Long-Term Financial Health Team Report 2024

The Long-term Financial Health Team (John Barstow, John Berninghausen, Mary Conlon, Mary Hadley, Tracey Harrington, Rev. Tricia Hart, Steve Maier, Alan Moore, Bill Sessions, Ann Webster, and Rich Wolfson) was created by the CVUUS Board in October 2023 to “review CVUUS revenue and expense trends over the past several years and make recommendations to the Board related to the long-term future financial health of CVUUS.” The Team reviewed long-term structural issues, trends, recent pledge results, and other existing and potential income sources.

The Team’s major findings and recommendations include:

● CVUUS membership and attendance has remained steady over the past decade. There were drop-offs during the pandemic, but both have risen again over the past two years. The median age has risen over the past 10 years.

● CVUUS’s history of pledging to support annual operating budgets has been generally successful. More recently, we have had some trouble meeting budget targets through the initial stewardship campaigns, which has led to other strategies to fill gaps.

● Pledge campaigns can be successful while also being short, simple, and fun. We should continue to encourage people to become “sustaining” pledgers and to make pledging and other donations easier to do, by taking advantage of advances in technology and social media.

● We should plan a targeted initiative to increase pledges over time by “jumping” from one pledge level to the next.

● CVUUS should create a Stewardship Team that has ongoing and broad responsibilities. While these could include overseeing the spring pledge campaign, we envision a group that would also provide Stewardship information and programming during the course of the year. The goal would be to grow a greater sense across the congregation of stewardship of and responsibility for CVUUS.

● CVUUS should continue to work with stewardship consultant Mark Ewert to help us plan and implement one or more stewardship initiatives.

● CVUUS should organize and conduct a special campaign to buy down some or all of the mortgage in time to make an impact by January 2026 when the mortgage rate is scheduled to reset.

● We should continue to encourage multiple ways for people to give to CVUUS. Different initiatives appeal to different people, both as to the likelihood of their making a donation and to their interest in helping to organize or participate in something.

● We should build on the success of the two main fundraising events and consider others that members or friends may want to organize.

● The CVUUS Endowment program should be strengthened and expanded.

● CVUUS should focus more attention on marketing and communications to the general Addison County community, and to particular targeted groups.

● We should survey the community regarding facility rentals, review what other venues in Middlebury are charging, and adjust ours accordingly.

Charge from the Board

The overall charge from the CVUUS Board asks the Long-Term Financial Health Team to “review CVUUS revenue and expense trends over the past several years and make recommendations to the Board related to the long-term future financial health of CVUUS.”

The Board asked for recommendations on this year’s annual pledge drive during the fall of 2023 and for a draft report by a week before the June 2024 Annual Meeting.

The Board’s charge included a number of specific questions and tasks, which form the basis for the following report.

Tasks/ Questions

A. What long-term structural issues are impacting CVUUS finances? These might include things like trends in membership or pledge units, aging of the congregation, inflation, mortgage interest rates, etc.

B. What has made previous CVUUS annual canvass/pledge campaigns successful? Are there other UU (or other) congregations of approximately our size that have been successful at raising money through their annual campaigns or other fundraising events? What could we learn from their experiences? Are there any congregations attempting to minimize reliance on the traditional pledging system? If so, would they be appropriate for CVUUS?

C. Are there ways we can improve our financial health other than through our annual fund drives and events? These might include a one-time capital campaign to pay down the mortgage, additional efforts to increase bequests, the growth of our endowment fund, and additional ways to rent out our buildings. Are there more effective ways to fulfill fundraising responsibilities? These would include, but not be limited to, annual pledge drives, designated giving, endowment
growth, bequests, low interest loans or gifts to reduce the mortgage. 

D. Are CVUUS expenses consistent with current and future income expectations? Can we be more effective at how we spend our money? What staffing levels are needed to maximize income growth?

