Sacred Places Spring 2013 - Page 6

UPDATE on Partners: New Dollars/New Partners Success Story a capital campaign, writing a fundraising case statement, and negotiating with a contractor. But now that its leadership was deeply immersed in a fundraising/historic preservation mode, it made sense to hone its skill in preparation for future projects. The Reverend Tracy Sprowls-Jenks was particularly intrigued by the “asset-mapping” exercise, in which congregation leaders learn to focus on the positives – what gifts and services the congregation has that it can offer to others. These assets, which can range from physical space in the building to the individual talents of congregants, are opportunities for developing a congregation as a resource to the wider community. The First Unitarian Society of Plainfield has learned a lot from Partners’ New Dollars/New Partners training program. It has been particularly energized about the opportunities for partnerships with local organizations and nearby congregations. Photo courtesy of the Unitarian Universalist District of Metropolitan New York’s website, www.uumetrony.org. Much has changed for the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield (FUSP) since its humble beginnings in a piano warehouse in 1889. Following the construction of its own sanctuary in 1892, the church added a Parish Hall in 1925 and an addition consisting of meeting rooms and classrooms in 1958. The oldest Unitarian church in New Jersey, its facilities have hosted locally acclaimed amateur theatre performances and speeches by national figures such as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Today, the church serves a congregation of about 180 members and its building (christened “All Souls Church”) is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In late 2009, FUSP was offered the opportunity to participate in Partners for Sacred Places’ trademark program, New Dollars/New Partners for Your Sacred Place. Since the congregation was already in the middle of a major renovation project and the training was sponsored by the local township, its leadership saw little to lose and much to gain from New Dollars. The congregation was already in the process of running 5 • Sacred Places • www.sacredplaces.org • Spring 2013 Although the FUSP team members had some experience with fundraising case statements, the grant-writing session strengthened skills that will be necessary for their next capital campaign. Reverend Sprowls-Jenks noted that the most useful part of the training was the time it devoted to fundraising outreach. “There are tons of grants out there from nonprofits.” Aside from looking for funding opportunities from institutions, the FUSP team began thinking about sources within its own circles. “We began to think, ‘oh, that congregation member has kids we can ask,’ and ‘why not talk to the family that donated the Robinson Window?’,” a large, beautiful stainedglass window in the rear of the sanctuary, which was FUSP board meetings have never been the same (since going through New Dollars/New Partners); discussions now focus on opportunities for partnerships with local organizations and nearby congregations.