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    1. Something that our advocates have known for a long time is that there is no social safety net in the U.S.  We don’t have mandatory paid sick leave, we have meager benefits that are difficult to access for people who lose their jobs or are unable to work.  Health care access is extraordinarily expensive and dependent almost entirely on employment, and run with the bottom line in mind and not that of keeping people healthy.  In the best of times these deficiencies put many lives and livelihoods at risk, often for the very vulnerable people we advocate with and for every day. In times of crisis, these deficiencies become even more deadly.  In just the space of a few weeks, we’ve seen how widespread this pandemic is; but we have no mechanism in the U.S. for people to stay home from their jobs if they’re ill in order to not spread disease any further, or in this case to stay home to comply with the quarantine recommendations from the CDC.  This means millions are losing their jobs due to business closing and many more have to make dangerous choices, go to work and get sick or get other sick, or not be able to pay rent or buy food. 

      Congress is having to backfill the severe inadequacies facing Americans as we try to combat the coronavirus.  These are temporary fixes to ease some of the burden – and place in sharp relief the need for vigorous safety net programs that ensure everyone has access to healthcare, paid sick leave, enhanced employer protections, early childhood care, and nutrition assistance to name a few.

      So, what has Congress been doing? They’ve got to do several things at once.  Bolster our health system to brace for the oncoming number of people who will need medical care, which is what the first bill did.  This second bill is focused on sick leave, nutrition assistance, expanded testing coverage, expanded unemployment insurance access, funding for nutrition assistance.  At the same time Congress is working to address the massive economic ramifications of the shuttering of industries across the board and the millions of people who will lose their jobs.

      The Families First Act is currently pending in the Senate – it was passed with broad bipartisan support in the House last week, and had some technical corrections that passed early this week.

      Here’s what it does:

      • Mandates paid sick leave for 14 days for those who become ill, or who have to take care of children. Quite a few exceptions remain and these provisions expire in one year.  So it is essential that Congress not stop here.  It provides for some expanded paid leave up to two weeks for those who are sick and people who have to watch their children who have been sent home – but there are quite a few exclusions that don’t cover enough people because there are exemptions for very large (over 500 employees) and very small (few than 50 employees).  There is also an exemption included for health care providers or emergency responders making it so they may not be able to receive the additional paid leave. This provision expires in a year. So, this means, some paid leave, for some people, but still no way for people to stay home if they’re not sick, but need to social distance as we have all been instructed to do. 

      • Testing is as we know a critical component to tracking the spread of the virus and keeping communities safe.  The dismal lack of access to testing means that many more cases have gone undetected, spreading the virus further into communities.  It is in the interest of public health for testing and treatment to be covered fully. This bill includes waivers for testing so that it is covered and increases federal payment to states Medicaid programs.  It also gives money to the VA, Indian Health Service and the National Disaster Medical System to cover the cost of testing.

      • Critically the bill provides 1 billion in food assistance for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This includes $500 million to help provide nutritious food to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, and $400 million to help local food banks purchase, store and distribute food. There is also $100 million to provide nutrition assistance grants to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands and $250 million to provide additional home-delivered and prepackaged meals to low-income seniors who rely on federal programs.

      • Provides for $1 billion in grant aid to state agencies running unemployment insurance programs, requiring states to be flexible in unemployment insurance access.

      Now that the Senate has the bill they are swiftly pulling together economic stimulus additions – with a wide array of options being considered including over $250 billion in emergency loans for small businesses with significantly more flexible underwriting and repayment terms. There’s also a growing move to send money directly to taxpayers, in the form of checks for $1,000 or more.  Many are wary on both sides of the aisle to directly spending for industry, but there will likely be in near future quite a lot of relief for corporations and industries. 

      Urgency is the name of the game, so this phase two described above will pass today or tomorrow, with another very large bill in phase three to be ready to go quickly next week.  As I outlined above some quick and important fixes have been made but there are miles to go.  There’s very little in these bills that address homelessness, and I think now it is more clear than ever that housing access is health care.   Additionally, Congress must take action to protect people in detention, both the prison system and immigrant detention as well as stopping enforcement of immigration enforcement activities. As we look forward its critical that Congress enacts structural changes that shore up programs that help vulnerable populations and that focus on people, not CEOs.  We’ll keep you updated as the situation changes.

    2. Alisa Lewis
      Latest Entry

      March 6, 2020

      COVID-19 Protocols for all National Setting Employees

       

      *****************ALL POLICIES AND PROTOCOLS SUBJECT TO CHANGE*************

      AS NEW INFORMATION SURFACES

       

      THE FOLLOWING PROTOCOLS ARE IN PLACE FOR ALL NATIONAL SETTING EMPLOYEES

       

      In an effort to comply with new standards around social distancing, and in response to the CDC’s strategy not just to contain the spread of infectious diseases but to mitigate against its impact, the following protocols are active until further notice:

       

      • All air travel for work is prohibited. Emergency air travel for work may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Consult with the elected Officer overseeing your ministry area.

      • Please report any personal air travel to the elected Officer overseeing your ministry area.

