National WMU cuts back in order to retain staff

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—In light of negative economic projections for 2009, national Woman’s Missionary Union has announced $1.4 million in budget cuts, a hiring freeze and a four-week unpaid furlough for staff.

But by implementing the cost-cutting measures, WMU should be able to avoid layoffs and keep health insurance affordable for its employees, leaders stressed.

“The greatest asset of any organization or company is dedicated employees who believe in the mission of the organization. WMU is blessed with employees who exemplify this. Therefore, retaining staff and providing them with affordable health care remained priorities as executive leadership explored other creative options to lower expenditures in 2009,” WMU Executive Director Wanda Lee said.

“None of the positions that we have are expendable; we already have a lean staff and need all the staff members we have to accomplish the work we do. While our nation is experiencing some of the most challenging economic times in our history, we recognize jobs are scarce and we are doing everything we can do to protect jobs and ensure the future of WMU. We are simply taking proactive measures to successfully navigate these uncertain days in our nation’s challenging economic climate in the event that it doesn’t recover quickly.

Budget restrictions 

Cost-cutting measures include budget reductions, streamlining expenses, a hiring freeze on vacant positions, a reduction on employer contributions to employee retirement plans, a freeze on merit pay increases, elimination of incentive bonuses in 2009 and the implementation of four weeks unpaid furlough for each staff member between January and August 2009.

The hiring freeze and reduced retirement contributions will continue until Sept. 30, 2009, according to a Dec. 12 statement released by the organization.

WMU’s executive leadership made the cost-cutting decisions in consultation with the organization’s finance and personnel committees.

“These were very difficult decisions to make and difficult ones for our staff to hear,” Lee said. “But all indications are that the economic picture for our nation will worsen in 2009 before it improves. These measures were necessary for us to rise above a worst-case scenario during what is projected to be the most challenging economic times for our nation since the Great Depression.

“While we certainly hope this is not the case, we believe the actions we have taken will position WMU to continue to fulfill the mission God has given us and allow us to care for each person that is a part of the WMU family here in Birmingham.”

Self-supporting in 2009 

Under a revised $9.6 million budget for 2009, Woman’s Missionary Union will be self-supporting through the sale of magazines and products and from investments, according to the statement.

As an auxiliary to the Southern Baptist Convention, WMU receives no funds from the SBC’s Cooperative Program allocation budget. WMU promotes the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions but does not benefit financially from those offerings.

WMU also has implemented several new initiatives to engage a growing number of people in missions, including redesigned magazines for children and Hispanic women, new bilingual resources for Korean Baptist churches, online forums to foster community and encourage idea sharing, free downloadable resources to start missions organizations and Facebook communities for young women.

“God still has a mission for WMU,” Lee told WMU employees Dec. 10. “In fact, missions education and involvement is more critical in our churches and communities than ever before. In a time when a growing number of people are hurting in our world, it is imperative that a missional lifestyle be instilled in our children, youth and adults to help them see the world with God’s eyes and minister effectively.”

In 1995, Woman’s Missionary Union created the WMU Foundation to support the organization’s long-term mission and ministry. Giving to the foundation surpassed $1 million in 2008, according to the statement, but most of those funds are designated for scholarships, state WMU organizations and specified ministries. Nonetheless, the WMU Foundation was the single largest contributor to WMU in 2008. Unlike most nonprofit organizations that are donation-driven, less than 3 percent of WMU’s income comes from charitable giving.

This article includes reporting by Mark Kelly of Baptist Press.

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