Searching for the Future (SFTF) is a weekend program of small group workshops designed to help a congregation clarify its vision and mission, and develop an initial set of goals and priorities that can jump-start a strategic plan. The process is tailored to the specific needs and starting point of each congregation, and often focuses on the physical and financial resources needed to support their mission and vision. It is especially helpful for framing requirements for major facility improvements or program expansion, initiatives typically supported by special or capital campaigns.
The magic of the process is that it takes place in one intensive weekend, in which as many congregants as possible participate in workshops facilitated by trained congregants. The workshops are lively, making the process of clarifying vision and mission not only painless, but actually fun. The energy and enthusiasm create a palpable “buzz” and build momentum for future steps.
The process includes a “train the trainer” component in which the consultant facilitates a session on Friday evening for congregants who then facilitate sessions on Saturday. This provides diverse benefits such as leadership development, congregation ownership of the process and results, leveraging of consultant resources, and enabling large numbers of congregants to participate in small groups all in one weekend.
- Develops a common vision of the future to serve as a focal point for strategic, financial, and building plans
- Creates momentum through the intensive weekend process
- Engages large numbers of congregants, promoting buy-in for major projects to follow
- Provides opportunities to identify and inspire emerging leaders
What We Offer:
Our consultants work with congregation leaders in advance to customize the process to ensure it reflects work that has already been done and desired outcomes. For example, if your congregation has recently developed an inspiring and effective mission statement, the SFTF process would be tailored to build on it rather than seeking to create a new one. And if a building program is a key desired outcome, the discussion of goals and priorities would focus on physical plant needs, while still ensuring a comprehensive look at how best to support mission and vision. Other preparatory work is helping recruit congregation members who will serve as facilitators.
During the weekend, the consultant facilitates the Friday evening session for the volunteer facilitators. This session has two purposes: it allows the facilitators to be participants and contribute their input; and it trains them to be facilitators for the rest of the congregation. Facilitators need not be congregation leaders, thus affording an opportunity to recruit newer members and develop new leaders. The consultant kicks off the Saturday program and then monitors the small groups to ensure they stay on schedule and on task. The consultant then convenes a final wrap-up session either Saturday evening or Sunday to consolidate and synthesize the results of the all of the small groups and create a consensus package for presentation to the congregation.
Your Stewardship For Us Team consultant is available to help recruit, convene, and orient a planning task force to take materials from this weekend and rapidly produce a clear and actionable set of goals, benchmarks, and quantifiable outcomes to serve as the basis for a strategic plan.
Searching for the Future Support
Annual Campaign Transformed by Next Steps Weekend
As president of my congregation, I want to express how helpful Liz Coit has been to re-energizing our annual pledge campaign during our Next Steps Weekend process held in November 2018. She presented herself in an affirming and authentic manner which prompted instant respect from even the most discerning of our members. She carefully tailored the weekend activities to address our stated goals and listened intentionally to our underlying issues, helping to bring them to our awareness gently and clearly. Our annual pledge campaign has been transformed from a necessary burden into a positive means of facilitating a culture of stewardship and generosity.
Karen Palmer, UU Society of Oneonta
Home visits well received
“Kay gave us good advice … about the state of our financial picture and guidance about how best to proceed. We planned a clear campaign and made home visits which were well received. The service was a very good value for the cost and helped us a great deal.”
– President, Bozeman Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Worked well with leadership
“Barry is a great communicator with good experience in supporting Capital Campaigns. He has worked well with leadership and has been well received.”
George Belsey, CC Co-chair, First Universalist, Denver
Extremely accurate predictions
“Barry was very effective in his work with our campaign staff, and was extremely accurate in his predictions about our fundraising potential. His interviews with our leadership donors were also very effective. I have had several opportunities to speak with leaders in other congregations around the country about Barry’s abilities. I and others at First Unitarian recommended him highly without hesitation.”
