2.02.2007

# 9

We’re embarrassed to talk about people who have money but overly casual in referring to people who don’t.

Friends have so internalized the ideal of voluntary poverty that they are ashamed to admit it when they have money.

Ten years or so ago, my meeting had a capital campaign for the renovations of our meetinghouse. Not so big by the world’s standards, but a very significant goal for us. Someone invited a locally well-known fundraising consultant who specializes in grass roots campaigns to come in to train the committee members. But few of the techniques she recommended could be used, like publicly acknowledging major gifts when they come in, because the organizers kept saying “Quakers don’t raise money like that.” (If we already knew how Quakers SHOULD raise money, why did we ask for advice?)

It struck me that no one was at all hesitant to say, “Well, we won’t ask Margaret, we all know that she doesn’t have any money since she works part-time for the AFSC…” But heaven forbid we should talk openly about the fact that George saved a lot of money from his days as a (doctor/lawyer/professor) and has invested it well and is regularly giving it away to progressive (but non-Quaker) causes.

I think this violates our testimonies of practicing equality and plain speaking.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Paul L said...

I agree with your assessment.

This reminds me of when our Friends School was raising money for an addition. Someone proposed offering contributors to have a room named after them for a donation of such-and-such an amount.

One Friend objected. "We shouldn't offer an honor like that simply because someone has money."

Another replied, "We aren't. We're offering the honor because they have money and are giving it to us".

2/03/2007 1:09 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Paul, the topic of Friendly fundraising could generate a whole list by itself.

2/04/2007 6:46 PM  
Blogger earthfreak (Pam) said...

Hmmm... Interesting, as I went to a Friends School in Philly that had zero problem with naming buildings after people. That would never occur to me.

At the same time, I also have trouble with that sort of thing. There are people who give a lot to the community without giving money, who rarely get things named after them, and there are people who give a much larger portion of their wealth wihtout being able to give as much.

Still, I wish that we had it figured out so that it wasn't shaming to be rich. I mean, in a way I think it is, a shame to shore up wealth when so many people in the world suffer for lack of it.

At the same time, if we're going to DO it, we shouldnt' be ashamed to acknowledge it. That certainly doesnt' seem rife with integrity to me.

I don't believe in naming things after people - it does seem to go against quaker values as I see them, and yet, those with money can be asked to give. They may not want anything named after them, but simply to help the community in a way that is available to them.

2/05/2007 11:13 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Pam, I agree with you on every point.

I think we ought to do a better job of acknowledging all the ways that people contribute to our communities.

Given the way our society works, some folks accumulate more money along the way, and for those who have it, donating money ought to be an acceptable gift before God and Friends.

2/05/2007 7:08 PM  

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