By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
The Connecticut and Massachusetts conferences are taking several steps toward consolidating their administrative and financial functions in order to increase efficiency while saving on costs.
Debby Dionne, the long-time business manager of the Massachusetts Conference, recently began also serving the Connecticut Conference as Director of Accounting. As she transitions into her new role, she is evaluating the accounting software used in each conference, in order to be able to recommend a common platform for both conferences.
The two conferences have also undertaken a large project to migrate their databases from two separate systems into one consolidated database. The database will be hosted by Brick River Technologies, which hosts the conferences' websites. This will allow instant updating of information on the websites, streamlined incorporation of registration information into the database, and improved communication with churches and individuals. The database will also synchronize some data with the national United Church of Christ Data Hub, to eliminate the need to enter data in two places. And it will synchronize with SalesForce, which the two conferences will use to track donor information and contributions. The two conferences are in consultation with the Rhode Island Conference about moving toward using these new shared systems in the future as well.
The three conferences first began sharing staff almost two years ago, when Tiffany Vail began serving as the Associate Conference Minister for Communications for the three Conferences. Vail brought the websites of the three conferences together into one system. Also, TJ Harper began serving both Massachusetts and Connecticut as the Associate for Racial Justice Ministries last year.
Although the three Conferences are moving toward joining together into one unified conference, these consolidations are not directly tied to that plan.
Charlie Kuchenbrod, the Executive Associate Conference Minister for the Connecticut Conference, said the conferences have been discussing sharing administrative resources for many years, separate from the unified conference discussion.
"The reality is that we are living in an era of declining resources," he said. "As church membership declines, the main sources of conference support are also declining. We want to do everything we can to stay focused on our mission and to continue to fund programs and ministries."
The consolidation of financial functions meant the Connecticut Conference could reduce its expenses by eliminating the position of the Director of Finance and Budget, redistributing those responsibilities among several people, primarily Dionne. Jane Fawcett, who held that position for 10 years, left with a severance package in November.
“Jane made significant contributions to the life of the Conference over her 10 years here, and we appreciate her graciousness in this transition,” Kuchenbrod said.
With some of Dionne's salary now being paid by the Connecticut Conference, the Massachusetts Conference has also taken on a new part-time bookkeeper, Marie Girasuolo.
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