Sunday, March 04, 2007

How much? And who? And do we care?

I hold a position on the board of our church. And we are just getting ready to start a fund-raising effort to build a new sanctuary and to update and expand the rest of our building. (No, don't worry, I'm not gonna ask you for money. You can keep reading without fear.) Our new building will be a great space for us with emphasis placed on minimizing our 'footprint' on the earth by using solar panels, geothermal tubes, and other environmentally friendly building techniques. We are very excited.

But here is where it gets tricky. There is money involved. No, not this post...trust me! But in the building of the church. Pledges will be sought. Gifts of cash, stocks, and other financial assets will be given. And money makes people do funny things.

It has taken quite a few meetings by different committees to get from the initial thoughts of the building up to this point with an architect and floor plans and a ground-breaking planned for last summer. But it has taken almost that many meetings to figure out how to recognize people who give.

Some folks place a much higher value on gifts of money than on gifts of time. And that troubles me because none of this would happen without many volunteer hours. Yet it is the cash donations that seem to dominate the discussions. No one seems interested in just listing all givers on one plaque. No, there are always two forms of recognition in every discussion - those who give money and those who give 'time and talents'.

So what are the issues? Well, for example, do we allow the largest donors to have naming rights? If you give $100,000, can you name the kitchen after a famous person in our religion's history? And what about recognition for all donations? Do we have a plaque that identifies givers of $100,000 and more; then $75,000-$100,00; etc, etc...down to that $1 to $1000 category? Or do we just list all givers in alphabetical order with no indication of amount?

Oh the discussions and votes we have had! Every month for many months now, someone from some committee or with some personal interest, has asked to be on the Board's monthly agenda to come and plead their case for their ideas on recognition. They give thoughtful arguments. But the next person will have a differing opinion with equally thoughtful arguments.

But I wonder. For large contributors, those fortunate enough to have that kind of money and generous enough to donate it to their church, does it really make a difference to get their name on a plaque? If they had sat down with their budget and decided they could give...let's say...$70,000....would they really break their budget and give $75,000 if that meant their name went higher up on the plaque?

I can be pretty objective about this because I don't have a lot of money to give. No matter what the plaque looks like, no doubt I'll be in the category at the bottom. And given that fact, maybe I just don't understand what it is like to be able to give that generously. Nor do I have a real understanding of the incentives behind some forms of recognition.

But I know we've voted. And we've voted to reconsider our vote. And we've reconsidered. And we've voted again. And no matter where this ends up, I believe some folks will be happy, some will be disappointed, and some will even be angry by the final decision. I hate it that some people will give generously but still feel disappointed about how their gift was handled. And I would feel very badly if I thought our votes would actually stop someone from giving.

Even in matters of spirituality and when people are feeling most generous, money does funny things to people.

40 comments:

Brooklyn Frank said...

Money is evil. That's why I always try and get it away from people and into my hands. I'm good with handling evil, others not so much.

Jingoistic said...

I definitely would volunteer for something like.

Simply for the CV though, I'm motivated by other things...

Trish said...

It's always so tricky when money and volunteers are involved. My inlaws went through this a few years ago with their church and it always seems there are a few unhappy people at the end no matter what.

Good luck with it.

Wendz said...

It is matters like this that made me leave the Church - the leadership seems to have lost sight of the early Christian church and the principles on which it was founded...my stomach turns when I read things like this. Sorry not attacking you - just upset at what is happening at your church.

What's that verse...he who would be first shall be last...etc etc or something like that...:)

Jill said...

Isn't there something in the Bible about how you're supposed to give without tooting your horn about it? I could be remembering wrong though. I'm at least 30 years out from my last Sunday school class.

Everybody gets to write off their donations. How about no plaque at all? Then you'll see who's really giving through the goodness of their heart. I know that's probably not going to happen, but maybe in an ideal world.....

Redneck Mommy said...

Tossing my two cents in here, Em. I think the classy way is to have an alphabetical plaque with the names of all contributors...if you have to have a plaque at all...and not bother with contribution amounts.

It gets too messy and really, is writing a cheque (whether it is a large amount or small amount) worth more than giving hours of your time or skill?

In the end, the only thing that should matter is if the church gets built? Right?

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

See if I was ever rich I'd donate my money anonymously (true charity seeks no reward or recognition). There is nothing more tacky to me than someone donating money and then having a plaque put up to trumpet their generosity.

Winston said...

May I be so bold as to suggest it is time for you to change churches to one not in a building fund drive.

Em said...

