Communications Update Oct. 2016

Version 4

Sean Neil-Barron, Assistant Minister

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.-George Bernard Shaw

You may have noticed that we have been making some changes recently in the area of communication. The Extra has been shrunk down, we have revived our online events calendar, and we have increased our use of testimonials. These experiments all aim to help us communicate more effectively in the age of information overload and I hope we are able to learn about the type, style, frequency, and medium that will work best for different segments of the congregation.

Big Changes & Rationale

The ‘Extra’

The biggest change so far has been the pairing down of the Extra. In truth, only 34% -39% of our email list opens the Extra on a given week, and just because it is opening doesn’t mean it was read. Instead of being the catch-all email covering almost everything going on in the church, the Extra content’s content now is more curated and focused to information that at least 80% of the congregation would/should be interested in — as well as information targeting folks who are new to the community. We hope to deliver you a shorter but denser Extra, so you will actually read it all. Let us know how we are doing.

The Online Events Calendar

We have revived the church’s online events calendar (http://foothillsuu.org/events) to be the central hub where all information regarding church events is placed. Additionally, you can now sort the church’s calendar based on event categories such as Adult Religious Education or Seniors Programs to see all the events in a given month that might relate to you! To submit a church event to the calendar head over to http://foothillsuu.org/communication-at-foothills/ and click the Event Calendar Submission Form. Our aim is that this calendar will become your first stop when you want to learn about what is going on at Foothills.

Getting The Word Out

Foothills is a large and busy community and it can be hard to get the word out even when the event has been promoted through all the channels. There is also a bit of confusion about WHO to contact if you want to spread the word. No more! If you have an event or opportunity that you want to be shared with the congregation, head over to http://foothillsuu.org/communication-at-foothills/ and click on the communication request form. Once you have filled out the form, Church Staff will get in contact with you about what next steps and promotional avenues you could use. We are beginning to use a more targeted information delivery mechanism, so we may have an option that you didn’t even know existed. This page also contains the Calendar Event Submission form, so it is your go-to place when you are trying to mobilize the congregation.  We will reach out to you so no need to email church staff about the event!

What to Expect

In the coming months, we will be continuing our experimentation with a few new channels. Expect to be invited to join a few demographic or interest based email lists to receive targeted information related to your interests (one of the reasons we asked for your birthdates as part of our database refresh), and we hope to see how we can use text messages more effectively, so have your phones at the ready. In addition, we hope to hold a few focus groups with different segments of the congregation to assess our communication effectiveness and what can be done to improve or hone our practices. Stay tuned and let us know how we are doing as we go along; we are not going to get everything right but we are trying, so please let us know.

Our Biggest Hope

Our biggest hope is that you will receive pertinent information through a method that fits your lifestyle (text message, snail mail, email, etc) leaving you feeling informed, able to participate in the life of the church, and equipped to take your faith out into the world. We are still learning about how to accomplish this, but it our intent for that to be the case, and we welcome your feedback as we move forward.

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First Quarter Financial Report 2016

Colorado State University

Scott Denning Church Treasurer

As the autumn leaves blaze in golden glory, it’s time to review the financial happenings since we started our new church year on July 1.  The first quarter news is generally good: we’re on budget for both income and expenses at this early point in the year. We have a bit of a seasonal cash crunch as we do every fall, but we’ve made some changes that will get us through more comfortably than in previous years. This seasonal dip shows how important it is to pay your pledge on a regular basis if you can.

The church budget this year is $717,110.  Nearly every dollar comes from us: 91% is in pledges and donations, with the Rummage Sale, Service Auction, and Bookstore each contributing about 2% to 3% of the budget. The vast majority  (68%) of our expenses pay for our amazing staff of 6.75 full-time equivalent employees. Like a small business, we have to make payroll, pay insurance, maintain the building, and pay our utilities every month no matter what. At the end of September, we had spent 24% of our annual budget, and collected 22% of our expected income.

There’s a distinct seasonal cycle of pledge income at the church: we collect a big surplus in December, and spend it down for the rest of the year. The graph below shows the church’s cumulative net income at the end of each month over the past five years. A lot of people pay their whole year’s pledge right before New Year’s. I used to do this myself, to make sure I could deduct it on my taxes in April. Unfortunately, this means that we are chronically short of pledge income in the fall every year, so we’ve been encouraging people to pay monthly if they can. As you can see form the graph, the seasonal cycle has been getting flatter in recent years, which is good.

In addition to our regular expenses last month, we had Buckhorn and some work on the building and grounds.  This month we pay the interest on our member notes (debt owed to our members). These expenses come at a time when we’ve paid out about $10,000 more than we’ve taken in since July 1. It would really help if more people paid their pledge every month rather than in a lump sum in December!

The church has a reserve fund to get us through the lean times that happen every fall. It was completely depleted a few years ago after the Great Recession, but we’ve been steadily building it back up again and now there’s $40,000 in the reserve. We also made some changes to the way we account for end of year expenses, so we also have over $50,000 in the bank, in addition to the reserve. So we’re in much better shape than we have been in previous autumns.

