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.