Thinking Out Loud

July 12, 2015

The Charity Fundraising Paradox

dollar signAmid last week’s news, you may have missed a small tempest that was created when it was revealed that former U.S. President George W. Bush received a $100,000 fee for speaking at a fundraising gala for the Veteran’s Administration. The charity also paid $20,000 for a private jet to fly him to the event. Interviewed on ABC News, one veteran was particular upset that Bush had sent many soldiers into war, and was now reaping a personal profit from speaking at the charity which assists the wounded assimilate back into society.

The New York Daily News noted this as well:

Former Marine Eddie Wright, who served on the charity’s board and lost both hands in a 2004 rocket attack in Iraq, told ABC he didn’t think it was right for Bush to have been paid to raise money for vets through the group, which provides adapted homes to service members who became disabled in combat.

“You sent me to war,” Wright said of Bush, according to ABC.

“I was doing what you told me to do, gladly for you and our country and I have no regrets. But it’s kind of a slap in the face.”

While you might wish to join the ranks of the outraged, it’s worth noting that this particular gala event tends to raise at least one or two million dollars annually. It’s chairman is quoted at Huffington Post as saying,

“The event raised unprecedented funds that are putting our nation’s heroes into specially adapted homes throughout the United States. His presence was appreciated by the veterans and supporters of the organization.”

And therein lies the crux of the problem. In charity, as everywhere else, you have to spend money to make money. Recently here, we wrote about a situation that came to light in the Family Christian Stores hearings, that the bookstore was paid up to $185 for each fresh child sponsor the bookstore chain signed up. At that time we wrote,

Let’s do some math here.  The sponsor is paying World Vision $35 per month per child. That means that for the first 5.28 months, the organization has yet to break even. It’s really into the 6th month that the sponsor’s donation is free and clear, but of course there are also overhead costs in that $35 that we don’t know. 

In charity parlance, this type of thing is known as “development costs.” There are organizations that carry out this function in different ways; one of the most common is having someone on staff available to older donors for things like “estate planning” or “writing a will.” Years ago, I knew one large church that had a staff member for this purpose, though the modern megachurch tends to attract younger adherents, many of whom haven’t totally embraced the possibility they might someday die.

World Vision in particular is known for having a very high percentage of its operational costs committed to fundraising. For charities like them, the George W. Bush story is a no-brainer: You bring in whatever political figure, actor, singer, author, or sports hero that will attract the right crowd. You do it at whatever cost.

 

April 9, 2014

Wednesday Link List

New Pews

I am a linkoholicSo, if I go to see one of the many faith-focused movies currently running, can I skip church that weekend? While you ponder that, here’s this week’s link-o-rama:  Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, the link list’s benefactor.

Paul Wilkinson’s writing the rest of the week is made possible by readers at Thinking Out Loud and at C201, and by viewers like you.

Between Services - Sacred Sandwich

Above: After a forever away from posting something new, Sacred Sandwich awoke as from a giant sleep.

Below: This is from the Abandoned Pics Twitter feed: @AbandonedPics and is a wooden church somewhere in Russia. 

Click the respective images to link. (Or the irreverent ones.)

Abandoned Wooden Church in Russia

February 5, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Things I Hate

They left the worship band’s spotlights on during the sermon this week, and my pastor saw his shadow, which meant six more points before the benediction. Here are some links as I try to forget… 

Clicking anything below will take you to PARSE, which has exclusive rights to the mid-week link.

…if you’re new to this whole link list thing, I did a rare Weekend Link List about ten days ago with some reruns from 2011.

February 16, 2013

Group’s Future Relief and Development Funding Tied to Beliefs

crossroads-dot-ca-buildingA Canadian Press story published earlier this week by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) links the teachings of Crossroads Christian Communications on issues such as homosexuality, to a decision by the federal government to stop providing Crossroads with matching funding through its Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Crossroads, founded by Rev. David Mainse, produces Canada’s national daily Christian television program, 100 Huntley Street, as well as other Christian television shows for both domestic and foreign consumption. Its foreign missions division has projects running overseas, including the project in Uganda for which funding has been halted.

