A Prayer for Remembrance and Thanks

Spirit of Life, fall afresh upon our community today. Make us a people who remember, who give thanks, who bless and are blessed, and who dare to dream the beautiful dream of justice, healing, and peace that our hearts long for.

We remember our mothers and fathers in faith who listened to your call and worked to build this faith community with a wide and loving heart. We remember those whose generosity built our churches, whose vision saw beyond their own horizons, whose hearts and hands toiled in the vineyard of good works, works of justice and peace.

Make new, we pray, our practice each day of compassion and justice close to home and around the world; renew our hunger for peace in a world marked by violence and grief; strengthen the commitment of our leaders to speak truth to power and to work with those who shape our public life so that together we will build a more just society for all of your children.

We give thanks for the gifts of ministry and for ministry. Lift up and inspire the shepherds who care for our flock and the leaders who serve faithfully, quietly, joyfully, day in and day out.

Give us the energy and foresight of the gentle but persistent gardener who sees the rich harvest in the smallest of seeds: may our churches flourish, large and small, old and new.

Prosper the work of our hands, so that, moment by moment and day by day, in every generation and every age, we will be salt, we will be light, we will be leaven in this world you love so well.    Blessed Be.

Adapted by Laurel Amabile from a reading by The Rev. Kate Huey, United Church of Christ, with permission generously granted by the author.      Sept 21, 2011

Ecumenical Stewardship Center:  http://www.stewardshipresources.org/

Climate Change–Fundraising in Faith Communities

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Increasingly, the effects of environmental climate change are felt in North America and around the world.  The intensity of storms, drought, and temperature are having a greater impact on our daily lives and crisis planning is no longer an afterthought in regions hardest hit.

Similarly, there has been steady climate change in many denominations and faith-based organizations in North America, particularly with regard to giving and fundraising. According to the Giving USA 2013 report released in June, overall giving to religion was down last year by nearly two percent (-1.9%) after a modest post-recession increase in 2012. This does not bode well, since overall charitable giving has rebounded by another three percent (3% adjusted for inflation) to pre-recession levels, with healthy increases in several categories.

Faith Community leaders–this notable drop in giving to religion should be a matter of great interest and concern to you.

For decades, religion received the largest share of charitable giving in the United States, and still does, but to a shrinking degree. This correlates with the decline in membership and attendance in Mainline Christian Churches. However, many faith communities report that donors are increasing the amount of their monetary gifts. There are simply fewer donors in their flocks.

Here is what we know about the other climatic changes affecting fundraising and things faith communities can do about them:

  • Baby Boomers have hit middle age. They are not as active in faith communities as their parents had been, tend to view institutions and authority with suspicion. However, they generously invest their volunteer energy and charitable dollars in social justice causes and community organizations that improve people’s lives and circumstances.

Studies indicate the more people are actively engaged in meaningful ways, the more they give to those organizations. Find ways to connect with this generation’s interests by encouraging voluntarism, community-building, high quality worship and programs. This means clarifying a compelling vision that has appeal for seekers as well as the faithful. It is essential to ensure top notch membership practices and faith development programs are in place.

  • Young adults have eclectic religious and spiritual interests, many referring to themselves as “spiritual, but not religious” and choosing to remain unaffiliated with religious institutions. They like the freedom to explore a variety of belief
    smart phone and moneysystems and spiritual practices and they steer away from intolerant attitudes and oppressive dogma. As a group, young adults think globally, supporting international causes that make a tangible difference in people’s lives. They are actively engaged in social networking and prefer using internet technology when making their gifts.

This represents our biggest opportunity for growth and giving in faith communities.  Faith  communities could grow and prosper if they offered what generational surveys and research tell us people are seeking and will invest their time and resources to actively support. It is important to remember that relationships are central to effective fundraising and stewardship, so always take time to get to know people and what is important to them as individuals and families.

  • Wealth is moving from generation to generation—BIG TIME. This represents over $40 Trillion passing to Baby Boomers from their parents. This makes planned giving opportunities much more timely and relevant to aging Baby Boomers.

There is no time to lose for congregations and faith-based organizations to establish and market planned giving programs! To begin with, you should have clear and comprehensive gift acceptance policies in place, as well as trusted financial advisors and legal counsel to assist you in the proper handling of gifts. Most denominations and community foundations have cost-saving planned giving services and information to help organizations and donors understand their options.

