Mount Vernon Unitarian Church (MVUC) changes lives and works to better our world; it nourishes our spirit. MVUC is where we feel at home, where we connect with others and where our lives are renewed. Our capacity to do all this depends upon the generous stewardship of our members and committed friends. MVUC could not exist without our stewardship.
Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to us. It is much more than individuals and families volunteering or providing a financial commitment to MVUC—it is an act of worship that reflects our human spiritual need to share. Stewardship enables each of us to contribute to the greater whole according to our specific time, talents, skills and financial ability. Stewardship makes it possible for us to experience our own generosity in helping to create something larger and more long lasting than our own individual interests.
At MVUC, we have all been entrusted with something unique and important that does not belong just to us. Those who came before us made possible all that we enjoy today. Those yet to come depend on us to safeguard, grow and pass along these many benefits to them. It is up to each of us to ensure that MVUC continues to blossom and thrive over time.
Thank you to everyone who helps sustain MVUC’s mission and grow our capabilities through your contributions of time, talents and treasure.
Why Should Stewardship Be Important to Me?
Stewardship emanates from our Unitarian Universalist (UU) belief in generosity and the abundance of all life. It enables us to sustain MVUC’s mission and grow our church capabilities. Stewardship not only gives life to our UU values, but it fulfills our covenant with one another and adds meaning to our lives
In the congregational tradition, we are self-financing in all aspects. This is our church; it is our joy and our responsibility. Stewardship is not something separate from our greater ministry; it is an ongoing function of congregational life that includes stewardship education, annual and special giving, and planned giving. Our stewardship makes it possible for MVUC to meet the needs of our members and friends, to support our dedicated staff and our beautiful grounds and facilities, and to support the wider community and the worldwide efforts of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). It is the lifeblood that enables us to do all that we currently do at MVUC and all that we dream of doing in the future.
What Will My Contribution Do?
Stewardship provides a concrete way to live our values and to have a positive impact locally and globally. Where else could we invest our resources in a way that so clearly represents our values and provides such benefits?
As UU’s we are eager to share our principles with others and to live them in our congregation. Stewardship enables us to:
- Sustain our church staff
- Ensure we are fair and just employers
- Preserve our unique buildings and grounds
- Do our share spreading Unitarian Universalist values worldwide
- Fund programs and initiatives that represent our values, such as:
- Lifespan Spiritual Growth and Religious Education
- Social Justice
- Environmental Stewardship
- Spiritual and Intellectual Growth
- Member and Leader Development
- Music and the Arts Programs
How Do I Decide What to Give?
Many of us are ill at ease talking about money and about our individual financial commitments to MVUC. Yet we are learning that being at ease in discussing money is an important part of our individual growth and our growth as a church community. A congregation that shares stories about giving and receiving is one that enjoys a spirit of abundance and possibility. Money is a symbol for the vitality and wellbeing of our church; it provides us with the ability not only to keep the lights on, but to do our good works at MVUC and to serve the broader community.
While many of us support multiple worthwhile causes, we believe MVUC is first among equals and properly receives our most generous support. We expect church members to give thoughtful and serious consideration to the many contributions of MVUC to your life and that of your family, the importance of UU values in your life, and the church’s role in the larger community and the world. We then ask you to make a financial commitment consistent with the importance of MVUC to you and your values, and aligned with your financial capacity.
The first step in deciding what to give is to ask yourself the questions: What does MVUC mean to me? What does it mean to my family? What aspects of congregational life most enrich our lives? Which activities most foster our spiritual growth? Is it attending services and Religious Education classes? Enjoying the connection and support of a spiritual community? Experiencing nature on the extensive and beautiful church grounds? Delighting in MVUC’s superb music program? Participating in social justice education and outreach efforts? Supporting MVUC’s environmental priorities? The list of activities and opportunities to participate is extensive, as is the value MVUC generates.
Are There Guidelines for Making a Financial Contribution?
