Reorganize the UUA by:

1. Creating a fully functioning Contact Relationship Management system at the denominational level, with a professional marketing staff, which would be empowered to use a full-range of marketing strategies to initiate people into relationships with Unitarian Universalism, and to fundraise through that system. The CRM system would start with congregational membership lists. That system should be function at the prevailing standards of security of commercial on-line business and non-profits.

2. Creating a service bureau at the denominational level which provides back office functions for local congregations (bookkeeping, payroll, website design and production, even pledge accounting) on a profitable fee-for-service basis. It should seek clients in other denominations as well.

The point is not to do what we are now doing more efficiently, although that may result. Freeing local congregational resources now devoted to routine institutional maintenance should help congregations focus on their real work.

But the main goal is to create capacity for promoting Unitarian Universalism in general in the spaces and forums which are now "the public square." (Have you ever thought of what an antiquated metaphor of civic life, the phrase "the public square" implies?)

Another goal is create ways for people to relate to Unitarian Universalism in richer variety of modalities than the simple "member vs. non-member" choice.


  1. Joel Miller9:13 AM

    So many of our best leaders are engaged in these kinds of tasks -- tasks that any non-UU can easily be hired to do.

    But the best, maybe the only people to do our ministries of justice and community are us UUs.

  2. Steve Cook9:14 AM

    "That system should be function at the prevailing standards of security of commercial on-line business and non-profits."

    That would be my first concern here. The "prevailing standards," as Target demonstrated a few months ago, seem easily defeated. At this time, I would not trust my personal information to "The Cloud" to be somehow managed by someone at 24 or a contractor so designated. Nor would I want my congregation's funds invested with the UUA even further exposed then they now are. Local "silos" are utterly inefficient in many ways, especially viewed within the Big Picture, but in some ways they are also "water-tight compartments" (to mix metaphors) which function to isolate the damaged areas of a ship.

  3. Being an IT leader in health care for 30 years and watching the lights go on with Tom after this technology conference for non-profits, he is totally on track with a much needed organizational and technology transformation for our denomination. I say Amen brother. There are technology savvy and visionary people from all industries in our congregations who wonder when churches will get into the 21st century with how they run. Let's start tapping that but solve it more globally in a shared services manner so churches can do what they do best -- worship and program.

  4. Judy Welles3:14 PM

    Maybe we need to stop talking about "the public square" and start talking about "the public network" or "the common platform" or something like that. those are clunky terms; what would you suggest?

    I am loving your ideas!


  5. Judy Welles3:16 PM

    Jeez, Tom, is it really necessary for me to prove I am a human being FIVE times before I can post a comment? (Sorry, I know this is not within your control. but sheesh!_

  6. YES. #2 is so much what I've been talking about. We need to be freed up at the local congregational level from this stuff that we throw SO much of our volunteer hour into, and often don't do well, so that we can do the real work of congregations.

    Take the example of payroll. Get ten ministers in a room and ask them how many of them have ever had their paychecks messed up our their tax forms done incorrectly, and you'll see ten hands go up. How many of our congregations farm this work out individually to local businesses that also don't do it terribly well because they don't understand churches? The UUA can do this better for us, and we'll pay for it to be done, and gladly.

    That's just on one point, but you're right on all of them. This is what we need to be happening.

  7. I worked (and my wife continues to work) for the Zingerman's Community of Businesses for years.

    Each business (and there are... 9, plus some start ups right now) is independent, operates with its own managing partners, staff, mission, vision, etc., while Partners Group takes care of bigger picture, longer term, interconnected governance of the Community.

    All their "back office" stuff like payroll, HR, IT, marketing and graphics, etc is all taken care of by the Zingerman's Service Network, which each business pays into (mostly in a flat % of revenue, though adjusted for some oddball things like one company needing an entire HR staff person for 3 months of the year)

    I've long wondered why our Districts didn't work like this.

  8. You're on fire, Tom! I just handed in my dissertation on UU membership and inclusion (history of membership; "Can you be UU alone?" Interviews and surveys with key thought leaders on many of the issues you're raising). How have I not talked to you?! My work is all about multiple modes of UU engagement, and breaking down the member--non-member paradigm. Keep writing! Wonderful stuff.

  9. What a great idea! It would save time and resources especially those spent teaching, reteaching and cleaning up mistakes. Where do I sign?

  10. The "public square" is an antiquated metaphor? I guess they hadn't heard the news at Tianmen Square, Tahrir Square, Zuccotti Park, Gezi Park, and the Maidan.

    Yes, there is value to centralized services. But stop there. The services are just tools; don’t conflate the tools as the solution to a larger problem. Every time that I hear the argument that the UU needs to get more online, that's where the action is now, and that’s the future of where we should promote Unitarian Universalism, I feel that everyone is drinking the techno-koolaid. I am no stranger to the electronic work - I write software for a living and am online many hours per day, but the screen is a poor shadow of the real world. You can’t get a hug, share a meal, or take out the trash online.

  11. sluggosmith12:56 PM

    @Tom Wilson: I disagree that you can't get a hug get a hug, share a meal, or take out the trash online.

    I mean, I get what you're saying, but the internet is innovation of an order that surpasses the Guttenburg Press. You say don't conflate the tools with the problems they solve, but I would argue that today, they're inextricably linked.

    And I think that's a good thing.

  12. Of course, this is exactly why two congregations merged with mine-- to provide a better back end and a higher front end to ministry.

    This is a trend that will continue-- but not by the UUA: top down hasn't worked, and the districts are being centralized into regions.

    No, it will likely continue with the move toward multi-site UU churches, which are closer and better positioned to provide hands on, actual, personal relationships and accountability.


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