  • Today’s donors expect financial accountability, clear and accurate reporting for how their donations are used, and appropriate recognition of their gifts. There are myriad books, online resources, consultation and training available for current best practices. (Some great resources are listed below.) Get your eyes and hands on them and use them!

There is no lack of information about best practices in fundraising and no excuse for ignorance in this realm of faith community finance. Ask for help or consultation from a qualified professional if you don’t know where to begin.

We can learn new ways to adapt to the forces of change. We can equip ourselves to be better prepared for fundraising challenges by adopting current best practices before they arise. 

Laurel 2012

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Laurel Amabile, CFRE | Giving Speaks Consulting

Recommended resources:

Developing Fundraising Policies and Procedures. Barbara L. Ciconte, CFRE. Association of Fundraising Professionals. http://www.afpnet.org

Giving USA Reports.  http://www.givingusareports.org/

Religion Among the Millennials. Pew Research Center. 2010. http://www.pewforum.org

Leave a Legacy.  A toolkit compiled by Marion V. Grimes & Susan T. Siwiec, APR. Sponsored by The Western New York Planned Giving Consortium, Inc.            http://tinyurl.com/lrsj9ku

Planned Giving for Small Nonprofits. Ronald R. Jordan & Katelyn L. Quynn. 2002. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Planned Giving Resources for Unitarian Universalist congregations can be found at the Unitarian Universalist Association: http://uua.org/giving/planned/index.shtml and UU Umbrella Giving opportunities: http://uua.org/giving/47673.shtml

Holiday Giving–Five Ways to Experience the Spirit of Generosity this Season

2012-07-06 14.05.54 The Holiday Season at its best is filled with joyful giving, loving relationships, and spirited celebration. At least this is what our favorite Christmas music, old movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and December TV commercials tell us. We hold onto these warm sounds and images, in part because they inspire hope in our lives and help us adjust our attitudes toward others in positive ways. However, our super-charged consumer culture creates intense pressure to spend, entertain, and give gifts, sometimes heightening our expectations to idealized proportions. This can add stress to our lives and begin to seem out of control and overwhelming for many of us. But, if we can pause for a moment to reflect, we have the opportunity to experience moments of true generosity and the spirit of the season.

Five ways experience the spirit of generosity during the Holidays:

1) Experience Gratitude—Take some time to reflect on the people and things in your life for which you are grateful. This is easier said than done during the busy-ness of holiday preparations, but it can actually help relieve some stress and bring a fresh perspective. Start by taking a deep breath, close your eyes, push the negative, painful thoughts out of the way to focus on the simplest gifts received, then expand from there: a smile, a cheerful greeting, finding a shiny coin or lost item, cuddling with a pet, a hug from a loved one….

2) First Things FirstKnow who and what is most important to you and adjust your expenditures of time and energy accordingly. Our jobs, homes, and other tasks and responsibilities require our attention, to be sure. However, no amount of time spent shopping, decorating, cooking, or cleaning is more important than time with your loved ones, friends, and time for yourself. 

3) Values GivingYour giving should clearly align and demonstrate your deepest held values in harmony with your gift recipient’s whenever possible. In addition to giving someone a tangible item, think creatively, and have fun connecting values with gift giving. Donner all ears

Is your sister an animal lover? Make a donation to her local humane shelter in her honor.

Does your mother like to reuse and recycle? Get a gift certificate to her local thrift shop.

 

Is your friend experiencing illness or stressful life circumstances?  Offer to do some household chores or make her a cup of tea and visit a while.

Has your father devoted years of service to his church board? Create a book of pictures and mementos and/or make a gift to his church in honor of his years of service.

4) Receive WellThe spirit of generosity is nurtured early in our lives through our experiences of receiving, initially through the love and attention of a trusted caregiver. Our attitudes about giving and generosity are largely shaped by our family culture and religious teachings. These are complex messages and not always positive. It is not uncommon to feel unworthy of someone’s gift, or awkward about receiving a gift with nothing to give in return. In most cases, those giving the gift experience pleasure in doing so. Practice gracious receiving and watch someone’s eyes light up!

5) ThankRemember to express appreciation and gratitude for the gifts that bless your life, whether they may be simple and small, elaborate and substantial, or somewhere in between. GivingThanks-floral

My wish for you is that, together, we help expand awareness about the power of philanthropy and giving as a means of transforming our world and the lives of its inhabitants. I have found that happens one choice at a time, one act of giving at a time, one person at a time.

May it be so for you and yours this season of giving and light!

Laurel

Giving Speaks volumes about life, love, and community~