      • Auto travel may be permitted by the elected Officer overseeing your ministry area for participation in small group gatherings on a case-by-case basis; explicit permission is required.*

      • Anyone returning from international travel that includes China, Italy, Japan, Iran or South Korea is required to work from home for 14 days, and if symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus manifest, then the employee will need a note from their doctor before returning to work.

      • Anyone returning from international travel to other countries is requested to work from home for 14 days, and if symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 virus manifest, then the employee will need a note from their doctor before returning to work.

      • All staff should strive to hold meetings by Zoom when at all possible.

      • Staff who need to cancel either air bookings or hotel bookings should first ask to have expenses returned to the credit card used rather than being held for future travel. When possible, this is the preferred option.

      • When hotel reservations are cancelled, please cancel the entire block and inquire as to whether or not penalties will be waived because of CDC protocol. Please maintain the written response for your records. 

       

      These protocols hold until further notice. We are tracking up to date information multiple times each day, and if circumstance warrant it we will make changes to these protocols.

       

      If you are planning meetings beyond 60 days, please inform those with whom you are working of these current protocols and also let them know that any plans you make are tentative. Because we are hopeful that with warmer weather the threat level of this virus will diminish, we are not asking you NOT to plan meetings or gatherings during the warmer months, we are just asking that you inform all participants that anything you agree to now is tentative. We would also ask  you to hold off purchasing plane tickets for June meetings or later until a later time when more information about the circumstances will have surfaced.

       

      *If you have any questions about what qualifies as a permissible number of people gathering, consult with  your elected Officer. We would like to put a hard number on this, but we can’t. In Washington already last week, meetings of over 10 were discouraged. Various places have different tolerances. It is best to check with County Health Departments about any statements they have issued.

    3. This post is from Andrew Warner, Generosity Outreach Officer in OPTIC. Andrew works part-time for OPTIC and part-time for the Wisconsin Conference. The OPTIC team is very grateful to have access to Andrew's thought leadership. The content that follows it full of compelling ideas about OCWM Baisc Support for us to ponder and pursue. OPTIC is just getting started on some of these ideas and is building goodwill across the settings of the UCC as we continue to explore the foundational supports needed for this critical work and implement best practices in donor-centered development as outlined in the New Framework for Covenantal Giving and Implementing Fundraising Best Practices, a prudential resolution passed by the thirty-first General Synod (Baltimore 2017).

       Developing Strategies to Strengthen OCWM Basic Support 

      This project began with the question, “What can we do in the National Setting to strengthen the OCWM Basic Support offering?” Throughout the fall of 2019, I raised this question with over twenty stakeholders, primarily conference ministers and other conference staff across the UCC. Before moving to a set of strategies, I developed a SWOT analysis for OCWM Basic Support based on my initial conversations and continued to adapt it with new input. Then I imagined a set of strategies that we could try in both conferences and the National Setting, sometimes individually but often collaboratively. These ideas constitute a “menu” of options because of the diverse needs and capacities of our settings.  I hope that leaders will choose a set of initiatives that match their appetite.  Acting together, we can each strengthen OCWM Basic Support.

       

       

      Helpful

      Harmful

      Internal

      Strengths

      1.       OCWM Basic Support provides the primary and key philanthropic support for the conferences and national setting of the UCC.

      2.       OCWM Basic Support, as part of the OCWM umbrella, is a widely recognized term by most church leaders.

      3.       OCWM Basic Support is the most durable and widely used philanthropic offering in the UCC.  Decades of support and General Synod resolutions speak to its historic place in the UCC.

      Weaknesses

      1.       Conferences and the National Setting are experiencing relational challenges, marked by strained trust and experiences of disappoint, frustration, lack of appreciation, and exasperation.  Key donors – i.e. conferences – lacking trust should be taken as a major warning light for the national setting.

      2.       While OCWM is a recognized name, a significant lack of clarity around the purpose and use of OCWM Basic Support abounds and how “OCWM” differs from “OCWM Basic Support” and the four special offerings.

      3.       Teaching regularly about generosity corelates to increased revenue; but across the UCC we typically only teach about generosity once a year during an annual appeal (stewardship campaign).

      External

      Opportunities

      1.       We can learn from the best of nonprofit business insights: e.g., the importance of cooperation over competition in the nonprofit sector; the importance of being donor centered (national on conferences; conferences on congregations).

      2.       New and robust ways to engage donors and receive gifts exist in the wider philanthropic world; both peer-to-peer (small gifts) and planned gifts (full range of gifts) could be explored.

      3.       Leaders in each setting of the church are experimenting; embracing both a scrappy tenacity and a playful adaptivity in order to meet challenges.

      Threats

      1.       The various capacities, resources, and environments of conferences and national setting could lead to a very different UCC, one in which the national setting operates more as a foundation (or an endowed think-tank) with a much smaller footprint, some conferences become para-church organizations serving multiple mainline congregations, others regional bodies, and some close.  A similar evolution (devolution) is happening/happened with our seminaries and camps.

      2.       While Americans remain deeply generous, the motivations and methods of giving are changing rapidly.  The old slogan of OCWM – “It’s what we do” – will not work.

