As we embark on our stewardship campaign for our upcoming 22-23 church year, I am focused on new beginnings. While we are a congregation with a long history and deep roots in Cincinnati, we are also in the midst of many first-time experiences and initiatives. In many ways we are beginners together. And being a beginner is a gift. It can be frightening and uncertain, but as we practice making new connections with new members (seeing new members and friends for the first time in person rather than over Zoom), re-imagining worship, providing video streaming as a regular part of our services (I could go on) we experience the process of learning and growing together.
Of course, there is nothing new about the need to gather pledges to support the programs and worship, mission and music, faith development, building, and grounds at Heritage. But I encourage all of us to approach this pledge drive with new eyes and a new appreciation for the support that this church community has provided over many years, and particularly the last two years.
So what is it that we can do to bring novelty and new-ness to this year’s pledge drive? We can make stewardship about more than our individual pledges, more than just a “let’s get this over with” season. We need to talk with each other about the need for pledged giving, why we pledge, and how we determine what pledge level makes sense for each of us. With each passing year we are building a community and a support network together. We are either growing and thriving or we are becoming static and, ultimately, diminishing our ability to provide the services and support that we all associate with the HUUC community.
We were successful in last year’s pledge drive in increasing the total average pledge, but we fell short in receiving pledges from all members and friends. This year, if we don’t achieve generosity as a community, that is if we don’t achieve generosity together, then we cannot make the progress we’d like to make as a growing and thriving community. An oft-cited African proverb (of foggy origin, typical of the things we call proverbs) tells us “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
And what we need to do together in our pledge drive for our 22-23 church year is meet the reality of increased costs with a pledge level that can support a balanced budget. We have been able to rely on federal Covid relief funds to support part of our budget for this year, but we cannot rely on this kind of support every year. The sooner we can return to a balanced budget that is fully funded by the pledges of members and friends, the better.
The HUUC Board of Trustees has set priorities for next church year that will allow us to meet increased costs for maintaining our facilities as well as providing fair compensation and expanded roles for our amazing staff, both ministerial and non-ministerial. If we can achieve an overall 15% increase in pledged giving we will be able to accomplish the following as a church community:
- Increase salaries for non-ministerial staff by 5% and bring our ministerial salaries up to levels recommended by the UUA for a church of our size.
- Increase the hours of our Church Administrator to provide better support for our members and for our weekly church services.
- Add a Membership Development component to Laci’s role, moving her to full-time status.
- Increase budgets for Religious Education, Youth programming, and Adult Faith Formation programming.
- Fund a Family Ministry line item in our church budget.
- Continue building and replenishing our Building Major Maintenance Fund.
- Accommodate cost increases for utilities, cleaning, maintenance, technology, repairs, and more.
And now for some “pledge facts” that might help you to think about an amount to pledge towards our budget for the next fiscal year:
- For the 2021-2022 church year, our congregation pledged $210,000, and for 2022-2023 our pledge goal is $242,000, an increase of 15% through a combination of increased pledge amounts and an increased number of pledges.
- Over the last several years we have decreased the number of pledges while increasing the average pledge. For the 22-23 pledge drive we’re looking to increase the number of pledges from 91 to 105 or more (we received 114 total pledges for the 2019-2020 fiscal year).
- The UUA Fair Share pledging guidelines are a great place to start, especially for first-time pledgers. These guidelines will help you to make a pledge that takes into account your specific household financial situation.
So, let us take this moment to dream big about how we support the programs and staff of this church. Pledges make up 90% of our annual budgeted income, and your pledge helps us to further live into our mission and vision. I am grateful for you each year as you say yes to this congregation, to our staff, and to our faith. We are all here because of your gifts of time, energy, and resources. Thank you for your generosity this year.