In the last few years we have seen two iconic American automobile companies killed by the incompetent management of General Motors. Any car buff who isn't also a corporate executive can tell you why they died; they were niche products- the best in their niches- but the managers never understood that.
The Oldsmobile was the luxury car for those who despised Cadillacs. Its customers were an uniquely American blend of status seeking and puritanical reverse snobbery... it was everything the Cadillac was at half the price; so somehow buying it was not an extravagance, but sensibly seeking good value for the dollar.
The Pontiac line was simply the highest performance motor vehicle that it was possible for normal mortals to buy. It was the Ferrari at one tenth the price- and GTO and Trans Am owners would often tell you that in normal street corner to street corner driving where a a full race engine couldn't wind up, they were better than the Ferrari. They were the heroes of number one hit songs, movies, TV shows, and frequently at the top of the most-stolen lists.
But GM tried to turn a niche product into a full product line, econoboxes, sedans, etc., just like every other automobile. It evidently never occurred to them that Olds and Pontiac customers didn't want econoboxes and "sensible" sedans, and that those who did already had brand names they were loyal to. Requiescat in pace, American Icons.
What does this have to do with UU? Unitarian Universalism is a niche religion, as Unitarianism and Universalism before them had been. At some levels, UUs understand this; there are many jokes- composed by UUs- to demonstrate how different we are. But many UUs don't seem to understand another facet of niche products- that they are a fixed percentage of the market, neither growing nor falling without some unusual circumstance at work.
UU's market share has fallen in recent decades because of some competition, just as GTO and Trans Am sales fell slightly whenever a new model Mustang came out. Some of the more spiritual types became Pagans or liberal Christians. Some of the ones who were strictly political action types left when secular action groups became more viable. Some of those who were UUs only because we would marry them when nobody else would have now been welcomed back to their preferred churches.
But the spiritual types who also valued reason and seeking stayed. (And thank you, Boston, for hurting their feelings by disaffiliating all the believer organizations) The political activist who also needed fellowship in their lives stayed. We have achieved our market share of the current social structure, after the upheaval of the last few decades.
What this means is that no vast growth program is going to work, any more than a vast advertising campaign can make an F150 customer buy a Celica. The way to increase Celica sales is to make it more of what the Celica buyer is looking for to retain your current customer base, and wait for social change to naturally increase that base- appealing to F150 buyers is a waste of resources. Similarly, the way to grow UU is to make sure it is giving existing UUs more of what brought them here, make it the best UUA it can be, and not waste resources in scarce times trying to attract people who aren't going to stay anyway. Stop doing those things that are driving current UUs away, retain our base, and the numbers will take care of themselves. Something to think about for the upcoming election.