There are many assets to be found at UUAC at First Parish. The individuals who bring a vast array of resources to the community are our primary asset. They are the lifeblood from which we find our strength and support. There are other, more traditional assets, that may be less well known. The UUAC at First Parish Trust is a financial asset that supports our operations, building and property and efforts to further Unitiarian Universalism in our area since its formation in July 2005.
The Trust actually came into existence through a consolidation of several funds that were dedicated to the ongoing existence and mission of our community. The initial funds were the First Parish Alliance Building Trust and the Natick-Wellesley Community Church Trust, both dating back to the 1800s, the Fischer Memorial Trust, the Wheelwright Trust, and the Endowment Fund.
The five funds had grown over the years, indeed centuries, and the aggregate worth had reached the critical $1 million mark. At that level of assets we were able to consider professional money management and in 2006 one of the first actions of the Trustees was to hire Seaward Management based in Boston to actively manage the Trust. Seaward practices a balanced investment approach meaning a balance of equity and fixed income securities that works within our investment guidelines of a target allocation of 75% Equities and 25% Fixed Income.
The challenge we faced in consolidating the different funds was to maintain the spirit and the directives of the original funds and their donors. We have been able to do so with the help of long time member, Don Peter’s fastidious record-keeping as well as years of history with the Church. All of the underlying values have been tracked and accounted for since the consolidation took place. They are also more broadly categorized with either a purpose for funding operations or building and maintenance which helps us when the Trust makes its annual distribution to the Church.
There are five voting Trustees and two additional non-voting Trustees appointed by the Board of Directors, all of whom are members of the Church. The Trust meets quarterly to review performance and take action on other business that involves the Trust such as the Minister’s Residence Fund, donations from members or distributions to the Church. Seaward, our investment manager, is formally reviewed twice a year. The Trust has come back nicely from the market downturn in 2008. The total portfolio was up +18.5% in 2009 and we moved back above $1 million.
The Trust is governed by the Declaration of Trust with an investment policy that seeks growth in assets and employs a mix of assets to provide for a required distribution to the Church of 3.5% annually based on the three-year rolling market value. The 3.5% spending policy is conservative when compared to the typical endowment spending policy of about 4-5%. The policy can be amended but the current rate has been set to allow for flexibility in the asset allocation. It should allow us to continue to grow the assets for the future. And that is something we can all appreciate – like our community – continuing to grow yet also there to provide support for all our endeavors in the world today.