Seeking Board Committee Members

As a follow up to this post from the Board of Trustees, the Board is looking for a few additional members to join their newly formed committees:

  • Governance Committee – the committee charged with editing and drafting of policies, and drafting of new policies to be brought to the full Board
  • Finance Committee – the committee responsible for auditing the church’s compliance with financial policy
  • Space Task Force – the committee responsible for leading the conversation around our building and our space needs
  • Personnel Committee – the committee responsible for auditing the church’s compliance with personnel policies

Each of these need at least one additional person beyond Board members.  We have begun recruiting for these positions, and wanted to make sure that anyone who may be interested had a chance to express that interest.  If you want to learn more and see if your gifts may be a fit for these teams, send an email to theboard@foothillsuu.org before September 30th.

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Financial Update from Scott Denning, Treasurer

 

Spring is in the air (and snow is on the lilacs!), so it’s time for an update on the financial state of the church from your intrepid treasurer.  Below, I will review the current year’s finances, as well as the outcome of our annual Stewardship campaign and highlights of next year’s proposed budget.

IMPORTANT: we will hold a Budget Hearing on Sunday May 7 from 10:40 to 11:30 AM (between second and third services). Please come to this meeting, where we will present the details of the proposed budget. This is your best opportunity to get your questions answered before we vote on the proposed budget at the annual Congregational Meeting on June 4.

Current Year’s Finances:

We are 10 months into our current church year, and we’re doing very well. Pledge collections continue at a near-record pace. We’ve now collected 80% of our annual budgeted pledge (vs 70% this time last year). Spending is exactly what we’ve budgeted: 76% of this year’s budget, compared to 73% this time last year.  We project that we will end the church year on June 30 with a balance within 0.5% of our annual budget.

One of our budget priorities this year was to augment the church’s reserve account. Think of this as our “savings” account from which we draw when expenses exceed income in a particular month, and which we pay into when expenses are less. Our written policies specify that the reserve account should be 10% of our annual budget. The reserve account was pretty much wiped out in the Great Recession, and we’ve been slowly building it back up. The reserve account will be about $50k at the end of this church year on June 30.  Our target is $76k (based on next year’s proposed budget), so we’re getting there but have a ways to go.

Until we can grow our reserve account back to the 10% level, one of the most important ways you can help the church meet its monthly bills is to pay your pledge regularly. If you haven’t already done so, please consider setting up automatic monthly payments rather than paying in unpredictable lump sums. See Carolyn at the church office for details.

Stewardship Campaign:

Thanks to all of you, and especially to our wonderful Stewardship Team who made this year’s campaign very successful. We have pledges of over $660k for the church year that begins on July 1. This is up more than 7% over last year — a very healthy increase! For the first time ever, more than 400 households pledged this year, including 336 member households as well as 78 nonmember households. This represents a total of about 750 people! You can read more details here.

Next Year’s Proposed Budget:

Considering your generous pledge plus additional revenue from plate collections, contributions, fundraisers, and various other sources, we project total income of about $760k for July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018. Therefore we will propose a budget in that amount. Almost 94% of next year’s budget is supported by pledges and donations!

Next year’s proposed budget includes small salary increases for most of our staff as we continue toward our goal of paying everybody at the midpoint of the guidelines of the denomination for our region.

We are very excited to include a request for a part-time Membership Coordinator (a new hire) in the proposed budget!  As our Three Services Experiment has made clear, we are attracting a lot of new members and friends. Most other large UU congregations have found that the expense of hiring a Membership Coordinator literally pays for itself in a few years through growth in pledging. As more people join our community, this new staff person will ensure that all are welcome and well integrated into the Foothills UU family.

Please bring your questions, comments, and concerns about next year’s proposed budget to the Budget Hearing on Sunday May 7 at 10:40 AM. See you there!

Budgeting Update from Scott Denning and Erik Martinson

This update is a part of a Governance Update being sent by email to all Foothills members.

Every year, the church prepares a budget in the spring for the church year starting on July 1, projecting monthly income and spending 15 months in advance. Our budgets are balanced, so we spend only what we earn.

Nearly all of our income is from the pledges of financial commitment made by members and friends of our community.

The budget for next fiscal year has been prepared by the Finance committee, affirmed by the board, and will be voted on for final approval by the members of the congregation at our annual meeting on June 4.

A hearing to introduce and discuss details of the budget will be held on May 7 at 10:40am. Highlights include an overall increase to the budget of nearly $43,000 made possible by a projected pledging increase of over 8%!

Most of the additional income will be invested in our human resources, including a new part-time coordinator position for membership, as well as salary adjustments to reflect current UUA compensation guidelines for our ministers and staff.