LOL...good idea, Winston. Several of you suggest anonymous giving. Believe it or not, that was my vote. Giving from the heart, not for the name on a sign. But at the moment it looks like names will get listed somewhere...though the alphabetical list like Redneck Mommy suggests may be the chosen option.

And Wendz, no need to apologize. I know you aren't jumping on me...just sharing your thoughts. And I appreciate that!

Bardouble29 said...

Wow, so sad when building a place for the lost to come, the people are more worried about recognition. What happened to humbleness and giving? Jesus gave and gave(he gave us the ultimate gift) and never asked for his name to be on a plaque.

Teena said...

I'm the president of our condo board ... it's hard making decisions on behalf of others, isn't it?

Melody said...

I'm with redneck mommy here. Alphabetical - no money contibuted listed. Easy and simple.

Money IS the root of all evil isn't it??

Jocelyn said...

You actually seem really calm about this explosive issue. Church politics scarred me in my youth, so I can't believe I made it through this post (hee hee).

So the church here in my town that I occasionally attend has a new way to raise funds: they got a hold of a few used toilets. No, I'm serious. Then, harkening back to the pranks of youth, the fundraising committee puts a toilet on someone's from the church's lawn during the night. That person can then donate $5 to have the toilet removed...or $20 to have it removed and placed on another specific church member's lawn...

There are other levels of donation, too, but that's the gist. Creative, eh?

Dorky Dad said...

Naming rights on a sanctuary for big donors? At a church? I just don't know if that's right at all. People should just give because the church is there to serve them and it needs the money to operate. Plus it's in the Bible.

I'm sorry that you have to deal with that. It sounds quite frustrating.

Lizza said...

Money, ego, and religion. Strange combination. I agree with the alphabetical listing on the plaque suggestion--if there really has to be a plaque at all.

Thomas said...

Doesn't money and religion make great partners?

My church finally finished its amazing new building about 5 years ago. IT is a true monster and I don't even want to think of the price this baby set us back.

Best thing about it? There is not place where I can find a list of donors. NO WHERE.
Now, being the good Methodists we are, I know there is a something somewhere, but it must be hidden.

I do like the idea of giving and letting the church be your reward.

Then again at my wife's church there is a giant alphabetical bronze thing that lists ALL donors by name, not by size of contribution.

Either way, money or talent is the same donation, almost. I think those who donate time and talent should get statues or paintings or something.

TV

Rene said...

I got pegged to help with my school's capital campaign to rais money to pay for new computers. I'm the pessimist of the group. The others are thinking people are going to just break open their wallets and let the money pour out like a river. My community is hit hard with constant requests for money for schools or for the environment or something else. We are a pretty affluent community, but after awhile, people just want to scream. So we are trying to come up with incentives. If a plaque will get us what we want, we'd be happy to do it. Money is a weird thing, you're right, and some people will not donate unless their heart-felt donation is publicized. I don't care, as long as we get the funding we need.

Lizard Princess said...

True, true. I believe God wants our time, money, sweat, hearts, brain, house, toil, detrmination.....shall I continue?-lol!
I figure He deserves it- He gave it all to us!
Obviously He doesn't need us though, just likes us to tag along!

Jazz said...

Seems to me that everyone's name should be on a contributor's plaque (if you even want to HAVE one of those) in alphabetical order, regardless of what they've given. Does giving $100,000 make you more worthy than giving $10 if $10 is all you can afford? Does giving tons of money make you better than the guy who donated tons of time because he's a great carptenter or whatever?

That issue confirms once again that organized religion is not for me.

Wizened Wizard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wizened Wizard said...

Wouldn't it be very "Christian" to have a plaque listing (alphabetically) all the people who gave something regardless of how big or small, with a statement something like, "Each of these members of the church gave something that contributed to the building of this sanctuary. One gave $75,000 and one gave an hour of his/her time, one gave $10 and another gave a month of his/her labor, but each gave as they felt able to give. This sanctuary is the result of the cooperative spirit of these people, and each one was necessary to its creation. All are equal in the eyes of the Lord."

Yeah, I'm a dreamer. ; ) I wonder if God is amused by the bickering. Nah. She probably has seen it too many times before.

tkkerouac said...

AMEN to that! Money can be the route of all evil

Elle said...

Good luck in your efforts to raise the money.

Personally, I don't think people should give to the church to buy recognition for it KWIM? Charity is from the heart - not from the ego. No donation should be considered better than another persons. In our church, we just hold a nice dinner in appreciation for everyone. I think that is gratitude enough.