Typically, CIDA works alongside development organizations such as World Vision and matches the funds raised by the organizations within their own constituency. Past grants over the years to various groups have matched funding by as much as a 9:1 ratio.

“I have asked officials to review this organization before further payments are made,” tweeted Julian Fantino, International Cooperation Minister.

The group was receiving funding from the government of Canada for its work in Uganda, where gays and lesbians face severe threats.

The federal government has denounced virulent homophobia in that East African country and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has condemned plans for an anti-gay bill that could potentially include the death penalty for homosexuals.

Nevertheless, the federal government has been providing $544,813 in funding for Crossroads Christian Communications — an Ontario-based evangelical group that produces television programming — to help dig wells, build latrines and promote hygiene awareness in Uganda through 2014.

Until Tuesday, the organization’s website carried a list of “sexual sins” deemed to be “perversion”: “Turning from the true and/or proper purpose of sexual intercourse; misusing or abusing it, such as in pedophilia, homosexuality and lesbianism, sadism, masochism, transvestism, and bestiality.”

Lower down the page, the group asks sinners to “repent.”

continue reading here

In a later part of the article:

A study by the Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid concluded that, between 2005 and 2010, the funding for religious non-government organizations increased 42 per cent. Secular groups saw an increase of five per cent.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been asked about that disparity.

“We consider the efficiency of projects,” Harper replied during a Montreal news conference last month. “(We) do not consider the religion of groups promoting these projects.”

A further update from CBC News is available here.

Because many relief agencies are evangelical and share Crossroads’ views on social issues, this could spell the end of matching government funding for groups not willing to tone down or renounce their positions on subjects where they feel the Bible’s teaching is non-negotiable.

UPDATE (10:00 AM) — Turns out I missed some good background on this story — Crossroads isn’t the first to see its CIDA funding cut — at this item at Bene D.

November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: The Unheard Story

Today’s guest post is by Ruth, aka Mrs. W., the better writer in the family.


Hurricane Sandy came ashore.

Dozens dead. More dozens missing. Thousands homeless. Damage and repair costs in the hundreds of millions. Transportation crippled. Livelihoods destroyed or at risk. Infrastructure wiped out. Government in crisis. A population of in the range of 10,000,000 souls thrown into chaos once again, while still in recovery, still living with the ghosts of that earlier devastating hit.

Hurricane Sandy’s ‘hype’ has given way to the reality of trying to clean up the mess and put lives back together.

Oh, sorry. Did you think I meant New York?

Haiti and neighbors such as Cuba and The Dominican have been ploughed under yet again. And yet again they’re stumbling to their feet, shaking the mud out of their hair and looking around, wondering what the heck happened. The images are horrific. The statistics are numbing.

Most American and Canadian news coverage in the last few days has been focused so close to home that we’ve heard little about the three day drenching that has damaged more than 70 percent of Haiti’s food supply and created fears of a cholera epidemic like the one after the great earthquake. The epidemic that killed 7,000 people.

The poor are getting poorer.

New York has suffered a terrible blow. They have lost good and beloved people. Homes. Businesses. Entire neighborhoods. It’s easy to look at the pictures online of a damaged roller coaster and a yacht on the train tracks and forget that our friends to the south are genuinely suffering far more than just inconvenience. They are grieving and wondering how to rebuild.

But, like we in Canada, they are among the wealthiest people in the world. The poorest American is richer than the bulk of the people in other parts of the world. We have resources and forces and systems in place that are effective and well trained. Haitians have no such reservoir to draw from.

It’s time to look further than the six o’clock news and see the need that is born out of need. Lack upon lack. New York will take time to put things together again. Haiti doesn’t have that luxury.

New York needs our prayers and encouragement. Haiti needs our support. Food, medicine, building supplies. Find out how you can help.