For full report with supporting graphics, see CVUUS Long Term Financial Health Team Report 2024

Love in Action! Stewardship Campaign 2024

CVUUS’ work and reach are only possible through our shared commitment and generosity. We are reliant upon one another to invest in our staff, to keep our beautiful  and welcoming church proactively maintained, and to sustain our dynamic and responsive  programming. This spring we asked you to pledge or donate to support CVUUS. We’re very close to reaching of our campaign goal of $362,000! Thank you! We are deeply grateful for your thoughtfulness, engagement and help.

As we are having only one campaign this year (we have omitted the “close the gap” element), and because the results of our campaign inform our budgeting process, we appreciated that as many of you as possible made your pledge by the end of April as others can continue to come in.

If you need help with your pledge or have any questions, please feel free to contact Mary Hadley at mary@hadleykids.com.

Your generous support helps us to literally “keep the lights on” and also kindle the light in our collective congregational spirit and allow us to truly put on our Love in Action! Spotlights . Make a Pledge here.

On behalf of the Stewardship Campaign Team,

Heidi Sulis, Steve Maier, Mary Hadley, Jean Terwilliger, Mary Conlon, Hannah Sessions

CVUUS Board Perspective

It’s April and as usual it’s also time for CVUUS to ask you for your support for our annual budget. Our Finance and Personnel Teams have been working hard to come up with a budget for July 24-June 25. It is a futuristic budget that is designed to responsibly reflect the Congregation’s wishes and aspirations for the future. During this past year we have received input from two consultants, Mark Ewert and Paula Cole Jones, as well as sage advice from our two Ministers about future directions for CVUUS. There is much more to do but we believe that the budget represents a beginning towards furthering our recently approved covenant on the proposed 8th principle as well as our own mission statement.

To that end, the budget includes funding for a part-time communications assistant (Jess Danyow), increasing our music budget and making our Music Director (Ronnie Romano) a half-time position. We have also added funding to support a Ministerial Intern (Tom Morgan) who will provide invaluable social action ministry in our local community and in our congregation.

We have also added a cost-of-living adjustment to the salaries of our dedicated staff, who throughout the pandemic and beyond have provided the solid support that we have needed to maintain our basic services and increase the use of our building by outside groups.

This means that we will need everyone to consider increasing their pledge for the coming year. While we recognize that not everyone is able to increase their pledge, the Board believes that if we all reflect deeply upon what CVUUS means to us both as individuals and as a collective organization which wishes to support and further progressive values in our community, in our country, and in the world, we will be able to meet our Stewardship Campaign goals.

During April you will be able to make a statement (your pledge) about what CVUUS’ future should be like. Not everyone wants to talk about money, but we must recognize that without it, we cannot accomplish our goals. Our community does incredible work, and every dollar of every pledge goes to work making love visible in our world.   Alan Moore, CVUUS Board of Trustees

Charitable Giving Options

Stock Transfer Giving: We recently converted one of the CVUUS investment funds to a brokerage account that allows transfer/donation of stock from member or friend non-Vanguard accounts to the CVUUS Vanguard account. This will simplify our financial processes and costs less than our previous process through Cetera. We have successfully received the first stock donation using the new Vanguard account, so if you are interested in giving to CVUUS in this way you can refer to Vanguard account 29559438 and DTC# 0062. See guidance about doing this from your IRA below.

Online Giving: Our new Breeze Church Management software enables many different ways to contribute funds to CVUUS!  3 are documented below and demonstrated further here: New Giving Methods demo

Questions? Contact Mary Hadley or Cara Mosier.

QCDS: A Better Way to Give (If You’re Old Enough)  Do you have a traditional IRA (Individual Retirement Account)? If so, then you’ve made a deal with the Internal Revenue Service: Your IRA grows, tax free, until you reach 72 when you’re required to withdraw a minimum amount every year—the required minimum distribution, or RMD.

But there’s a provision in the tax code that allows you to donate funds directly from your IRA to a qualified charity, like CVUUS. That’s called a qualified charitable distribution (QCD), and it’s different from donating your money to the charity. That’s because the QCD never comes into your possession; instead, it goes right from the IRA to the donee. As a result, the amount of the QCD isn’t part of your income, and you’re not taxed on it. Nevertheless, a QCD counts toward your required minimum distribution.

