if you are forced to cut 50% of it? That is a discipline that forces people to focus on what is absolutely essential and what they must not give up. And then you go through a vetting process with them, with stakeholders, to where you come out of that process with a consensus of what is absolutely essential to be doing. And it has to be driven by our core values and as we make changes we have to implement them with kind of a steadiness and compassion so that we act out of those core values as we do it.”