MamaLee said...

Unfortunately, EVERYTHING is about money. It's a tough situation, and a common one. I hope it all turns out with very few people disappointed.

Oh, The Joys said...

In my real life I'm a nonprofit consultant and I design tiered recognition for donors frequently. It's quite a standard practice and there are many norms. I'm sure a nonprofit consultant in your town could help.

thethinker said...

I think that giving is giving no matter how much is behind it. And, each person deserves to be recognized equally because some, as you pointed out, just don't have as much to give, not because they don't want to, but because they can't.

Carmi said...

If only life weren't governed by the almighty dollar. If only altruism in its most simple, elemental form could fuel community-minded endeavors like yours.

It's interesting, because we're fundraising for a new building for our children's very small elementary school. I almost feel as if our meetings could be interchanged!

CSL said...

Maybe people who give a certian amount could be given crowns to wear in church, and the amount level would be indicated by the numbers of jewels in the crown? Just a thought. I'm with listing donors alphabetically, too. Because not only am I uncomfortable with the overt recognition of the big donors, but there is almost a shaming element for those who can't afford to give as much. At our Meeting, ther is no pledging, you just give as you feel lead, stuffing cash or check into a little wooden box outside the Meeting room, so it's very non-public. Then if a need arises for money (water heater has to be replaced or there's a family who needs assistance or whatever), that need is just announced and again poeple give anonymously. I like that system.

Beth said...

ooh, man, religion AND money both at the same time! Both touchy subjects....

My opinion is this....the $$$ givers should have their name on a plaque IF THEY WANT IT, but no dollar amount...that should be between them and God, not the whole church.

givers of "time and talent" should also be on the plaque, if that's what they choose. I don't think there should be a difference between who gave money and who didn't.

Giving is giving, and God loves both.

creative-type dad said...

I wouldn't try to please everybody - it'll never happen.

I vote for the alphabetical order. If they want to be up higher, then they'll have to change their name.

Crashdummie said...

Sorry to admitt it but i'm afraid it's all about the money.

But then again, if money is root of all evil, I'm on my way to sainthood... ;)

Cheers!

velvet girl said...

I don't like money... it just complicates things too much.

-velvet

Chelle said...

I always thought we were supposed to do good deeds just because it was the right thing to do....not to get some kind of recognition. That doesn't mesh with the Christian values I was taught. But as you and so many others said....money does funny things to people.

I wonder if these people realize that God isn't keeping a score card.

Gunfighter said...

First time visitor here... but I know from whence you speak.

We have similar issues inour church.

liv said...

Church fundraising is so tricky. We had a 5 million dollar redo on our ancient cathedral in the past few years and it has really placed a toll on parishioner/diocesan relations. And what you spoke of regarding gifts of time and talent being pitted against gifts of treasure is so true. It doesn't seem as if the gifts NOT of money carry much weight in precisely the place where Jesus would have them be heavy. Can I get a witness?

Sheila said...

Money is the root of all evil... unfortunately we need it for everything!

Chucky said...

Yeah that's a hard one.

You can't make everyone happy. But, I'm sure you know that.

Personaly, for a church. I don't think it should matter how much you give. There should only be two boats those who give and those who don't.

Not like you are building a new NFL stadium or something like that. It is a Church.

Ruth Dynamite said...

I'm with whimsicalnbrainpan: true charity seeks no reward or recognition.

Best of luck dealing with all those who do. You're a better man than I am. (Even though I'm a woman.)

Jenster said...

That is a tough one. Our church is in a similar situation. We're launching a new campaign for a student ministry building which will be bigger than the kids ministry building we're currently meeting in. Evenually we'll build our worship center, but that's about twice as much as the student ministry building so we're starting with that. Okay. That's way more information than you needed.

What I was going to say is that it's wonderful there are people who have thousands upon thousands of dollars to give. But are they giving FOR the recognition or is it solely to further God's kingdom.

I wish I had $100,000 to give to our new church building, but I wouldn't want others to know.

Not that any of my opinions matter because A) it's not my church; and B) your decisions have already been made. LOL

Just feeling like publicly opining, I guess. :o)

Baron Ectar said...

I remeber once when I was a kid - the church bought my parents a washer and dryer for Christmas (my dad was the preacher) and several people got mad and left the church over it because they felt that it was to much money to spend on them.

Keep in mind these people had six kids and a church full of people that they cared for and gave money to - they just didnt tell people when they gave money to folks ...

Yep money does funny things to people.