Please plan to attend the May 7 hearing to inform your vote as the budget presentation at the Annual Meeting will be abridged.

Report from our Congregational Forum – from Scott Denning

About 20 people attended a Congregational Informational Forum held by the Board of Trustees on the evening of February 22.

Member Jody Anderson presented an update on the Governance Task Force (GTF), which has been very busy drafting comprehensive new policies to help us organize ourselves to better serve our large and vibrant congregation. The GTF drew from the book Governance and Ministry by Dan Hotchkiss and from dozens of large UU churches to draft policies that have been reviewed by the Board. These policies will be discussed in various settings with the Congregation at large this spring, intending to begin a trial period when the new church year starts on July 1. We look forward to a smaller, nimbler, and more vision-focused Board that delegates more operational responsibility to staff, with much clearer written guidance. There will be lots of opportunity to learn and participate in this important process during congregational discussions in March, small group drop-ins, and a table in the social hall.

Treasurer Scott Denning provided a financial update. A bit past the halfway point of the church year, we’re in very good financial shape. Expenses are right on track with the budget and with our spending last year, but our income is substantially ahead of previous years at this point.  We thank those of you who pay their pledges monthly rather than in a lump sum in December. We’ve finally begun to rebuild our reserves, which were nearly wiped out during the Great Recession in 2008-2010. We are tracking down pledges from the wave of new members who have recently joined, and currently project a small surplus at the end of the year on June 30.

Assistant Minister Sean Neil-Barron updated us on membership and staffing. We’ve experienced a surge in membership and visitors over the past year and now have about 600 official members (and about 300 other regular adult participants). Attendance at Sunday services has been at nearly 100% of our physical capacity. Our Third Service Experiment has allowed us some breathing room and has already seen an increase in total attendance.

We’re committed to maintaining a vital music ministry, drawing on the talents in our community and beginning a national search for a Music Director. We’re delighted to announce that as was shared in an email to the congregation, Chris Reed has agreed to serve as our Interim Music Director and will start on March 15th. Chris is Assistant Professor of Music at CSU and previously served as Music Director at Trinity Lutheran in Fort Collins.

2 New Ways to Save Taxes & Pay your Pledge – from Cherry & Leonard Sokoloski

TWO WAYS TO SAVE TAXES WHEN PAYING YOUR PLEDGE OF
FINANCIAL COMMITMENT TO THE CHURCH

 If you’re planning how to pay your financial commitment to Foothills for 2017-18, here are two ways to fulfill your commitment and SAVE ON TAXES!

1.      Give appreciated securities (stocks or mutual funds). When you transfer securities DIRECTLY to the church, you avoid capital gains tax, and you are able to give the appreciated amount as a gift. If you sell the securities yourself and give the proceeds to the church, you lose this tax benefit.

2.      Donate part or all of your RMD. If you are older than 70 ½, and you have an IRA, you must take a “required minimum distribution” from your IRA each year. This is taxable income. However, under current tax law, you are allowed to use part or all of your RMD as a charitable gift. That portion will not be taxed.

Important info about a gift from your IRA: The IRS does not allow you to avoid taxes on your RMD and also deduct the gift as a charitable donation. Only one or the other. Therefore, this option is most useful for people who do NOT itemize on their tax return. Please contact Cherry Sokoloski (below) for more information, and also consult with your CPA or other tax advisor.

If you plan to pursue one of these options, please let Cherry or the church office know so we can explain the process.

Remember, to receive the tax benefit, you must transfer securities directly to the church, instead of selling them first yourself. The church will then sell the securities. In the case of a gift from your IRA, it can be cash or securities, but again, it must be transferred directly from the IRA to the church.

Your friendly coordinator for gifted securities,

Cherry Sokoloski:  970-484-5705 or LCSoko@Q.com

Church office: 970-493-5906

Join us for the Board Forum on Feb 22

On Wednesday, February 22, at 6 p.m., the Board will host an informational forum (this is the reschedule of the forum we postponed from January). We hold these sessions several times a year to keep you updated on work happening behind-the-scenes here at Foothills. We thought we would try a mid-week forum to reach more people. You will be able to hear reports on finances, membership and the Governance Task Force.

By the way, in case you can’t make it, the Governance Task Force and the Board have been hard at work. Over the last couple of years, the Board realized that our church had in place organizational structures that we have outgrown. The Board decided that it was important to our future success to improve these organizational structures, and so we charged the Governance Task Force to lead the change.

