I heard the quote in the title of this blog as a young pilot many years ago. A World War II pilot radioed that report in –he had no idea where he was, but he was making great progress somewhere. As a stewardship consultant working with our congregations, I sometimes feel as though that quote is with us. Numbers can seem dry, but they can tell important stories about our our communities. It’s hard to know where you are going if you don’t know where you are.
There are statistics that I believe leaders should know if they are to understand their congregations. 18 data points and 1 more to ignore. I know what you are thinking “18! Is he nuts? Who has all that data and what would we do with it, anyway?” Bear with me – this is a conversation worth having.
The first 10 of these data points almost every congregation has readily accessible. Not enough leaders and members consult them sometimes, but they are easy to generate. The next 7 take a little effort to generate, but the returns can be impressive for congregations of just about every size.
In the interest of brevity, this blog will only list the 19 – you can read the expanded version on the Stewardship for Us blog that provides key aspects on each data point, for those interested in knowing more and seeing how these work to make a whole picture. The only data point discussed here is one to be ignored.
- Sunday attendance, RE Attendance (Adult and children’s RE).
- Percentage of budget provided by pledges.
- “Average cost per household” to run your church.
- Percentage of members pledging, if your bylaws do not ask that of all members.
- Mean (average) and Median (1/2 of pledges are larger, ½ are less) pledge.
- Number of households that have a pledge/contribution waiver.
- Percentage of households/members that are not pledging, only making a Contribution of Record (COR); mean and median COR.
- Percentage of pledging friends; mean and median of these commitments
- Pledges that have not increased or have decreased over the past 2 years
- Number of pledging units self-declared as Fair Share donors
- What is the Quartile distribution (see last month’s Stewardship for Us blog)
- How many are new pledgers (first 2 years)? Mean and median of new pledges?
- Families active in RE and their distribution among pledges and COR population?
- Where is your Board in Fair Share Giving and quartile distribution?
- Percentage increase/decrease in total pledges/mean/median on last 3-5 years?
- When was the last time you employed Visiting Stewards, with good training?
- NO-How much of a pledge goes to “UUA dues?” This pops up often, and its harmful. We do not pay “dues;” clubs and fraternities do that. We make contributions to resource the work the Regions and the UUA do in our name. Congregations sometimes ask that a pledge be at least at the level of their per member contribution to the UUA. This makes our contributions to the UUA into an outside burden. Being a member of this association is an integral part of being a UU – don’t treat it as something outside our community. Encouraging pledges at this low level also assures that whatever funds are contributed do not support the congregation locally in any way.
Bill Clontz, Stewardship Consultant with the Stewardship for Us Team. has been a stewardship consultant supporting the UUA for over five years. He brings over forty years in leadership development and coaching, organizational effectiveness, and strategic planning to this work. He has over 25 years of active participation in UU church leadership and stewardship and 15 years of business development and portfolio management as a corporate officer, including working with nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations. Bill has served in his own congregation in a wide range of positions and he is a regular presenter at UU Regional conferences and the UUA Annual General Assembly. His focus as a stewardship consultant over the last five years has been empowering congregations to have successful stewardship environments, leadership development, and the growth of our movement.