Auctioning a car? Whatever happened to Bingo?

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!

5 Responses to “Auctioning a car? Whatever happened to Bingo?”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Finally, someone else who feels the financial pain (and the subsequent looming debt of having gone to a good CATHOLIC college) of Catholic school tuition. I’m sure your letter will be more than convincing- Good luck!

  2. Ken's Brother Says:

    umm not to play devils advocate, but can I use the $220 I was going to give you for Bears tickets to buy two tickets for the raffle? I *really* need a new car, and Andrew sent me an email because he thinks I’d look spiffy in a yellow mustang…

  3. kencraw Says:

    This whole concept of paying for a ticket is really hard for you, isn’t it?

    See, that money is supposed to be in my hands. I bought the ticket, then you pay me the money. Get it? Then, once I have the money, I can decide if I want to buy two raffle tickets (or kick in an extra $780 and get 11 tickets for $1000!).

    But I tell you what, if I decide to buy a raffle ticket or two (don’t get your hopes up) and I win the car, I’ll make sure you have a car to drive around (it won’t be the yellow mustang because $10K of that $15K is going to pay off some debt I have). Sound good?

    And don’t forget that there is always the Bank of Crawford to go to…

  4. Ken's Brother Says:

    lol I’ve got your money, I just *haven’t* given it to you. Oh and I can’t give it to you until the 17th because I don’t have it *just yet*. But then I’ll totally give you 320, so that I can buy one ticket myself (I may be okay to mooch bears, a’s, and whatever sporting event we go to tickets off of ya, but 5k? that’s gregory’s kindergarten fee’s buddy!)

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