John Hartgering, Treasurer, First Unitarian Church of Orlando.
A really good fit for us
Barry’s work with us “…provided a clearer picture of our strengths, weaknesses and how to address both as we move forward toward a capital campaign. I heard many people say they thought Barry was a really good fit for us. I happen to agree.”
Jane Mayer, Board President, UU fellowship of Athens GA
Fired up and ready
“Barry presented a training session for our visiting stewards that got them fired up and feeling ready to contact their assignees.”
Linda West, Stewardship Leader, First Parish in Cambridge
Skills and tools to bring to congregation
“Barry Finkelstein’s keynote on Stewardship was the most valuable feature. It was thought-provoking while also giving me skills and tools to bring back to my congregation.”
SLD Leadership Day attendee
Pledge increased by 50% directly after the training
Barry “helped us with the training for the capital campaign and the stewardship drive. That training actually caused a capital campaign pledge to increase by 50%, directly after the training. Barry was exceptionally well tuned into who we are and what our needs were.”
Conrad Paul, Stewardship Leader, Mountain Vista UU Congregation, Tucson, AZ
Exceeded our goal
Barry Finkelstein gave our recent capital campaign a needed boost of expertise and coaching. From the initial “Next Steps Weekend” that determined our readiness to take on a major capital project to my final call over a year later that we had, in the end, exceeded our fund-raising goal, he was with us every step of the way. Now we are working with our architects on final building designs and will soon break ground, thanks to Barry’s guidance.
Bob McArthur, Chair, Building Project Steering Committee and Board of Trustees member,
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens, Athens, GA.
Guidance about how best to proceed
“The service was a very good value for the cost and helped us a great deal. [Kay provided] direct advice about the state of our financial picture and guidance about how best to proceed.”
– Amanda Cater, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bozeman
Looking forward to financial feasibility study
“Kay was excellent [and] provided a great deal of information. We’re looking forward to the next phase – the Financial Feasibility Study. ”
– Steve Clem, Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Expert advice, training, report
“Expert advice and deep experience of advisor. Training of stewards. Final report. Really the question might be “What wasn’t helpful?” Because EVERYTHING was helpful!”
– Rachel Maxwell, Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation
Increased our confidence
After several successive campaigns that struggled to recruit volunteers, generate excitement and increase pledges; we were in need of an injection of enthusiasm. Mark increased our confidence in our ability to run a cottage-meeting pledge drive. I appreciated Mark’s approach in making sure the team understand not only what to do, but why we should follow the steps he advised.
Liz Bredeson, Stewardship Lead Volunteer, First Unitarian Church of Des Moines, IA
Very easy to work with
Overall, Mark is the best consultant with whom I have worked with in our congregation over the years. He is very insightful, direct and helpful. It is very easy to work with Mark and he is very efficient with his time. And, he interfaces well with congregational members and friends.
Creighton Cray, Stewardship Leader, Community UU Church of White Plains, NY
Let me add my enthusiastic thanks for your very wise assistance to us. You helped us sort through some ideas and get the big picture, as well as getting some thorny details figured out. You also confirmed our basic approach to stewardship that increases our confidence and, indeed, energy going into the next campaign. We contrasted our meeting last night with the meeting two years ago and celebrated our progress.
Sue Wilson, Past President Universalist Church of West Hartford
Webinar… hanging on every word
Thank you so much. We had five members of the Board of Trustees from NWUUC – Atlanta, present in my living room for your webinar. We were hanging on every word, and we’ll be discussing your thoughts in greater detail at our upcoming board meeting, and going forward.
David Zenner, Board member, Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Sandy Springs, GA
Webinar very helpful
I found the webinar very helpful and informative. The sound quality was excellent and the slides/graphics were a real enhancement and easy to read. I would like to thank your moderator, Mark Ewert, for an excellent job.
