Monday, April 23, 2007

THE LIES PEOPLE TELL US (AND THE ONES WE TELL OURSELVES)

"I don’t understand these fundraisers, …they waste all this money…why don't they just give the money to …the sick people?"

"…you know what? They don’t! They throw a party so rich people like me can spend $10,000 on a table and then they give it to the sick people!" ...that’s how it’s done! Joan Cusack to Jennifer Aniston in "Friends with Money"


Alright, let's get this over with folks: Fundraisers are a Lie! Yes that's right you heard me.

A few months back, I attended a luncheon to raise funds for a school for the deaf. Yes, it was luncheon and a fashion show and a fundraiser all in one. First there was the obligatory silent auction, then (during lunch) the not-so-silent auction, and then after lunch when the plates were taken away, we were asked if we would like to purchase the Orchid Centerpieces! Hadn't they got enough from us? Let me think-No! Easy as it is to lampoon a fundraiser, that is not where I am going today.

One of the ladies who lunch (our table mate) told me that she had been involved in planning the event for months. As a volunteer and parent she had besieged her local stores to donate goods to "sell" at the silent auction. This yuppie begging was stressful, but "worth it" she told me. She had been up early in the morning today, blowing up balloons and setting tables. She was very excited and pleased to hear that the event had "raised" $200,000 for the school. How much did the event cost I asked, "I don't know" she told me. I asked if she had a financial statement or even last years audit. She said it would be awkward to ask as they might construe it as nosy or even (gasp) accusatory. I reassured her and promised to tell her what the numbers showed.


When she sent me the audit report I quickly turned to the fundraising expenses page. There I found that their event coordinator was paid $60,000 per year, that the event had cost $100,000, that the lunch and hotel had cost another $40,000. In other words...the event had netted...Nothing. When I shared this information with the parent, she was devastated. "Why did I do all this work?" "Why did we do this event?"

Because, I told her...it makes people feel better.