~ Ruth Wilkinson

January 14, 2012

Wednesday Link List – Saturday Edition

Weekend List Lynx

The link list bucket is overflowing and needs to be emptied a few days early…

  • We’ll start out serious. Here’s a scorecard, so to speak, of how your persecuted brothers and sisters in other parts of the world made out over the holidays.  “Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions…”  Read. Pray.
  • Stuff Fundies Like has a Sunday School curriculum done in the style of the Westminster Catechism. If you grew up in church this is a must-read, must-forward.
  • Another Baptist church dumps the NIV in favor of the Baptist-owned HCSB translation.  If it turns out that the majority of SBC churches switch to the Holman-published HCSB, then this whole affair was undermined by a massive conflict of interest.
  • Mars Hill’s Shane Hipps reflects on the departure of Rob Bell.  “I was aware of something stirring in him for some time.  While I wasn’t surprised, I was full of grief and joy.”
  • Because the people need to know, here’s Justin Bieber’s take on the subject of church attendance.  “…I focus more on praying and talking to Him. I don’t have to go to church.”
  • And in the same vein, here’s rapper Jefferson Bethke’s rap, Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.  “Religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket.”
  • And going for the three-peat on this subject, here’s Matt Hafer’s take on why “good enough for church” just isn’t good enough.”People, without saying it out loud, seem to think that God exists in about 4 places.The church building…,funerals,hospitals, sporting events…”
  • Did you sponsor a child through Compassion or a similar organization?  For those who need motivation, here’s ten reasons to write your child.
  • For all the young moms and new moms in the audience: How does a mother in a large family create some time for God in the course of a day? Alyssa gives a great answer.
  • In one of the longest articles I’ve ever seen on Christianity Today online, Duanne Litfin writes about clothing; in particular, what we wear to church.  “…[W]e should not conclude too quickly that because God looks on the heart, what we wear to church doesn’t matter.”
  • Also at CT, an interview with David Crowder on the occasion of the band’s retirement after sixteen years, and David’s move to Atlanta. “There’s just so much life has passed among us, and the depth is really deep relationship feeling, friendship.”
  • The Wall Street Journal sits up and takes notice when Christian media company Salem Web Network surpasses one million Facebook friends. Be sure to read the last paragraph; you may interact with this corporation more than you realize.
  • And speaking of corporate culture, Shaun In The City thinks churches should rethink the concept of competition in ministry.  “In the end you end up with dozens (even hundreds & thousands) of organizations with similar missions, visions, and goals that are not only not speaking, but are often downright combative.  They miss collaborative opportunities and so much more because of this faulty way of thinking.”
  • Also on the topic of church, here’s a megachurch in Nigeria with a major staff shakeup involving the resignation of 200 pastors.
  • In an election year, we have to forgive our U.S. friends for forgetting that the rest of the world still exists. So we tend to ignore American politics here to balance things out, but this article accurately identifies the issues that the election brings to church in 2012.
  • Thanks this week for link leads goes to Todd Rhoades.

January 9, 2012

Our Post-Christmas Credit Card Crisis

Each year we say that instead of giving gifts to each other, we’re going to do something significant to help the third world, and a couple of years ago we got more serious about this and began a Christmas tradition of donating to water projects — the repair and restoration of fresh water wells — through the organization Partners International.

This year Partners sent us a catalog containing a variety of projects to which we could donate, and I decided to let the family have greater input into this than in previous years.  The various needs  in the Canadian organization’s mailing called Hope in Action were divided into different categories such as,

  • Children and Education
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Justice Issues
  • Women’s issues
  • Christian Witness
  • Health and Wellness

while Partners in the U.S. has a greater variety of potential giving themes in their catalog called Harvest of Hope.

The family seemed especially interested in projects which keep young women out of the sex trade overseas, or projects which help them not end up there to begin with.  One of these is listed on my receipt as item 8007C — Mahima Home — A Refuge for Girls Rescued From the Sex Trade — $300.00

We selected three projects that were certainly more expensive than our previous investment in water wells, and then added one more to top it off to an even number, a number that was larger than I expected when we first sat down around the computer.  “Oh well, it’s only money;” I remember saying at the time.