The amount of your financial contribution is a personal decision that only you can make, as each of our situations is unique. We ask only that you make your decision carefully and invite you to consult with others as needed. Here are some steps to take:
- When deciding what is appropriate for you to give financially to MVUC, reflect upon the core values in your own life and examine the spiritual, ethical and values alignment of your life and MVUC. Let that balance guide your financial generosity to the best decision for you and for MVUC. Many UUs commit at a level referred to as “the liberal tithe,” or 5 percent of adjusted gross income (check your latest tax form to see this amount). Fortunately, many can and do pledge at higher levels. Others are not yet at the 5 percent level and cannot do so in one adjustment, but have committed to increase their donation by a set amount, for example another 1 – 2 percent a year, with the intent of reaching 5 percent within two to three years. While we hope that many of us will be in a position to increase our giving over many years, we understand that in any given year the commitment may remain the same.
- Consult the Fair Share Contribution Guide, a social justice tool that was developed by a UU church and is recommended by the UUA. Fair Share giving is about a percentage of income rather than a dollar amount, which enables people with widely varying means of income to make their commitment. This guide shows what a commitment would be on a sliding scale, with much lower ranges at lower income levels, up to a full 10 percent commitment at the highest income scales. It enables each of us to contribute as fully as we can.
- Consider MVUC’s annual budget, what that costs equate to per member household, and the average and median commitments of members. This information is published annually and can be obtained and discussed at any time with a member of the Stewardship Committee. We believe in transparency and openness in financial matters; this type of information helps us make informed decisions. After you have reviewed this information, compare your giving in relation to those benchmarks and decide where you would like to be after considering all factors.Our current budget equals a share of about $2,050 per member household. Some are able to commit more than this, others less. Our current average commitment is about $1,930 and our current median pledge (e.g., one half of our commitments are larger than this and one half are smaller) is about $1,300. More than 25 percent of our members self-report that their commitment fits within the “Fair Share” guidelines.
How Do I Make My Annual Financial Commitment?
Most members contribute monthly when making their annual financial commitment, although some contribute on a biweekly, quarterly or annual basis according to what works best for them. However often you give, you will help the office substantially by making your contribution via automatic payment. This is the easiest way to ensure your commitment is met regularly and requires the least amount of administrative work. You can stop or change your automatic payment at any time.
Automatic payments can be established in one of three ways:
- You can authorize MVUC to automatically deduct the dollar amount you select at the frequency you prefer. This same form also can be used for one-time or special contributions.
- Most financial institutions will provide specified automatic payments. Instruct your bank or credit union to make regularly scheduled payments to MVUC per your instructions. Please advise the church at the same time that you have notified your financial institution.
- You may pay by Credit Card on a recurring basis. Please keep in mind that credit card fees deduct from the gift to MVUC. Adding an additional 4% to your credit card contribution will ease this effect. You may contribute by credit card here as a member or guest.
In addition to your annual financial commitment, there are many other ways to give to MVUC:
- Cash or Check: Sunday offering plate: Please place your cash or check in the offering plate during the Sunday worship service. Note on the check if this is an annual commitment payment or for some other specific purpose, such as a Partner Church donation. Deliver to church: Please bring your offering to the MVUC Office. Mail to the church: MVUC, 1909 Windmill Lane, Alexandria, VA 22307.
- Employer Matching: Do you want to make your giving dollars go further? Ask if your employer has a matching plan in place and if so, whether MVUC would be eligible for matching funds. Some employers will match all or part of your financial gifts and some will match by giving time off work to support charitable causes. Upon request, the office will be pleased to speak with any employer to help determine eligibility.
- Stock Donations: There are significant tax advantages when you give appreciated stocks that have been held for more than one year. Donating stock to MVUC eliminates potential capital gains taxes. If you wish to donate stock to MVUC, let the church know by using the form found here. In addition, you will need to send instructions to your broker to make the transfer. MVUC does not hold stocks in an effort to “time the market;” stock donations are liquated as soon as possible following transfer to MVUC.
- Tax-free IRA Distributions Donated to Charity: If you are at least age 701/2, you may wish to consider transferring a portion of your IRA to MVUC as a charitable contribution. The donation is considered part of your required minimum distribution if you are over 701/2.
- Shop online at Amazon.com: Access Amazon.com through MVUC’s website and the church will receive 4 percent to 15 percent of the amount you spend, depending on what you buy and how much you spend per month. Once you click the link, all your usual information that comes up on the Amazon home page will still be there. Find the link here.