What does this mean for you? Well, one change that the Board has endorsed reducing the size of the Board from 11 down to 7. At the same time, the Board supported the idea of lengthening Board terms from two years to three years. We hope this will have several benefits. We think this will make the Board more nimble – I just read a newspaper article about how seven is a great number of people to ensure effective and efficient meetings. (You can find it on our Board of Trustees bulletin board in the social hall.) We also believe that lengthening the Board terms will result in a good balance between fresh ideas and maintaining institutional knowledge. Many previous Board members have said that they were just getting in the swing of things when their two-year term ended. Please, join us on February 22 to hear more about the work of the Board and the Governance Task Force.  All are welcome.

The Future of Our Rummage Sale

The Foothills Rummage Sale has been a cornerstone of both our community-building and fundraising efforts over the past three decades.  The amount of time and care that so many have given on behalf of the Rummage Sale is truly mind-boggling.  This time and care has in turn resulted in up to $25,000 (at its peak so far) in funds to support our mission and vision in a given year.  Along the way, the Rummage Sale has been a great way for people to get to know each other and to build friendships that last far beyond the few weeks of the sale.  It’s also been a great way to serve our community, offering low-cost good-quality goods right as the school year returns and many are searching out bargains.

Over these same years, however, many changes have been happening both in the church and in Fort Collins.  In both, the population has grown exponentially.  Within Fort Collins, this population increase has meant that there are now multiple second-hand stores that are open throughout the year, so that our offering isn’t quite as value-added as it used to be. This is a relatively minor consideration, however, as we look at some of the other changes that have occurred….

Within our own community, our growth has meant that space is almost always tight – and as we have moved to a year-round schedule, while the summer is slightly less crowded, it is still often full throughout the week with programs and meetings.  Each year, as our community has grown, so have the donations (thank you!), and so the need for space and volunteers have also grown.  While we ask everyone to pre-sort their goods, we ultimately have more stuff than we have usable space, and this is frustrating for everyone.

Speaking of that usable space, as religious education classes for children and youth are active and well-attended throughout the whole year, the space available in the Classroom Building is less than it has been previously, and even when it is available, it is able to sustain a much lower impact as it needs to be reset to accommodate children and/or youth every Sunday – so clean up is very stressful.  (To help with this, we have experimented with moving the dates earlier in the summer, but this has resulted in fewer volunteers available due to vacations…we’ve wondered if moving to June would be better…?)

Also, over these years our leadership has prioritized holding worship every Sunday as central to our mission. This was especially made possible by the addition of a second minister in 2012.  Although we attempted to hold these services outdoors, our growing population and value to ensure the space is accessible to all made this not a viable alternative, and so this resulted in the sanctuary no longer being a place for the rummage sale to be held on Sundays.

The various space constraints are also made more challenging by a dwindling volunteer population resulting from two main factors.  First, our longtime volunteers are – much to their chagrin – aging.  They no longer can or want to volunteer in the same physically demanding ways that they have in the past.  Many have stepped down entirely while others have simply scaled back.  The vacancies left by these changes, however, have not been sufficiently filled by a new volunteer base – particularly in terms of taking management and leadership level responsibility.

Younger people today are often overly busy with two-career households and caring for both children and aging parents.  Free time is down – nationwide.  What free time people do have, they prioritize more direct-service, high-impact, and often short-term volunteer roles – for example, we have no problem filling our 25 twice-a-month Food Bank @ Foothills roles – we actually have more interest than we have volunteer slots – and these are all direct-service, high-impact and short-term roles.

This volunteer shortage means that the community and friendship building aspects of the sale just aren’t as great as they were in the past – because it’s more stressful to do so much work without enough people to do that work.  Also with the space constraints, the sale is spread out across more of our campus, meaning volunteers often work on their own – which may be good for some seeking solitude!  – but isn’t conducive to the laughter and fun times that many of us remember.

All of this – the population growth, the space constraints, and the changes in volunteering – lead us to wondering if and how we can continue our Rummage Sale in the next year – and beyond.  We need new leaders to emerge if we are going to be able to continue – leaders who will look at these challenges and find new and creative solutions, and leaders who are willing to take on a management level role.  We believe we will need at least four such leaders to step forward by February 15th if we are going to hold a Rummage Sale this year.

We hope all those who care about the Rummage Sale and who are willing to consider being one of these new leaders will come to a Rummage Sale meeting on Sunday January 22nd at 10:10 in the Sanctuary.  If you have questions before then, please be in touch with Pam Stevens (970-225-1223, pamelahope@aol.com) or Ben Manvel (970-484-3249, bmanvel@gmail.com), longtime dedicated leaders for the Rummage Sale.  So much good has happened as a result of this incredible effort, and now’s the time for us to work out the next good steps, whatever those will be.