I went out the morning of Thanksgiving and talked for about an hour and a half with Keith, who lives outside the library. That helped me garner some perspective on this whole stupid affair. He's a freaking computer programmer, who worked on airplanes and ATMs, and he's now been on the street 12 years. He says he spends all his time looking for a job but they don't want to hire a homeless person (of course he can't get a home without a job). Or he's overqualified. Or it's in another part of the city, and getting to other parts of the city is not a simple thing in LA. So he waits. And prays. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of theology and philosophy. At the moment he's also studying patristic theology (for fun), so we had a good talk about that. It was hard to imagine much difference between us. Or him and my dad, who still doesn't have a job but luckily had my mom along. Keith's girlfriend dumped him (but says she'll get back together when he's off the streets). His parents and twin brother are dead. How does this happen? Our country is a frightening place sometimes.
Meanwhile, I'm dealing with something with my home church that's really pissed me off. Like to the point that I don't really want to go there for a while.
Last summer they threw a huge kickoff party for their building campaign. The party was quite a glamorous affair, and included a silent auction. We bid generously (beyond our means) to get a work of art by a friend, primarily because we knew we were supporting a good cause. It was really a delightful evening, and we all pledged to the campaign and had a very worshipful and fun time together.
On our last giving statement, we discovered that our donation at the silent auction was not listed in our giving to the building campaign. Thinking it an oversight, we contacted the church office. They said that the funds donated at the silent auction did not count towards our pledge for the campaign (and furthermore are not tax-deductible). Now, I can understand a portion not being so (since you usually have to subtract the value of whatever you buy) but I was a bit confused, since it was our understanding that the auction proceeds were to benefit the building fund.
Turns out, they told us, that the auction was merely to pay for the party itself. All of the proceeds from that evening went to pay for the event. They said that since at the event we all pledged to the campaign, in a way the auction supported the building campaign. But in reality, it did not. They told us that the cost of the event was very high and they used the funds to pay for the event so they didn’t have to charge admission.
Well, we got pretty angry. We feel deceived. When a nonprofit tells me they are using funds for one thing and then turns around and uses them for something else, that seems pretty shady. I worked in development. Usually for such events you get everything donated so that the proceeds can benefit the cause. If they couldn’t get donations, I would so rather have had them charge admission – then I wouldn’t have attended! Or if they’d been open about the fundraiser paying for itself, then I wouldn’t have bid at all and let the others who can afford it pay for my dinner. I mean, what do I care about giving a bunch of money to a party?? Nada. I don’t need a party to convince me to give, I will give anyway. And I certainly don’t like the idea that I bid beyond my means to support a bunch of rich people getting sloshed. I gave a huge amount (for us) because I wanted to show my love and support for my church. Now I find out that it was only used to buy a round of drinks. It doesn’t even help the building fund at all. It’s as if I never gave, and instead had one VERY expensive night out (with a cool souvenir, to be sure – we love our artwork – but we’d have never justified what we spent on it if we hadn’t thought it was supporting the church).
I wish I could tell other people around the church but I feel like it’s the church’s responsibility to make this information public (although I suppose I’m making it public here – but I don’t think many people from that church read this. If they do, oh well). I know that most of us there believed our giving was supporting the cause for which the party was thrown. It just seems so wrong. I just never, ever would have spent so much money on a party (I mean the money we gave). I would have stayed home and written a check directly to the building fund.
After we reacted, we got a response from the stewardship person (who is someone I really like and I don’t want to get him in trouble) saying that we're the first ones not to have positive things to say about the gala (hmmm....but I wonder if others are privy to the information we have?) and they are sorry that we feel misled. He checked the invites and stuff and says it didn't specifically say that the money went the fund (well, come on, what else do we expect when it says it's to kickoff the campaign? Really.) but maybe they should have included a disclaimer about the real use of the funds (ya think?). It was mostly apologetic but a little bit defensive too.
For my part, I told him they should make it crystal clear in the future what they are using gifts towards. And it still wouldn't hurt to make public what happened last summer. Then at least we could see if anybody else cares or if we're just being nuts. He offered to return our money but I told him just to put it toward the building campaign. That's where it belongs.
So anyway, after the robbery and Keith's predicament and this church thing, life feels a little crappy. Still, chin up (I just watched "Saw" so now am afraid to show my disappointment with life!). Life's really not bad at all. And another quarter is almost over. Hard to imagine!
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I attend the same church you do and I was aware that the auction was for the funding raising only. Please don't think badly of our church or leave the church because of this misunderstanding. yes, they mess up sometimes (they didn't get my 2007 pleadge on line) but they do so many other wonderful things
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