Archive for the 'Catholicism – Parish' Category

Matching donations

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

I just saw an ad that used this technique so I thought it was appropriate to rant about it:

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of “matching donations” in fundraising drives.  You know the whole “We have a generous donor who will donate $1000 if we can raise $1000 from our viewers in the next hour!”  Or the standard “we have a donor who will match your pledge dollar for dollar up to $5000″.  I hear it all the time on Catholic radio and it drives me bonkers.

Listen, either an organization is worth donating to or it isn’t.  Whether it is worth donating to has NOTHING to do with whether others are donating.  Is this rich dude really holding his donation hostage until others donate?  And why should those of us with less money feel obligated to come up with cash to make the rich dude feel better about his donation?  As my Dad would say: Shit or get off the pot.

Yeah, I know, it is used as a “technique” for getting more people to donate money and in the end more money is raised.  But you know what?  The ends do not always justify the means.  Emotionally extorting people is not the right way to raise money.  I’m all for the “your ‘free’ gift with your donation will be…” and numerous other techniques that are used, but the matching donation technique crosses the line from acceptable to emotional extortion.

The fundraisers always present this as an opportunity for us regular folks to “double the value of our dollar” but the way I see it, it is a way for the rich dude to double the value of HIS dollar by extorting the less fortunate.

How very generous of him.

The value of a small parish

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

As I said in my big vacation post, Wendy and I went to a small parish for our Chirstmas Mass in Oroville. Oroville is a pretty small town (20K people?) to begin with but its Catholic community is even smaller. The church only fix about 100 people. It had an old California Mission feel to it, but that’s not what was noteworthy to write about.

What was noteworthy was that despite the REALLY crummy music by three elderly ladies with guitars you could feel how close-nit the community was. Everyone knew everyone’s name and everyone knew we were visitors. They were welcoming and you could tell they were serious about their faith and understood the importance of community. I don’t get that feel at the VERY large parishes we have down here in the Sacramento area. All of these 3000 family parishes that seat 800+ people in the sanctuary and have 6 masses every Sunday (there were only two in Oroville) really create an impersonal feel. Unless one makes a conscious effort to be involved, one can go to Mass every Sunday (or not) and no one will know the difference. That wasn’t the case in Oroville.

Seeing that close-nit community made me yearn for a smaller parish. Sadly, until the Priest shortage is rectified, there is no reason to hope that we can add the 4-8 additional parishes in the Roseville/Rocklin/Granite Bay region necessary to get the more manageable community sizes that would facility actual community.

Such a shame.

The value of retreats and conferences

Friday, December 2nd, 2005

In our busy lives, it is easy to let “normal” activities dictate our calendar. This is even true when we plan our vacations. How often when we’re thinking of our next vacation, does it inevitably focus on relaxation, tropical locations, Europe or the other “normal” vacations.

But what about building up our faith?

While the daily and weekly and annual patterns of our faith do a great deal to help build our relationship with God, there is something unique that comes out of explicitely taking a vacation from our regular daily lives to go on a retreat or to attend a conference for the purpose of building up our faith. Towards this end I’d like to take a moment to speak to the LA Religious Education Congress that I have attended a couple times.

The first time I attended “Congress” (as it is usually called by those who regularly attend) I was overwhelmed by the number of people there and the number of options for activities to participate in. Which Masses should I go to? Would Tridentine or Celtic be better? What evening entertainment should I try out? The concert or the prayer session? Should I get up early to have some prayer time? And of course, what workshops should I go to? There were a number of workshops that I knew off the bat that I didn’t want to attend. Things like: “Soul Formation – the Foundation For Positive Self-Esteem Synopsis” (an actual workshop for 2006). No thank you, please keep your touchy-feeliness to yourself! But beyond that I wasn’t sure what I was interested in. So, when regisitering, I dabbled here and there to try different things and get a taste of everything.

That turned out to be a very wise way to go about it. Not only did I get the opportunity to discover more about what interested me, I also got an opportunity to stretch myself into areas I was less comfortable in. I learned about things I would have never thought to learn about. I also examined areas of myself I had never thought to examine before. Doing this forced me to grow.

And that’s really what a retreat is about: growing in one’s faith.

I haven’t made it to Congress the last two years but I am going to go in 2006. For me, that’s not going to be enough conference or retreat time for 2006 so I’m looking for something else to do. I recommend to everyone to try and do at least one retreat a year. There are LOTS of retreats out there with TONS of different themes. Some are very simple and are mostly an opportunity to go somewhere and pray. Others have workshops galour and a packed schedule.

You’ll have to decide for yourself what best fits you, but I encourage you to make the effort to go, no matter where it might be. Give Congress a try if nothing else. It’s only $20 a day!

Auctioning a car? Whatever happened to Bingo?

Sunday, August 28th, 2005

So our parish has a sizeable scholarship fund. That’s a good thing. A Catholic education can be very expensive, particularly here in California. To send a kid to Catholic elementary school costs about $5K per year and high school can be $8K+ if you’re not good at a sport. (I don’t think sailing counts either…) A Catholic college can be $25K-$35K.

