Monday, April 27, 2009

UUA Finances: why you should care

Fourth in a series of posts about the April 2009 UUA Board meeting

Before your eyes glaze over, I would like to try to make a case for why you should care about UUA Finances.

A few weeks ago, I watched Wilderness Journey, a video of interviews with UUs who took part in the actions around the General Assembly resolutions in the late 60s and early 70s, and the efforts at Black empowerment in a predominantly white culture. Though far more complicated than I can describe here, the UUA Board ended up taking an action they felt they had to take as part of their fiduciary responsibility that severely damaged the relationships with many Afro-American Unitarian Universalists -- damage that probably continues to this day.

Unintended consequences of sloppy bookkeeping, not enough transparency, and a GA body that wanted to do the right thing.

Though perhaps an extreme example, given the current economic times, the UUA could again find itself unable to fund programs needed and wanted by the GA delegates and congregations it serves. So far the budget for this year has been addressed by reducing travel expenses and General Assembly costs, and so far the Annual Program Fund (funding from congregations) remains relatively strong. The primary reduction has come from "friends" contributions, with the resulting delay or elimination of the programs funded by other than the congregations.

Next year will be more difficult because of the reduction in the transfer payment coming from the endowment, and more congregations are struggling to meet their own obligations. The UUA staff has been reduced by 13 FTE (full time equivalent positions), mostly by attrition, with a number of other cost saving measures. These were the "low hanging fruit". It may not be enough.

As each congregation makes its decision about "fair share", generally a "per member" dues to the UUA and district, the result will determine what programs will be delivered. Like most non-profits, employee-related expenses form the bulk of the budget. If more congregations reduce their dues, the next round of cuts could be the people involved in programs for things like youth, lay education, and multi-cultural work -- important commitments we, the UUA, have made as part of our values.

I understand the temptation to balance a congregation's budget by not paying national and district dues. My congregation, the largest in the Pacific Central District, has been a fair share congregation for all but one of the last 16 years and will be next year as well, in spite of a difficult budget. Our dues are an investment in our faith.

We are stronger together.

Next post: Describing the South Americans

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