Why is a QCD better than donating your money and deducting it on your federal tax return? First, the doubling of the standard deduction in 2017 means many more taxpayers now find it advantageous to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing charitable and other deductions. So for many, gifts to charity have become essentially non-deductible. Second, because QCDs aren’t counted as part of your income, they lower your gross income in a way that deductions don’t. That means income-dependent items like Medicare premiums could be lower if QCDs drop your income enough.

To make a qualified charitable distribution, contact the investment firm that holds your IRA. Many have web-based forms you can fill out. You can have a check mailed directly to the charity, or mailed to you but made out to the charity, so you can pass it on. The important thing is that the check not be made out to you, but to the charity; that’s what makes it a QCD. You may even be able establish check writing on your IRA account, and then you can write checks for smaller QCDs.

There are some subtleties regarding QCDs. For example, you can’t use a Roth IRA, nor a SEP IRA that’s active. So it’s a good idea to consult your tax advisor before proceeding. And, of course, don’t forego retirement income unless you’re sure you won’t need it. Rich Wolfson, Finance Team

Testimonials from CVUUS Stewardship Pledge Drives

As someone who has grown up in this church community, I have so many great memories of CVUUS. As a child, I remember playing a dead body in a Monty Python skit and making art projects in RE. And with the youth group I was able to cook dinners at the John Graham Shelter and travel to NYC. This church let me try so many new experiences and helped to build my confidence in public speaking. I’m grateful to now be able to give back to this church as a worship.”  Wren Colwell

“For us, CVUUS is an extended family that both ties us to our roots and gives us wings.  This warmly interconnected community offers nurturing, inspiration, and support in many ways – to us as a family and to the wider community.  It is a joy to experience the loving creativity that emerges from CVUUS hearts and minds!  Our involvement brings depth to our lives, and we in turn happily share our resources to support the values that CVUUS embodies and shares with the larger world.”  Hanson Martin Family

“CVUUS provides our family with a community of people who are open to various ways of being, who are inquisitive about the wider world, and who individually and collectively strive to make things better. For our children especially, it is a space where they can be their true selves, ask questions, and feel valued.” Lindsey & Kemi Fuentes-George

“We are grateful to be part of the CVUUS community, surrounded by others who strive to live out UU principles.  Whether through local, national, or global efforts, CVUUS inspires us to look beyond the challenges in our own lives to see how we can make a difference in the lives of others. We are thankful to have raised our three sons in this open, welcoming community that helped them become the thoughtful adults they are today.” Mary & Peter Conlon

Creating Ripples to Amplify Love in Our World

“What better a time than on the heels of a two-year pandemic to remember the ways that our community exists to love, to comfort, to challenge, and to nurture in a myriad of ways.  When we could not worship together our work continued, and our collective efforts were a powerful and  reassuring constant, as ripples across a surface. When making your pledge in 2022 we invited you to provide 3 words summarizing CVUUS and collected responses from each of us as the canvass progressed to celebrate all the ways that the good work of CVUUS ripples through our hearts, our communities, and across generations!”  2022 Pledge Drive Chair Hannah Sessions for the CVUUS Board

Standing on the Threshold of Our Future

The 2023 canvass was led by John  Barstow and Kate Gridley. They said YES to running the canvass because, for starters, they could model the living, breathing example of  “coming in from the cold…to the warmth of community … back in through the door…” and because they love this community. They used a woodblock print that son Charles made after he found an actual door in a piney wood in the middle of an island off the Maine coast. He was young. He thought he had found a magic portal. Kate and John look forward to putting fun into fundraising. They led the service on Sunday January 29th  to introduce the theme: Standing on the Threshold of Our Future which featured an enlargement of the woodblock to be colored as we went and the “Quint-Essentials” singing Go Tell It in the Valley based, with respect,  on the African-American spiritual Go Tell It On The Mountain. Kate and John led worship again on March 5th and hosted an April Fool’s Celebration Potluck in Fellowship Hall) and kept us apprised throughout April when you could make pledge.