looking-back-07Name Change

by Grace Ulp

Along with the coming of the Hamilton-Holways to our church came the feeling that we really should reflect the name of the denomination in our church name. Previously it was the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley. Of course, there were many other proposals: “All Souls” was rejected as being a little too Episcopal. Should we really be a “First” in a town as small as Kensington? Did we want to include the town name in whatever initial identification was given us? Had we given up on “Berkeley”? What about the Fellowship? After a reasonable amount of arm wrestling, our Articles of Incorporation were amended on September 15, 1997 to read “Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley,” thus honoring the two sides of our corporate nature.

Changes in Governance

by Grace Ulp

Over a period of years in the early 2000s, the Board of Trustees spent many hours discussing a change in governance. In 2004 the Board presented the idea to the congregation, which agreed that we would give it a try for a year. With the change in governance came a Coordinating Team. The first team consisted of Barbara and Bill-Hamilton-Holway and lay-leaders Jan Setchko, and Linda Laskowski.

In Policy-Based Governance the Board of Trustees sets clear policies. Each year a system of dot voting by the congregation sets the policy direction. Dots are placed on a series of posters with pre-selected possibilities on them. The dots are given to everybody attending that worship service. Lots of dots? A winner. The Board empowers staff and volunteers to implement those policies.

The Coordinating Team helps volunteers and staff execute those goals. They report to the Board and listen to the congregation and committees.

The idea of Policy Governance originated in corporations, which used it to improve efficiency, policy issues and quality of financial reporting and closing. The idea of good governance requires decisions that define expectations, grant power and verify performance. Politics is the means by which the governance process operates. (This paragraph is courtesy of Wikipedia.)

With Fair Governance, the executives respect the rights and interests of the citizens in a spirit of democracy. Nonprofit governance focuses on the fiduciary responsibility that a Board of Trustees has with respect to exercise of authority over the explicit public trust that is understood to exist between the mission of an organization and those whom the organization serves. Measuring governance is inherently a controversial and political exercise. (Wikipedia again.)

At one time there was a Finance Committee whose task was to supervise the Treasurer, develop the budget in cooperation with the Board and committees concerned with the budget, and make monthly reports to the Board. The Finance Committee was dismissed at the time the Coordinating Team was established. The question of how to produce a budget is not covered in the current Bylaws, nor in the governance document. The congregation approves the budget, but often does not discuss it.

The Board appoints the Coordinating Team, at this time (2012) consisting of one minister, the church treasurer, and three lay-leaders.

Policy-Based Governance

by Kay Fairwell

Governance refers to an organization’s decision-making process. Policy-Based Governance for UUCB means that the Board of Trustees’ job is to set clear policies that reflect the congregation’s vision and mission. The Board empowers staff and volunteers to implement those policies within well-defined limits.

When Policy-Based Governance was instituted, it was because members were often frustrated by a governing structure that could be obscure and hard to access. This model has helped many UU churches around the country to revitalize, streamline, and clarify their operations.

The Board determined that the advantages of Policy-Based Governance (PBG) were many. Under this form of governance:

•     The Board stops micromanaging and is free to focus on the “big picture.”

•     The Board sets policy in the spirit of religious leadership, reflecting the deep desires of the congregation.

•     The Board and congregation have ongoing dialog regarding our vision and mission.

•     The staff has clear goals and parameters and is free to work creatively.

•     Clarity of roles and responsibilities results in greater accountability.

How does this form of governance work? Day to day little changed. The Board established the Coordinating Team, which helps volunteers and staff to executive the goals set by the Board in its ongoing consultation with the congregation. The Board monitors progress through reports by the Coordinating Team, as well as through direct contact with the congregation and committees.

Over the years, the Board of Trustees has continued to revise the Governance Manual and search out continuing education on Policy-Based Governance.