Saturday, May 11, 2013

Coming to Louisville?

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

Saturday afternoon of the Board meeting found several of us standing awkwardly in front of a camera, extolling the virtues of GA 2013 in Louisville.  I appear with Elizabeth Greene, trustee from the Pacific Northwest, and Tom Loughrey, Pacific Southwest in a somewhat lighthearted two minutes that only took two takes.  Those of you who know me will get the joke.  Some of the others include the Youth and Young Adults on the board, the two moderator candidates, and Gini being... Gini.

Why should you come?  Louisville was chosen because of the central location in terms of population -- it is accessible by car for a significant share of Unitarian Universalists, albeit a bit far from California (2300 miles and 34 hours according to Mapquest).  The focus on covenant is more than a theme for the assembly -- we will be having important discussions about who we are as a faith, and whether or not the only way to be counted as a Unitarian Universalist is to join a congregation.  We will also be electing a new moderator -- someone who clearly impacts the tone of many General Assemblies to come. 

The next best thing to being there is to be an offsite delegate -- you can represent your congregation from anywhere in the world, with a telephone line and a high speed internet connection.  Offsite registration is open until June 7. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The $100,000 Question

Third in a series of posts about the April UUA Board Meeting

The virtual UU skies have lately been focused on a decision coming out of Sunday's UUA board meeting:  hiring a consultant to help us (staff and board) create a system to measure whether or not the roughly $20 million we spend each year is working.  By "working", I mean whether or not what we do moves us towards the results we have said we want.

Described by one blogger as "marriage counseling", the solution is born out of the frustration of both Board and Staff around our current inability to provide tangible measurements for the effectiveness of the budgeted dollars.  The board insists that such measurement is doable, and cites examples from other industries; the Administration has made multiple attempts, none of which have satisfied the Board's need for accountability.  This is not about "marriage counseling" or "a consultant to work out their relationship"; it is about a nuanced and complex set of skills needed to "measure the unmeasurable".

An old adage says "you measure what you think is important".  This applies to the non-profit world as well.  Rather than financial return, the investor is putting in money to help achieve the organization's mission.  The founder of Developing Indigenous Resources, for example,  is a former public health doctor (and member of my congregation) who is fanatical about measuring outcomes.  Do I invest so that his home health workers average 4.2 home visits/month, or rather that infant mortality in a slum of 16,000 people dropped to one fifth of its previous rate in six short years?

How willing are you to continue to invest in an organization whose mission has lofty goals, but can't tell you if we are making progress towards them?

I do not think this is easy, nor do I think it is impossible.  The Board has identified $100,000 (one half of one percent of the annual budget) to hire a consultant to help create these measurements. I understand why this amount is disconcerting, especially in light of recent UUA layoffs, but given what is at stake, worth doing.

I believe we have a highly dedicated and competent staff who are doing good work -- what I don't know if whether or not this work is moving the needle.