The Unitarian Universalist Association has a balanced budget this year despite rising costs and a drop in revenues, said the UUA Board of Trustees in voting to accept the budget at its meeting April 15–16 in Boston. Other business at the meeting included a board vote to host five regional meetings around the country in the coming year, where candidates for UUA president will present their visions for Unitarian Universalism.
Healthcare costs for UUA personnel rose 9 percent this year while total income was down 2.3 percent, mostly due to poor investment performance because of widespread market downturns that hit many investors, said UUA Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Tim Brennan. To balance the $26 million operating budget, the UUA decided to not fill certain positions vacated by departing employees, including the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley, who resigned as program and strategy officer in January.
The UUA’s budget has gotten a clean bill of health from its outside auditors again this year, as it has for the past several years, UUA Moderator Jim Key added.
Beacon Press is “doing extraordinarily well,” Brennan noted, giving credit to director Helene Atwan and her staff. “Year after year they are hitting their financial goals and growing,” he said.
Meanwhile, the office of Stewardship and Development is putting even more emphasis on the Annual Program Fund, through which congregations give financially to the UUA and which represents 40 percent of the UUA budget, Brennan said. The Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, who was hired as director of Stewardship and Development about 18 months ago, has “put together a great team,” he said, including Christopher Hartley, former vice president of institutional advancement at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who recently came on board as Morn’s deputy director. Especially compared to two years ago, when the UUA faced a deficit when certain expected gifts did not materialize, the Association’s financial status “is great,” said Financial Advisor Larry Ladd, who will finish his term at GA 2016 and be succeeded by Lucia Santini Field, managing director at Boston Trust & Investment Management Company. “We are in a very different place than a year ago,” said Brennan.
The Annual Program Fund Task Force,chaired by Ladd, had hoped to bring a recommendation to the board by April, or June at the latest, regarding proposed changes to the manner by which congregations provide financial support to the UUA, but instead will present a report to the board by October, Ladd said, calling it an “extraordinarily complicated endeavor.”
When trustee Tim Atkins asked if a reduced amount in the budget for multicultural programming reflected a decrease in commitment to that issue, UUA President Peter Morales said that multicultural awareness and training are being embedded in each department and program throughout the UUA rather than being isolated in one department.
In other financial news, the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, New York, is considering making a significant investment in the Wake Now Our Vision Collaborative Campaign (PDF), said Morn. The campaign is a partnership between the UUA, the UU Service Committee, Starr King School for the Ministry, Meadville Lombard Theological School, and the Church of the Larger Fellowship. In addition to cooperating in fundraising for their major gift campaigns, these partners will be launching a movement-wide planned giving campaign, Morn said.
The board voted to host five regional events between GA 2016 and GA 2017, at which UUA presidential candidates will promote their visions for Unitarian Universalism. Currently, there are two formal candidates in the race for UUA president: the Rev. Alison Miller and the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray. The regional meetings will be held before GA 2017, when the new president will be elected, and are not intended to be regional assemblies, said UUA Secretary Rob Eller-Isaacs, who proposed the meetings as a way to streamline the campaigning process. They likely will be held on a Saturday at large congregations that have appropriate space, and the plan is to live stream them, said Eller-Isaacs. Candidates will pay for their own travel expenses and any costs to attend the events, and the UUA will cover other costs, which Eller-Isaacs said are likely to be minimal.
Miller and Frederick-Gray, as official candidates, and a third potential candidate who has entered the race but not publicly identified themselves yet nor become a formal candidate, met with Eller-Isaacs and the Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti, the chair of the Election Campaign Practices Committee, to discuss the parameters of the campaign and their covenants with each other as candidates. The three candidates also met with trustees and senior UUA staff in a closed "listening circle." (UU World will introduce other candidates when they formally enter the race.)
The board also voted 5-4 that trustees may endorse a presidential candidate once GA 2016 is over. Key and Eller-Isaacs said they will not endorse any candidates since they will be heavily involved in organizing the five regional events.
The board heard from Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East about a business resolution that will be on the GA 2016 agenda, related to divestment from five corporations that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Since the UUA no longer owns any stocks in the named companies, trustees discussed whether the resolution would continue to be on the GA agenda; Key said that all procedural requirements had been met for the resolution, so it will remain on the agenda. UUJME President Larry Cooper and UUJME board member Curt Bell said they are planning to amend the resolution to reflect the fact that the UUA no longer owns the named stocks because they still want the resolution discussed on the floor of GA. Adoption of the resolution would provide “strengthening and long-term support for UUs to act in accord with their values,” said Bell.
Vice Moderator Denise Rimes said that 87 delegates will receive $325 each to help with the costs of attending GA 2016, through a scholarship fund proposed by Key and set up by the UUA board to encourage diversity among GA delegates, particularly by including more people of color, young people, and those from historically marginalized groups. Rimes said they had hoped more people would apply for scholarships, but several trustees noted that even with these scholarships and waiver of the registration fee, it remains very expensive to attend GA.
In its ongoing monitoring of the “ends” or goals of the UUA, a key aspect of Policy Governance, the board found that the UUA administration is in compliance in reaching a set of those goals it was reviewing at this meeting (PDF). Among the goals under review was Ends Policy 1.3, which sets the goal of creating and supporting congregations and communities that are intentionally inclusive, multigenerational, and multicultural. Annette Marquis, LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs director, reported that there is “no question we are seeing growth in the participation of people of color in our congregations,” and also reported a slight increase in the number of people of color among UUA staff. But trustee Christina Rivera noted the overall proportion of such staff, at 20 percent, remains lower than she would hope. Key and Eller-Isaacs described the conversation about ends monitoring at this meeting as historic in its focus on substance and among the best they’d ever participated in.
In other business, the board:
- appointed Sarah Surface to the Appointments Committee and Sarah Dan Jones, past president of the UU Musicians Network, to the UUA Board of Trustees; their terms will begin after GA 2016.
- appointed two new Youth Observers to the board: Bailey Saddlemire of the First Unitarian Church of Providence, Rhode Island, who will serve a two-year term, and Andrea Briscoe of Main Line Unitarian Church in Devon, Pennsylvania, who will serve a one-year term. Their terms begin after GA 2016.
- participated in a training on sexual orientation and identity with an emphasis on LGBTQ issues. Trustee Julian Sharp noted with dismay the rise in legislation around the country that negatively affects the LGBTQ community and emphasized the importance of UUs speaking in support of LGBTQ rights.
- heard from Morales, in his UUA President’s Report (PDF), that there are not enough UU ministers to serve all the congregations that are seeking them, primarily due to large numbers of ministers retiring; the issue will be explored in depth at the October board meeting.
- learned from Key that Connecticut Superior Court Judge Nina Elgo, a member of the Unitarian Society of Hartford, Connecticut, will serve as parliamentarian at GA 2016.
- gave a round of applause to the Re-Envisioning Covenant Task Force, appointed by Key in October, after it presented a report on its ongoing work to reimagine how the UUA can covenant with congregations toward a common mission and purpose.
- welcomed into UUA membership the UU Fellowship of Benton County in Bentonville, Arkansas. All Souls Universalist Church in Belgrade, Maine, and the Hattiesburg Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, have disbanded. The board also accepted an application from Redding Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Redding, California, to change its status from member congregation to covenanting community.
Read the Board of Trustees’s report about its April 2016 meeting.