Questions about the UUA hurricane fund

Someone needs to ask some questions about the fund the UUA has set up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, if for no other reason than to clarify the process and expectations. I’ve looked and cannot find answers to the following:

  • Who will the recipients be, broadly? Churches or individuals?
  • Who will decide the amount of aid, and on what basis?
  • How much of the donated money, if any, will be used towards administration?

Later. Some answers, from

“All funds received will be distributed under the auspices of the UUA’s Southwest and Mid-South Districts and will be used entirely for hurricane relief. The two districts will establish a panel to distribute funds to local relief efforts and to UU congregations so that their ministries in their communities can be restored.” I think I’ll stick to the Red Cross and Our Home plan, but I’ll add more news as it arrives.

I’m not asking for a white paper, but “I don’t know” or “we haven’t decided” aren’t satisfactory. Until we know this, I don’t see why anyone should be asked to give to the UUA’s fund, or any fund. (I’ll wait to hear how Our Home, Ellisville, Mississippi fared and probably give to it directly.)

When you give to the Red Cross — which I support and have given money to — you know it will be for relief services and that they are good stewards of the money.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. -Yes! When you hear more about Our Home Church, let us know. I would be eager to send them what financial resources I can. –Derek

  2. I too would like to send funds directly. In particular I would like to know the addresses of UU churches that are setting up shelters for refugees from the Gulf coast. It appears that there will need to be an effort to host refugees for a lengthy period of time and this will require substantial funds over that period. Thanks, SK

  3. Last year the hurricane relief money that came to Florida District was distributed to impacted churches for “the minister’s discretionary fund.” The ministers were accountable for the money, but the individual members identity was protected. Money was used on “a need” basis to help members who needed to live in motels, for medical expenses, rebuld homes, etc. Given the need the UUA funds were a wondrful help and morale builder but not a largesse. Individuals of means within congregations helping the discretionary funds provided more money.

    Helping with physical damage to churches was done by young men with construction skills. One church that completely lost its building received some very helpful grants from the UUA.

    We have four or five hundred homeless UUs from the impacted area. The scale is beyond this fund’s capacity, to help we will need to provide direct hospitality. Adopt a church!

    There were no overhead costs with the UUA funds in the previous disasters, I see no reason to assume that this will be a problem in this one. Our Gulf Coast congregations are mobilizing to give help.

  4. As someone who was looking forward to going to “Our Home” this upcoming spring, I would be more likely to give direct to them (assuming they need it – if not will give it to the UUA).

    …. but to vent here, was everyone upset by the UUA website suggesting that
    “.Your donation to the UUA-UUSC Gulf Coast Relief Fund qualifies as a tax deductible charitable gift. Please consult your financial and tax advisors regarding your particular circumstances. ”

    I hope i am being too sensitive here, but I will state that I have given, will give, and I , for one, cant get a tax break for it, but gave because it is the right thing to do…..

  5. Don’t despise “adminsitration costs”. The willingness to pay adminsitration costs is the reason the right wing organizations are so much more sophisticated and professional (and large) than the amatuerish efforts of the left.
    But don’t take my word for it: read Going Public by Michael Gecan (Beacon Press) about how to organize effectively. It’s an eye-opener.

    I am completely frustrated by the non-response of our government to this major disaster in our country. Those of us who live far away can only donate I guess. Is there anything else we can do?

  6. Kim — who said anything about despising administration costs? I think 10-15% is appropriate, but an organization has an obligation to serious donors to state what it is, or if the operating costs are covered elsewhere. Indeed, for a flow-through collection drive I think they should be, and Clyde speaks that (thanks for the info).

    I’m not keen on giving to the UUA fund if it is a flow-through to ministerial discretionary funds, even though I trust ministers to spend the money wisely. I want to give to an identified need, particularly to churches hurt past their ability to restore their loss. Consider the Partner Church Council. If the end recipient is personal — the normal end of the discretionary fund — I’d rather give to a non-sectarian organization, even over our own.

    That said, I’ll wait for a formal word about the current fund before expressing futher opinions on the matter.

  7. See also this update at the UUA website:

    All funds received will be distributed under the auspices of the UUA’s Southwest and Mid-South Districts and will be used entirely for hurricane relief. As the full scope of this disaster has become clear, we have significantly expanded our fundraising efforts. This expanded effort requires us to charge a very minimal administrative fee to cover the expenses incurred. We are committed to keeping overhead as low as possible; therefore, the fund will deliver a minimum of 95 cents out of every dollar in direct services. Please be assured that all funds received before we expanded our fundraising on September 3 will not be subject to an administrative fee.The two districts will establish a panel to distribute funds to local relief efforts and to UU congregations so that their ministries in their communities can be restored. If you wish, you may designate your gift to be applied exclusively to community relief efforts. I urge you to be as generous as possible in support of our faith community.

    Thanks — I saw that but hadn’t posted it. Scott

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