Look carefully at the lines on the graph that show our cumulative net income at the end of each church year:  they always end within a few thousand dollars of zero! This is evidence of good the stewardship of our Board and staff: we develop a budget each March following the pledge drive, then plan and execute for 15 months to hit the target within 1% or 2%.

The church budget is in good shape.  Please consider pledging monthly, preferably by automatic funds transfer from your bank. This would help a lot in managing the annual fall dip in our cash flow. Look for another one of these quarterly reports when the snow squeaks under your boots in January!

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We Unleash Courageous Love

Foothills Unitarian has a new Mission Statement!

A Special Congregational Meeting was held Sunday, October 16, 2016 at 10:15 AM. Following a brief discussion, wherein members voiced their opinions of the now-approved

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Mission Task Force Member Karen Harder speaks about the missions statement process as our chalice burns

statement using words such as “active,” “movement,” and “powerful,” Erin Hottenstein officially called to order a meeting that would prove to be one of the shortest in Foothills Unitarian history. Within a matter of two and a half minutes, a motion to limit talking time was approved and then a vote was called. Without further ado, and with a full house, the congregation overwhelming approved the new Mission Statement.

Foothills’ new mission statement reads:

Foothills Unitarian Church unleashes courageous love in Northern Colorado and beyond by embracing our diversity, growing our faith, and awakenimg_20161016_103012ing our spirits to the unfolding meaning of this life.

The process undertaken to draft this Mission Statement was 11 months of deep listening, strategic questioning, and lively discussion, followed by drafts and drafts and drafts – 150 to be exact – of ideas, words, and hopes. Each iteration of the statement brought the congregation closer to spelling out how this community wants to show up in this world today. As one member said, “It is not the ‘what’ of what to do, but it is the ‘how’ and the ‘why.’” Congratulations, Foothills! We have another very important piece that helps us move forward in courageous love together.

-Sara Edwards is a member of the Foothills Board

Courageous Love at the First Foothills Food Bank by Dawn Manges

youarethesunshinethatmakesmyday2 (1).pngOn Sunday afternoon, I  spent a gorgeous fall day at our first Food Bank @ Foothills.
We had over thirty amazing Foothill UU Volunteers including my teen son and many other families with teens, plus staff from the Food Bank. Although we only had  a few “customers” families visiting…it ended up to be a great trial run to get all our ducks in a row.
This was a “soft opening” and conscious decision by the Food Bank who had decided not to advertise yet to have the month of October as a dry run for this big pilot program as the first mobile food pantry.
I was so impressed  with all the UU volunteers;  some  being trained by Food Bank staff on the laptops to check families in, others setting up portable red wagons & many of the teens enthusiastically using their strength & high energy in such a positive way; setting up tables, unloading from the big Food Bank Semi Truck, large bags of apples, potatoes, and even Oreos which they wanted to delve into but knew this food was needed for the visiting families.
We now feel that we will have a great volunteer force, Foothills showcased that they will show up and be prepared, to accommodate much larger numbers of neighbors in the area with free food. Once word gets out we could have hundreds at our site, and it’s a comfort to know we have such an enthusiastic group of volunteers from Foothills.

Everyone unleashed courageous love by showing up and BEING there!

Later that evening I was helping my son with an essay about the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird”. He was looking at some quotes from the book on empathy, he said “You know Atticus says  “climb into his skin and walk around” that is how you feel empathy. You know today I realized any of us could be one of the “customers” at our Foothill Food Bank, thanks mom, for sharing today with me, plus it was actually a lot of fun!” 

 

The whole thing was a thin place – words and images from the Service of Installation

Sean Call to Worship.pngA few months ago I preached a sermon on “thin places,” that idea of a place where the holy is more accessible and where you feel in touch with beauty and mystery.

In those places, transformation and healing are more possible – you have a sense of what Buddhism might call “equanimity.”  Before we started the installation service this past Sunday, one of you said to me, “I realized that this whole service is going to be a ‘thin place.'” It seemed ambitious to imagine…even if we had a glimpse of such transcendence I’d feel like we’d done well.  But, after it was all done, I realized it was just right.  The whole thing was a thin place.

As I said in that sermon, thin places are often less about the place, than they are about our readiness and willingness to see them as such.  And so I think most of all, the experience revealed our community’s willingness and readiness to be present to that much beauty, that much joy, that much love.  Members Gary Stricklin and Rick Well will be sharing their official photos and friend Marc Leverette his official video soon, but in the meantime, here are a few candid shots & quotes from the service.  What part of the service will you carry with you as a thin place?

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In the coming days we’ll post the full text from each of the elements, as well as the video of the choral piece Ryan and the choir created.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll share with me about what was moving for you, and your moments of “thin places,’ even if that’s the whole thing.  Especially if it’s the whole thing….

Thank you to all those who made this incredible experience possible.  Especially those behind the scenes, those who brought food, who set up and cleaned up, to all the amazing musicians, for all of you who folded programs, and helped with childcare, and who stepped in at the last minute, and who pre-planned. Thank you.  We had a vision of this being an event where we had lots and lots of people participating – it went with the message! – thank you for making that vision a reality.

With love and gratitude,

Gretchen

 

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