      3.       Both in society and church we face a mindset of scarcity.

       

      Menu of OCWM Basic Support Strategies

      One solution will not fit the diverse situations of our conferences and the National Setting. The following are offered as ideas for further exploration.

      Starters:

      Less complex to implement changes that strengthen OCWM Basic Support

      Teaching the “Spirituality of Generosity”

      Creating worship resources for pastors and leaders to teach about generosity.

      Messaging

      Moving to just speak of “Basic Support” and developing a tagline like, Because of your gifts, together we change lives.” 

      Capacity Building

      Provide a variety of educational events – both in-person and web-based – for pastors and leaders; offer Executive Certificate in Religious Fundraising to Conference leaders.

      Goal Setting

      Approach OCWM Basic Support donors (congregations and conferences) with suggested gift amounts (i.e., goals).

      Segment Donors

      Segment donors and develop communication plan for each tier.

       

      Mains:

      More complicated to implement changes that strengthen OCWM Basic Support

      Joint Conference-National Case for Support

      Instead of separate conference and national cases of support, develop a joint case of support driven by the priorities and situation of the conference.

      Curating Communication

      While we have many communication vehicles, many don’t effectively reach the “person in the pew.”  Consider a much more robust series of videos.

      Gratitude

      Do we thank the donors in the ways meaningful to them?  Do we thank people as often as we make asks?

      Double Pledge Cards

      In a significant number of congregations, members make one pledge to church and one to OCWM; we need a specific strategy for these congregations.

      Board Role in OCWM Basic Support

      Board service changes lives, in part by widening our hearts, by listening to God's call, and by shaping an institution according to the Gospel

       

      Prix Fixe:

      An "entire meal" solution worth consideration

      Dues and OCWM Basic Support Replaced

      with Percentage Giving

      This approach from the Southern New England Conference may be appropriate for some conferences to adopt.

       

      Shareables:

      Fundraising arises from relationships

      1:1 Visit: CM or “Ambassador” & Local Church

      Whether by CM or by a designee, visits can deepen relationships.

      National “Visits” into Conferences

      Conference could leverage national staff visits for philanthropic support of the conference.

       

      Sides:

      Good things to try alongside more focused initiatives

      Congregational Leadership Changes

      We can learn together how best to attend to pastoral transitions so that we don’t see a significant OCWM Basic Support drop-off.

      Database

      Many conferences could use new or improved databases; could conferences partner together or use a cost-effective option.  Making these choices together would allow people to learn from each other.

      Expand Donor Options

      Provide easy to use infographics such as promotions of wills and bequests, charitable gift annuities, and IRA charitable rollovers.

      New Infographic for Budgets

      Narrative budgets 2.0 fold administrative expenses into program (mission priority) costs.

       

       

      Desserts:

      Ideas beyond OCWM Basic Support (other ways to ask for operational support)

      Friends of the Conference & National Appeal

      Conferences and national might consider a combined annual appeal; most effective if our lists don’t overlap much.

      Capital Campaigns

      Capital campaigns – beyond raise crucial funds – often educate church members about the practice of generosity.

      Giving Circles

      This classic strategy could have a place in the UCC: imagine a giving circle of UCC donors each giving a $1000 and together awarding a grant (i.e., like Impact 100). 

      Peer-to-Peer

      Peer-to-peer provides our constituents the tools to raise funds for shared priorities – see the UUA’s www.faithify.org for an example of how this works.

      Congregational Grants

      A conference or the national setting could develop a common grant application to circulate funding ideas among congregations with endowments that fund projects beyond the local church.

           

      We face clear adaptive challenges, from the rise of the “nones” to shrinking rural communities, increasing political polarization, and the changing mores of generations. Despite these adaptive challenges, this document mostly lays out technical fixes because we need to establish the depth of trust and connection between the settings of the UCC that will allow us to engage adaptive challenges together.[1]

      As selected suggestions outlined here unfold and new ideas surface through the ongoing relational work undertaken by the OPTIC team, Andrew and other members of the OPTIC team will share more information in future posts about our OCWM work. 

       


      [1]  Adaptive challenges (problems we don't yet know how to solve) and technical fixes (applying the knowledge we have to problems) come from Ron Heiftetz’s work on organizational leadership such as Leadership without Easy Answers

    4. John Dorhauer
      Latest Entry

       

      I have been so grateful for this time we have had over the holidays. Mimi and I took advantage and made a trip to Chicago to be with our son and his beautiful children. 

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    5. I gave the message at my church on Sunday for World Communion Sunday. Since I just returned from a trip to Sri Lanka and India, I shared about that experience. I also dressed in an outfit I bought on the trip and decorated our table/altar with goodies from my trip. Here are some pics! I'll try and post the message at another time.

      I bought the piece of fabric in Delhi for the church. It's hand embroidered and has sequins! The blue and white vase is from Jaipur, a famous pottery place. The plate in the center is also from Jaipur. My outfit is from Delhi.

      IMG_2997.thumb.jpg.d3f07c29933c4d51422f31d5ec73ad77.jpgIMG_3004.thumb.jpg.c755ddc42e71b8cf0fa63eb4916e105d.jpg

       

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