- Contribute to MVUC’s Endowment Fund: You may make an Endowment Fund gift at any time to help assure MVUC’s future. One way to do so is to join the church’s Legacy Circle by including MVUC in your will or estate plan. A second option is to name MVUC the beneficiary of all or a portion of an insurance policy. Third, property may be willed or deeded to MVUC. Contact the church office to discuss how best to carry out this option. Please note the church is not in a position to accept other assets, such as automobiles, jewelry or works of art. Find out more about the Endowment Fund or Legacy Circle here.
- Join the Stewardship Committee and/or Serve as a Visiting Steward: We’ll be happy to train you to be a Visiting Steward. You might be surprised how easy it is and how rewarding it can be to serve in this way. Service on the Stewardship Committee also makes a major difference in the life of the church. You are welcome to attend a meeting to get a feel for how the committee functions.
- What if my situation changes or I really cannot commit to making a gift?Making an annual financial commitment, or a “pledge of record,” is expected of all MVUC members. If you make a commitment and your situation changes, simply let the Stewardship Chair, the Treasurer or the Minister know and we will gladly adjust your pledge as needed. If you find you have financial hardship and cannot pledge even a modest $10 a month, please talk with the Minister about a financial hardship waiver. In all cases, your information will be treated in the strictest confidence. We recognize that such circumstances can befall anyone and we are confident that when your situation changes for the better, you will resume giving, which will be gratefully accepted.
- We hold a lot of rentals and fundraisers at MVUC. How necessary are our individual commitments? MVUC, like all UU churches, is completely self-sustaining. More than 75 percent of our funding comes from our individual financial commitments. We are working to increase that percentage to 80 percent or more, thus minimizing the impact and unpredictability of rentals and special events upon ongoing church finances.
- Talking about money makes me anxious, and makes me question my involvement with MVUC. What do you recommend? We understand that anxiety; we’ve all been there. Money is a difficult subject for most people to address, especially when talking about adding a line item to your own budget. We recommend that you focus on what your gift represents to you and to MVUC. It is not a financial transaction like buying something from a store. Being a part of the MVUC extended family is a very different relationship than you have with other organizations, even other non-profits. This is where our energies and values are given life and where we live by example. We exist and thrive as a community because our members and friends pledge their support. Giving is an integral part of that relationship. Your stewardship really is an investment in your own well-being, in that of your community, and in helping to create a better world for us all.
- Whom does MVUC ask to pledge or donate? MVUC asks all who participate in our services or programs, members and friends, to join us in financial support of our community and our vision. We are not a wealthy community; each gift is important. A gift not given represents an opportunity lost. We ask newcomers and those who attend services or programs but are not members to pledge or contribute to the church. We have few sources of income other than donations from our members and friends; therefore we truly need and expect the support of all newcomers as well as our continuing members.
- Why should I pledge if I put money in the collection plate when I come to church? To provide ongoing programs, we need to have predictable revenue. Our expenses for salaries, utilities and maintenance continue regardless of attendance. We cannot budget adequately based on fluctuating collections. You would not like to run your household on the basis of your boss saying, “We’ll see how it looks next week and decide then what to pay you for the next few days.” It’s the same s for MVUC. We have a wonderful staff, excellent programs, and a complex church campus. The leadership needs our predictable and sustained support to plan and carry out responsible spending and investments.
- I contribute a lot of my time and skills. I don’t have much money, so wouldn’t this be a fair exchange of contributions? It is important to recognize that each of us contributes in whatever way we can, whether with our time, our skills and talent, and our financial resources. It is important for the life of the church and for our own peace of mind that we contribute in each of these areas as best we can. The process is not “more of one and less of another;” it’s all three areas, to the extent that each of us can. If we have honestly thought about what we can contribute and have so pledged, then the amount of time or money we contribute is the right amount. Thinking about trading one for the other is an unbalanced approach—we need time and talent to do the work of the church AND the financial wherewithal to compensate our staff and meet our operational requirements. Let’s do the best we can in all areas—that’s all we can ask.
- I Still Have Questions! Whom Should I Contact? You may have additional questions about how best to support MVUC. Your questions, comments and observations about stewardship and anything else are always welcome. This is our church and we all have a say in its future. Feel free to contact the church office, the Stewardship Committee or any Board member anytime you wish to discuss stewardship matters and they will connect you with the right person or persons. The appropriate person from leadership, finance, stewardship, endowment or the office will gladly get in touch with you as soon as possible. Contact the MVUC Office: 703- 765-5950 or firstname.lastname@example.org