The news about the recent Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees meeting, in UUWorld online magazine (“Consultant to aid impasse between UUA board, administration“) deserves plenty of attention. And you are welcome to leave comments here.
I’m left wondering if the board is micromanaging, if the higher reaches of the management team is incompetent, or (what I think the real issue is) that the Association is governed by a corporate management style that is unsuitable to our policy, tradition and culture. And perhaps even good sense: if you’re given to self-punishment let me recommend you read the Board packets from the last several years. It’s impossible to think anyone not on the Board would have the time or stamina to be able to follow the process, and its product looks more like generating more process than say, new congregations, building loans, print or online publications, a new hymnal, religion education materials, etc. etc. etc. And need I remind anyone that the President is as much an elected official as the Moderator?
Performance metrics, however well-loved in the nonprofit sector today, can lead staff to “work to the test” and (at their worst) can become a kind of performance art which steer the work of the Association staff away from practical work.
Unlike Unitarian Universalist minister and blogger Tom Schade, I think the $100,000 the board reserved for a consultant is a valid point of discussion. (I agree about the high dudgeon, though.) $100,000 is unlikely to go very far in the world of organizational management consulting; and perhaps no do more than a few elections to change the dynamics in the board and administration. Do the remaining staff members, already with constrained budgets, wonder how seriously their work is taken? If I was one of the ten staff members who lost their jobs in the last round of layoffs the idea, that $100,000 worth of consulting would be a bitter bit of news. Congregational leaders, themselves under tight budgets, are asked to make the “fair share” to the Annual Program Fund, and I would wonder if it was being well used.
In short, the UUA acts like the kind of legacy organization or corporation that persons my age and younger than I mock. (TPS reports anyone?) Losing the old headquarters building and the new regional structure — belt-tightening dressed as progress — will lessen long-cultivated emotional warmth to the UUA. This latest performance will convince “the next generation” (younger than me) that the best place to lead, to serve and to share resource may well be some place different than the current structures of the Unitarian Universalist Association. If you don’t like what you see, vote with your feet and support new ways.