Board: Annual Program Fund will move to percent-of-budget model

Board: Annual Program Fund will move to percent-of-budget model

Formula and timeline still in the works, but UUA will switch from per-member to percent-of-budget funding model.

Elaine McArdle
UUA Board of Trustees, June 26, 2016

File photo: UUA Board of Trustees and members of the UUA administration. (© Nancy Pierce)

© Nancy Pierce/UUA


The Unitarian Universalist Association’s fundraising staff and Board of Trustees have been working for at least five years toward changing the funding relationship between the UUA and its member congregations. They are still testing and refining a new model, but its central feature has now been approved.

At its October meeting, the board endorsed the recommendation of the Annual Program Fund Task Force to move from asking most congregations for a fee per member to asking them for a percentage of their congregational budget.

The task force has not yet proposed the specific formula for how much the UUA will ask congregations to contribute, nor has it set a timeline for switching to the new model.

“We are doing pilots this next year and that will help us determine how we move this out,” the Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, the UUA’s director of Stewardship and Development, told trustees. “We are working closely with the leaders in each of the districts/regions to determine what is best where.”

The board heard the task force report at its October 14–16 meeting at the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, New York, where trustees and UUA executives thanked the congregation and its Veatch Foundation for its latest gift to the UUA: $5 million to encourage bequests to UU organizations. Morn thanked the Shelter Rock board for its “investment in what’s really possible” in Unitarian Universalism.

The biggest news out of the October meeting was the board’s decision in principle to guarantee $5.3 million in funding for Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism, which UU World covered in a separate article. UUA Moderator Jim Key said that trustees will have to “lead the charge and be actively involved” in fundraising the $5.3 million so that existing UUA programs are not jeopardized. “Tens of thousands of UUs are going to look at this and say, ‘All right, you bit this off, how are you going to do it without interrupting the Association’s ongoing mission?” Key said.

Trustees also accepted several monitoring reports from the administration, made committee appointments, and heard updates about the UUA presidential election and General Assembly.

The board charged the Annual Program Fund Task Force earlier this year with offering recommendations on how and when to roll out a congregational giving approach that will best sustain the Association in the future, with a focus on whether and how to replace the per-member formula with one based on a percentage of congregational budget.

Trustee Denise Rimes, vice moderator, presented the task force report [PDF]. She said the Annual Program Fund’s membership-based system has serious problems: It is a disincentive for growth and does not support new models of membership or partnerships with emerging or nontraditional communities. “You either actively don’t grow or you game the system, and I say this with love,” she said.

Information and resources.

Annual Program Fund


Most congregations currently give based on the $60-per-member rate. Some congregations with more than 550 members now give 4.3 percent of their operating budget instead of a per-member contribution. And congregations in four of the UUA’s five regions contribute to their districts or regions as well. The APF is the most significant source of annual giving to the UUA and comprises 71 percent of UUA fundraising, including the “crucial piece” of unrestricted giving, Rimes said.

The Southern Region moved to the percent-of-budget system in FY2014, asking congregations to contribute 7 percent of certified expenditures to the UUA and no longer collecting separate district or regional dues. Some congregations in the Southern Region saw their ask increase while others experienced a decrease.

Rimes said that 65 percent of congregations would see their ask go up if the UUA took the Southern Region’s approach nationally, asking for 7 percent of each congregation’s budget instead of asking for a per-member fee and separate district or regional dues. One in three congregations would see a decrease. But Rimes said the administration hopes that congregations entitled to a smaller gift would choose to remain at least level in their giving.

“In the first full year, we hope to ensure that no congregation gives less than they gave the year before and that the total income from APF goes up, if only slightly,” said Rimes.

In other news, Tim Brennan, the UUA’s treasurer and chief financial officer, reported that expenses and revenues are each up about 8 percent in the first-quarter forecast for fiscal year 2017 [PDF]. Brennan said the increases are due almost entirely to the recent incorporation of operations and staff expenses of the Central East Regional Group and the New England Region into the main UUA administration.

UUA President Peter Morales reported that 40 of the 225 people on the UUA staff, or 19.5 percent, are people of color, with only four of the 40 being service workers. Morales also reported that UU World’s “seeker issue,” a new publication created this year as an introduction to Unitarian Universalism, “is proving to be a great success.” Its initial press run of 10,000 has been snapped up and another 26,000 copies are being printed, he said.

The Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs, UUA secretary, said that the candidates for UUA president—the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, the Rev. Alison Miller, and the Rev. Jeanne Pupke—will appear together in a series of six meetings next spring, one in each UUA region with two meetings in the Western Region. Each meeting will emphasize a different theme, he said. The next UUA president will be elected at the June 2017 General Assembly in New Orleans. (Read UU World’s coverage of the presidential race.)

Eller-Isaacs said that the Election Campaign Practices Committee received a formal complaint related to an invitation from the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love advocacy campaign inviting UUs to join in protests against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix, Arizona. The invitation was signed by one of the presidential candidates, the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray—the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Phoenix and a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit filed against Arpaio in 2014. The complaint raised concerns that the invitation gave the appearance that the UUA was endorsing her. ECPC is addressing the complaint and discussing how to remedy the situation, Eller-Isaacs said.

In her vice moderator’s report, Rimes said she has been “incredibly impressed by the broad thinking and creativity of everyone working on planning” for GA 2017 in New Orleans—a “justice-making GA” whose theme is “Resist and Rejoice.” Although any Actions of Immediate Witness will be suspended for GA 2017 to allow more time for justice work, Rimes said that step has freed up only about 90 minutes of actual programming time during general sessions.

The Congregational Boundaries Working Group reported on its ongoing work around clergy misconduct, especially clergy sexual misconduct. Rimes said that she and Key continue to meet with stakeholders and advisers in efforts to improve the UUA’s handling of complaints of clergy misconduct. Other efforts include development of a handbook for complainants that will include administrative steps, words of comfort, and journaling opportunities. The working group will offer training for the UUA board on this issue at its January meeting.

Trustee Sarah Dan Jones said she is working with the UU Musicians Network to revise its procedures around sexual misconduct.

The Rev. Cheryl M. Walker, president of the UU Ministers Association, asked the board to encourage congregations to “tell their truths” about histories of clergy misconduct “because without it, it’s like a cancer that keeps spreading in our congregations and no one can effect a cure if you don’t know there’s a disease.” Walker also urged her fellow ministers to understand that it is “more important to report misconduct than to be collegial” and fear offending a colleague.

The board voted to create a task force on leadership development, to “do a better job developing future denominational leaders to serve on committees of the UUA,” said trustee Tim Atkins, who suggested it.

The board also voted to accept a series of monitoring reports from the administration, although the board and administration agreed that one report[PDF] did not show that the UUA is in compliance with Policy 2.2.

The board reported out from executive session that it made the following appointments: Brian Lasher to the Investment Committee; Mary Byron to the Audit Committee; and the Rev. Chip Roush, the Rev. Theresa Soto, Izabella Spriggs, Isabelle McCurdy, the Rev. Caitlin Cotter, Charles Du Mond, and Lauren Way to the Moderator Nominating Committee, which presents nominations for UUA Moderator to the board. The next election of a UUA moderator will take place at the 2019 General Assembly. The board also appointed Cheri Cody, who serves on the Open UUA Committee, to be its chair.