Frank Holstein, Board member, Unitarian Universalist Church at Washington Crossing, NJ
Capital campaign much more successful
Our capital campaign was much richer and more successful from having your guidance.
Jamie Sharp, Capital Campaign volunteer UU Society of Iowa City, IA
Amazing knowledge base
As Mark promised, the visioning weekend sessions were full, busy and very energizing. We have received great feedback from those who participated and several newer community members and folks who had been involved in other efforts, emerged as true leaders and are enthusiastic about taking the results of the visioning weekend to the next step. We appreciate Mark’s amazing knowledge base and his humorous and effective leadership style!
John Lyons, President, First Religious Society in Carlisle, MA
Best training… delighted
I have heard so many people say that your training was the best they’ve ever had. Others who were nervous were delighted with the opportunity to go make visits.
Barb Robinson, UU Congregation of the Quad Cities
One word… Outstanding
I would sum up the weekend with one word … outstanding! Thanks to you and the UUA for making such an excellent resource available to us here in Stow.
Roy Miller, Stewardship Chair, First Parish Church of Stow and Acton
Insights are right on
The overwhelming response has been positive to not only your small group and one-on-one meetings, but various members of the congregation have given unsolicited responses in praise of your presentation following Sunday’s service – that you are knowledgeable – and “expert”, that you come across as warm, caring and empathetic, and that your insights are/were valuable or “right on.”
Administrator, UU Church of Asheville
Stewardship culture already shifting
Thanks so much for your good words and for your very good work with our congregation. I feel your visit was an enormous blessing and that no matter what the final totals of the budget drive may be, the stewardship culture of this congregation is already shifting. And we owe you an enormous of debt of gratitude for that!
Rev. Tim Temerson, UU Church of Akron, OH
Excellent summary report
We are all looking forward to your onsite presence. I was blown away when you paid us your Next Steps Visit last year. I came to attend one meeting early on Saturday and ended up staying for most of the day. I pick up your excellent summary report whenever the need arises — it is the most thorough, impartial and informative guideline that we have. Especially now that we are shaking so many trees simultaneously, many of those old leaves want to continue hanging on to their old familiar branches.
Finance Trustee, North Shore Unitarian Church, Deerfield, IL
ABOVE even our stretch goal
It has been a good drive. Lots of great things have come from this drive and there continues to be lots of outreach…. We are ABOVE even our stretch goal for donors of $3000 and up…. Our stewardship committee newcomers (3!) are awesome and riled up It is fun to see and I think they’ll be ready to take over the committee next year!
Almost all the pledges we received were at least the same or moderate to significant increases. Also, many started their increase now instead of waiting until July.
Thanks, Bill, for all your help. BTW, we are planning to use some words from your sermon in our newsletter since it was so inspiring to those that heard it!
Stewardship Co-Chair, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Anchorage
Made tasks much easier
Bill, thank you for all your advice and guidance. It made our tasks much easier.
Capital Campaign Co-Chair, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Anchorage
You light chalices of the heart
Bill, what a pleasure it was to finally get to meet you face to face and hear you in person. Thanks for all your good work. You do indeed light chalices of the heart and spirit!
Senior Minister, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta
Nothing but good comments
Bill, we are slowly digesting your report. I think that we had you come at a very opportune time. I have heard nothing but good comments about the Next Steps Weekend. What – no one wants to complain???? Amazing!
Stewardship Chair, Accotink Unitarian Universalist Church
Above and beyond expectations
Thank you so much for all your help — you definitely went above and beyond our expectations.
Stewardship Chair, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh, NC
One of the best years I have seen
Bill, the ministry is going very well. With the enthusiasm you generated during your visit and the work of many local folks, we have experienced one of the best years I have seen in a long time. Following your recommendations, we have moved to a twelve-month stewardship committee and we have added the minister and president as advisors to the endowment committee. Plans are underway to promote endowment and begin a legacy program. We are planning multiple years for stewardship.
Board Chair, Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga, TN