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Praise God! God is Good!

By Josephine Deere

Is the Women’s Division in a financial crisis? What are the effects on United Methodist Women?

The Women’s Division is a healthy organization, but our passion for mission has outstripped our annual income for a few years. And, our system of fund management was slow to catch up with the complex realities of how we receive and spend money. This is a time of re-building funds and re-envisioning the work we do. Together, staff and directors have been looking at the mission and ministry of United Methodist Women, how we work together, ways to streamline and improve our work, and priorities for mission with women and children. We are committed to fiscal responsibility, balancing the Division budget annually, and finding new ways to increase giving and fundraising efforts. We continue to have substantial wealth. We plan on continuing mission for another 137 years and beyond. To do this, we will explore new options for funding mission.

Why is giving going down?

As new challenges and disasters arise in this nation, public trends show that funds are more easily diverted from traditional non-profit organizations and churches to specific projects and emergencies. Non-profits are competing for limited funds and limited attention of persons. Giving to United Methodist Women is often second- or third-mile giving and is more vulnerable when disasters hit. With Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 tsunami, 9/11, and other world disasters, people are more easily designating and diverting funds to non-profits working on specific issues that are in the news. United Methodist Women’s work is not always in the media as a relief item; however, it is United Methodist Women who empower women and children long before and after the media has stopped covering specific geographic areas and disasters. It is every member’s responsibility to tell these stories so that women understand their gifts make a difference in real lives, even after others have left a scene. Disasters will continue throughout the world, but it’s important that United Methodist Women realize that their work empowers women and children for the long-term to have a better life.

How does the Division plan to balance budgets and be fiscally responsible?

To improve financial reporting to directors and United Methodist Women, the Division has committed to:

  • Presenting all sources of income and expenses to directors in one comprehensive document at each board meeting. These will include updates, projected spending and audited reports at year end. This will help directors and members understand exactly where the money goes and the funding sources.
  • Being available to help in the interpretation of financial data.
  • Reviewing existing policies and working to budget for expenses on three-year rolling averages, similar to the “best practices” of non-profits who work within balanced budgets.
  • Using, in a better manner, the historical endowment funds designated for specific types of mission. These funds have been left to the Division throughout our 135-year history for specific purposes like Bible Women, women and health, education in specific areas of the world, etc.
  • Ongoing planning for fundraising and communications to better tell the story of mission and ministry and to increase funding for this mission.

What will be the effects on national and international mission?

The Division is committed to maintaining the funding to national and international mission programs and projects. These are at the heart of our work as United Methodist Women and affect “the least of these” in the world. One gift the organization has always given to National Mission Institutions is the funding of their property and liability insurances – a large cost factor that otherwise could cripple many of our programs/projects. The Division will continue this valuable contribution to the work of mission institutions and use the funding of national and international mission to do this. With this, work can continue.

Will there be staff cutbacks and how will it affect mission and United Methodist Women?

Staff cutbacks will have to come within the next year, but with careful deliberations around the work of the organization and effectiveness of mission. In arenas throughout the Division, work will be shifted, reorganized, and evaluated with an eye toward strengthening our mission and ministry. The directors and staff have gone through-- and will continue -- in-depth analysis of the organization’s mission, envisioning its future, and reviewing how most effectively to be in mission with women and children, while thriving as an organization. We will not reorganize quickly or without great deliberation. We will consider the effects on mission and ministry, on United Methodist Women members, and on the staff who have poured their heart into a ministry to create a better world for women and children.

What is changing and how will it affect United Methodist Women?

  • First, there will be a movement of funds that will assist United Methodist Women in fundraising and development. The Division will move their contributions, housed in some parts of the General Board of Global Ministries, to the Division. Funds that previously supported functions like current and deferred giving, development functions, and communications within the General Board of Global Ministries, will be brought back into the Division to strengthen these areas specifically for United Methodist Women and its mission.
  • The work of consultants, like those of Hispanic Ministries and Korean Ministries, will be integrated into the larger work of the Women’s Division. By doing this, we will emphasize making these language ministries an integral part of all we do, instead of a separate entity.
  • The Service Center, the institution providing mission resources to the organization, is undergoing an evaluation and envisioning of what it would take to become a self-sustaining institution. Presently, the Division underwrites a large piece of its budget. By the fall board meeting, the Division will have a plan to consider how to best resource United Methodist Women for mission.
  • The Division is working with an outside group to evaluate the most valuable resources for our members, what United Methodist Women need; how to best communicate our message; how to be more effective in communications; how to use communications to fundraise; and how to do this better on a streamlined budget.

How is the Women’s Division cutting expenses in meeting and training, and will it affect United Methodist Women locally?

The Women’s Division has already begun to implement new ways to meet and train members of United Methodist Women. The Division is using conference calls and videoconferencing to meet and train members in new ways. Within this year, United Methodist Women will have online communities for local women interested in specific topics to have meetings and trainings across geographical borders. Division committee meetings are being consolidated. With the board of directors and local women, the Division is exploring what training events are most valuable to local women, how we do the training, if there are more effective ways to train, and if there are meetings that are really no longer necessary to United Methodist Women or can be consolidated.

Have groups who are critical of United Methodist Women been a factor on our giving?

If so, the affect has been marginal, and it has transferred funds from the idea of undesignated giving to designated giving. The trend in churches and non-profits across the nation is that giving is decreasing and that persons have a desire to designate where their money goes. This is different than the historical understanding of undesignated gifts to mission – known to United Methodist Women and predecessor organizations for over a century. The historical understanding of “undesignated giving” is that gifts are given to mission and the gifts are dispersed to places with the greatest need. This makes us a unique organization, and we want to spread this message so that all women say, “That is an organization I want to join! Thanks be to God!”

Date posted: Mar 25, 2006

Last Updated: 02/04/2013

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