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UUA prepares for belt tightening

Unitarian Universalist Association anticipates 10 percent drop in revenue in FY2010, begins planning cuts.
By Donald E. Skinner
Spring 2009 2.15.09

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The UUA is tightening its belt as the economic recession deepens. Tim Brennan, UUA treasurer and vice president of finance, said in January that UUA income for the current fiscal year was down 7.5 percent although projections indicate that the budget will be balanced. But fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, will likely be worse. Brennan projected that revenues will be down by 10 percent, or $1.8 million, as the recession takes a firmer grip on the country.

“We’re anticipating the current economic distress will be felt more by congregations and the UUA this spring and next year,” said Brennan.

The Association has begun taking steps to reduce the impact of the revenue loss. UUA staff groups were asked in January to reduce spending wherever possible. In addition, the Association has imposed other measures that Brennan believes will compensate for the anticipated shortfall through the end of the fiscal year in June and to position the Association for a second difficult year.

One significant change is that three UUA publications will no longer be printed and mailed. Instead, they will be available online. These include InterConnections, a quarterly newsletter mailed to lay leaders; The Religious Leader, mailed three times a year to ministers, religious educators, church administrators, and music professionals; and the annual UUA Directory.

The UUA has also imposed a hiring freeze, reduced the number of staff going to GA, cut staff travel expenses, reduced event catering expenses, and started conducting more meetings online or by phone.

The loss of income is due primarily to lower end-of-the-year giving to Friends of the UUA, which declined by 9 percent in December.

Brennan noted that UUA investments are also down, but a loss of income from those sources won’t really be felt until next fiscal year. The UU Common Endowment Fund declined in value from $135 million in January 2008 to $94 million at the end of December. The UUA retirement plan declined about 23 percent, from $175 million to $135 million.

Contributions to the Annual Pro­gram Fund, the primary way that congregations support the UUA, are projected to be down about 2 percent this year, said Pat Grimm, the UUA’s director of budget and operations. “Compared to other nonprofits, we’re doing very well,” she added. “Some are down 25 percent. We have above-average loyalty.”

UUA Bookstore Manager Rose Hanig said sales were down 3 percent from last year and 9 percent from the sales that were projected for this year.

Brennan cautioned that the revenue situation for next year could deteriorate even further. “The economy remains highly unsettled and no one knows when a recovery will come. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and take steps as necessary.”

The UUA administration will present the fiscal year 2010 budget to the board in April.

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