The Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ (SNEUCC) is rooted in the firm conviction that we are called to “live the love and justice of Jesus.” At this important moment of our coming together the SNEUCCC Board embraces Proportional Giving as the giving model for providing the resources that will equip our mission and ministry as disciples of Jesus.
What is Proportional Giving?
Proportional giving is based on an understanding of generosity rooted in scripture. Our sacred texts remind us that all we have is a gift from God and they invite us to give joyfully in proportion to these gifts. The financial expression of proportional giving is sharing a percentage of income as a grateful response to what God has given us.
In the context of the new Southern New England Conference, Proportional Giving (PG) is a financial expression of covenant commitment by local churches to support the Conference and National UCC through sharing a percentage of local church income. It invites each of our churches to become faithful participants in a movement to make Southern New England a more just and loving part of the world.
The SNEUCC is adopting this approach because it is faithful, covenantal, and aligned with our mission and core commitments. PG gifts will be shared by the Conference with National UCC just as Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM) Basic Support have been shared previously. With the establishment of PG, OCWM Basic Support and Conference Membership Dues – called Fellowship dues in MA and RI and Per Capita Contributions in CT – are replaced by a single way of giving.
What led to the decision for the new Conference to move to Proportional Giving?
SNEUCC leaders are committed to re-examining traditional ways of doing things, understanding the changing context of church, and imagining approaches that fit who we intend to be. In deciding on funding, giving patterns were examined, as was the Massachusetts Conference’s four-year experience with a version of PG, United Church Mission. Funding structures were considered in terms of how they support faithful ministry partnerships among all Church settings. Our mission and vision statement reminded us to embrace and encourage adaptive and transformative leadership as agents of change, and of the high value placed on forging and maintaining the best possible covenant relationships. All of these indicated that it was time to invite congregations to join in a new Conference funding approach.
What specific factors led to the move to Proportional Giving?
- While overall church participation has remained comparatively robust, the meaning of membership is changing and fewer people are joining churches officially. Tying wider church funding to membership through Dues billing no longer makes sense.
- PG better reflects covenant and partnership for mission and ministry. Eliminating Conference Membership Dues moves the Conference toward a relationship-based model of giving and away from a payment-for-services-rendered approach often felt by congregations as an oppressive “head tax” that necessitates aggressive cleaning of membership rolls to reduce Dues payments.
- PG makes local church funding easier to understand and explain, simplifying giving to the wider church for congregations puzzled by the complicated Dues and OCWM Basic Support model.
- Giving “first fruits” and in proportion to our blessings are foundations of our faith. We have long encouraged local churches to base their stewardship efforts on proportional giving. Adopting PG creates consistency and synergy in our common efforts to inspire generosity.
- Dues and OCWM Basic Support have always been used together to support the Conferences’ programs, staffing, and initiatives. Yet churches often believe billed Dues pay for administrative expenses only and that they pay a “fair share” through them. As a unified system of support, PG emphasizes that we have a common mission and ministry and that local church giving multiplies our impact as we live the love and justice of Jesus.
- PG is fair: Giving to the Conference and National settings reflects the collective reality of local churches and eliminates perceived inequities in the Membership Dues model.
How does Proportional Giving work?
PG replaces a Local Church’s giving to Conference and National UCC through Membership Dues and OCWM Basic Support. Instead, the church’s PG contributions are based on its historic giving level in relation to its Total Income* in a given year. If church income decreases, wider church giving decreases proportionally, while wider church giving would increase proportionately with increased income.
When will Proportional Giving begin for Conference Churches?
PG will begin in the Conference’s first year. For 2020, churches are asked to maintain giving at 2019 levels by adding together their 2019 OCWM Basic Support and Conference Dues and making this amount their minimum gift. Increases will also be gratefully received and will strengthen the ministries of the new Conference! For 2021, churches will use a two-step process to determine their PG contribution (see below).
How are Proportional Giving contributions determined?
PG contributions are determined by the church itself using the following two-step process:
- Step One – Establish the church’s initial Giving Percentage by using this equation: Giving ÷ Total Income* = Giving Percentage. The initial Giving Percentage is based on the church’s giving through Conference Membership Dues and OCWM Basic Support for the 2019. This Giving Percentage will be carried over as a baseline for future years. This step is only needed once.
- Step Two – For future years, begin by applying the established Giving Percentage to actual church Total Income* at year’s end to determine the Proportional Giving contribution for the year to come. Use this equation: Prior year Total Income* × Giving Percentage = Current Year Contribution. This step will be taken each year beyond the first. As with individual giving in local churches, congregations will be invited to prayerfully consider increasing their Giving Percentages over time.
Local church leaders determining the church’s PG contribution will be provided with two simple spreadsheets that make the two-step PG giving determination process easy to follow. Beyond year one, only one spreadsheet will be needed annually to calculate PG contributions.
What is and isn’t included in Total Income*?
Income included in the PG Total Income calculation:
- Operating pledge receipts for the year
- Missions/Outreach pledge receipts for the year
- Plate offerings
- Investment income allocation for the year up to what the church’s spending policy permits. This would be the regular ‘draw’ on investment income per the church’s endowment policy. (For sustainability, SNEUCC recommends a draw of no more than 5% of market value averaged over 5 years using quarterly data.)
- Net rental income
- Net income from programs (e.g., a nursery school)
- Net fundraising income to general operating budget
- Capital Campaign contributions
- One-time donor-restricted gifts for a particular purpose other than general budget support
- Memorial gifts
- Extraordinary use of endowment funds to balance the budget. (This means any amount used in excess of 5% of the market value of the endowment averaged over 5 years using quarterly data).
- UCC Special Offerings (e.g., One Great Hour of Sharing)
- Disaster relief or other one-time mission giving
- Net income from fundraising for restricted purposes (e.g., new handbells)
- Income from one-time sale of assets (e.g., parsonage, communion silver)
What support will my church have for making the transition to Proportional Giving?
As indicated above, all churches will be provided with spreadsheet tools to help them calculate their PG contribution beyond 2020. In addition, a variety of paper and online support resources will be made available to those implementing PG for their congregation to help them with such issues as where PG might be listed in a line-item budget, navigating a split budget/pledge situation, how PG fits into the church’s overall mission giving, and communicating generally about PG with local church members. In-person and web-based instructional meetings will be offered throughout 2020. In addition, contact information for designated Conference staff (once determined) will be made available.
Where can I find more information about Proportional Giving now?
Information and resources about PG may be found on this website. Contact David Cleaver-Bartholomew with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 508-875-5233 x231.
How will National UCC’s share of Conference Proportional Giving by local churches be determined?
Just as local churches are being asked, the Conference will likewise calculate its annual giving to National UCC based on an established Giving Percentage applied to Total Income* it has received. This means that the Conference will now use an approach for giving to National UCC that parallels the approach that local churches will be asked to use for giving to the Conference.
Upcoming Workshops on Proportional Giving:
New! This PowerPoint with slides by Hannah Brown, filled with useful clarifying notes, will help your congregation understand proportional giving. Or view PDF version here. Accompanying notes from David Cleaver-Bartholomew here.