So, we have a scholarship fund. As I said, that’s a good thing. However, the group that runs the fund leaves much to be desired. I’ll enumerate:

-They usually have about $10K in scholarships each year. Instead of giving meaningful scholarships to a few individuals, they seem to divvy it up to nearly everyone who applies and gives out about $500 each. That’s not going to make much of a dent for just about anyone when they’re trying to come up with $8K+ (I don’t know if elementary school kids are eligible and most of the winners are seniors on their way to college).
-Despite the fact that this scholarship is for parishioners only and therefore supposedly bound up in one’s faith, how active one is in their faith seems not to be relevant to whether someone gets a scholarship. People who show up at Christmas and Easter seem just as likely to get a scholarship as the leader of the teen group.
-Despite the fact that there are tons of scholarships for every level of education based on “need”, this scholarship also takes into account the financials of the parents as well. (Despite the fact that a $25K a year college is a significant burden on a $75K a year family and that they aren’t eligible for other “need” based scholarships.)

These points have been true for as long as the committee has been around but this year they decided to up the ante.

It used to be that most of the funding for the scholarships came from a golf tournament and that they were able to get about $20K in profit from (about half goes to scholarships and half goes to an endowment fund for future scholarships). This was a good wholesome event that cost $100 for participants and used corporate sponsorship to increase the revenue.

Now, $20K isn’t good enough for this committee (and in fairness to them, there are a lot of deserving kids). So instead of adding to the great golf tournament, their scraping the tournament (yes you read that right, it will be no more) and instead appealing to everyone’s greed. That’s right, gambling here we come!

First prize (for your $100 ticket, I might add) is a brand new yellow mustang (and it was parked on the walkway to the main entrance to the church this morning)! Or if you don’t want the car, you can take $15,000 in cash! 2nd prize is $1500 and 3rd is $1000. Plus if you buy your tickets by October 15th, you’ll get another chance to win in our $1500 early bird drawing!

Excuse my language but…


OK, I know the American Church has a history at using minor gambling (bingo nights) to raise funds, but at least with the old stereotypical bingo night it was a big social gathering (stereotypically for the old ladies). One could wash the gambling under the table as it was only one aspect of what was overall a fundraising effort. The winnings were small to not enough to be praying on anyones greed. This car raffle doesn’t have any of those caveats to save it. This is an outright, simple gambling ploy based on the desire to fleece money from people based on their greed for a cool looking car. If that’s not enough it has the following downsides:

1. The money I would give to help a family get their kid through Catholic school will be significantly reduced by paying for the prizes (which will statistically go to the person who gives the most to the auction and hence should least needs that car).
2. The whole “you can just donate the money instead of getting a raffle ticket” compromise is BS. If everyone but three people do that it won’t change the fact that the total money given will be reduced by $20K for the prizes. The only difference will be that the actual raffle will be a big loss. The only upside here is that they’re very unlikely to do the raffle next year.
3. Also, with the raffle we lose all of the corporate sponsorship money. There’s no ability to put signs on the golf course (or equivalent) with sponsors. We lose a big avenue for revenue. (See point #7 for an aspect of why this is important.)
4. $100 per ticket is WAY too much. What about those who can only afford $20 this year? By setting the number that high you’re trying to hard-sell people into giving more. It’s like the charitable giving requests in the mail that have $10K, $5K and $1K checkboxes and anything smaller has to be a write-in amount. See point #2 about just “donating” $20. Plus the person who can only donate $20 is most likely to make good use of that car. Also, it is not the same as the $100 entry fee for the golf tournament as a round of golf on the weekend costs $50+. So in reality the donation is only $50 (if that). Plus I’m pretty sure they invited those who didn’t play (either because they couldn’t afford $100 or didn’t play golf) but donated whatever they could to the reception.
5. Even if they’re going to do this raffle, why scrap the golf tournament that everyone loved? Why can’t you do two things!?! It’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll net more income for the scholarships.
6. If you still insist on the raffle, why do the prizes have to be so big for any other reason that appealing to people’s greed? Why not give away a top prize around $1000 (plane trip to Hawaii for the family?) and 2nd and 3rd place prizes in the few hundred dollar range (TV set, DVD player, computer, etc.). This would make it so much more of the revenue would actually make it into the scholarship fund. It would also be easier to do if the tickets weren’t $100 each…
7. $20K (really $40K if you consider the gross revenue vs. net revenue) from a parish every year is A LOT of money. Remember that there are tons of other causes that these parishioners are giving to (feeding the poor, etc.) not to mention what they’re giving the parish in tithing (we just completed a $2 million dollar expansion). Just because there is more need for scholarships doesn’t mean that we should be doing anything and everything possible to fleece people of more money. There is a limit to what people can afford to give. This is particularly true because half of the families in the parish have school age children. So every dollar you get from those parents is robbing Peter to pay Paul, so to speak (pretty funny since it is Ss. Peter and Paul parish…).
8. Along the lines of $40K being a lot to raise, how much did the golf tournament cost us? In other words, how much of the money donated didn’t make it into the scholarship fund? I have a hard time believing it was $20K. I’d guess more like $10K (Quick math, 150 golfers * $50 = $7500 plus $2500 for food & reception type stuff. That seems like a pretty generous estimate too (as they’d likely get a discount for the rounds of golf and that’s one hell of a banquet at $2500).) So it would only take $30K from the parish (and maybe less considering the corporate sponsorships we got) to raise $20K.

Do I need to continue? Good, because I’m running out of good complaints. Needless to say, both the committee and our pastor will be getting a big long letter about this.

God forgive us!