But then, like so many other families that overextend themselves over the holidays, we got a credit card bill which contained both our Partners projects and our regular expenses, not to mention the Christmas gifts that we actually gave.

And it’s all due on Friday.

“I think we need prayer;” I said to my wife when she read me the bill.

I then told her, “I think we should ask the pastor for prayer because I’ve run up our credit card on prostitutes.”

It would be funny if it were funny.

It got me thinking however, what about the person who does find themselves with an impossible credit card bill because they did spend too much on hookers?  You’ve got the sin of fornication combined with the sin of overspending, and they don’t cancel each other out.

I might just leave the prayer request at our church’s prayer email address anyway.  We’ll call it increasing global awareness.

December 24, 2011

Making Your Giving List and Checking It Twice

decemberBeing self employed and in retail means Christmas time isn’t a lot of fun. We just made the last of our supplier payments online. We don’t pay ourselves a salary, so getting bills paid is a major goal.

So this is a good time to start thinking about our personal finances, and in particular, our charitable donations. Not knowing exactly what our income is going to be makes it harder to figure out what we should be giving, but I don’t know anybody who, at tax time in April, looks at their receipts and says, “I should have given less.

Giving shouldn’t be done in December just to get a tax receipt. We give because we’ve been blessed, and because God commands it. But December is a good time to take stock of our personal finances and see what we can do to help others. 

You may be tempted to give something to charities in the broader market, but remember that the broader population will respond somewhat to their appeals. I believe there are Christian causes that only we can give to, and we should “do good to all… especially those which are of the household of faith.”

So who can we bless this year? Here’s some suggestions:

  • Our first responsibility is to our local church, the place we call our spiritual home, where we receive teaching, prayer support and fellowship
  • If there’s a “second” on the list, for many this year it is giving to relief and development in the third world, especially projects which are bringing fresh water wells to areas that don’t have potable water, aid the fight against human trafficking, provide start-up funds for micro-businesses, deal with health issues in countries where access to medicine is still limited, or assist oppressed people — especially women — see justice.
  • Is there someone in your area who does student ministry who is lacking in financial support? Consider urban missionaries and youth workers with Youth For Christ, Campus Crusade, InterVarsity and YWAM.
  • What about camp ministries? These make a huge difference in the lives of children, but aren’t fully supported by fees. Is there a Christian summer residential camp that is in need of funds for capital projects or to sponsor children in the summer?
  • What about your local Christian school? A regional Bible College, or Christian University College? Do they need money for capital projects, or are they operating at a deficit?
  • Do you have a local Christian radio station? This isn’t limited to the “preacher programs,” the stations themselves often need additional support to pay staff and overhead.
  • Who is working with the poor in your community? Is there someone providing meals, or transportation or moral support to people who are disadvantaged economically?
  • If you own or work in a bookstore, that means you love the written word. Consider those who are putting the scriptures in the hands of people who don’t have them, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators or the various Bible Societies.
  • You first considered your local church. Is there another church in your community that is doing good but struggling financially? This year we heard a story of one church putting another local church on their missions budget with a sizable donation. We’re all playing on the same team, and what a wonderful witness this is to those who think we’re competing.

Also, there may be a family in your community, or in your extended family, or someone you work with who cannot provide you with a tax receipt but needs a blessing this Christmas. Consider also directly donating to someone who is in need.

May 27, 2011

Friday Link List

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t the link list be on Wednesday?”  Well, these are a couple of longer items that bear closer scrutiny, and I didn’t want them to get lost in the list the day before yesterday.  So here goes…

  • Left Behind Theology.  Not everyone agrees with it, but it dominates Christian publishing, most eschatological discussions, and last weekend’s non-rapture event.   Won’t we be “caught up to meet Him in the air”?  The Greek word apantesis more implies going out to meet someone on the way, the way you might walk out to the driveway to welcome the family you invited for dinner, or perhaps, the way the invited guests might line up on the road to meet the bridegroom in a Jewish wedding in Bible times.  Also, according to Matthew Dickerson, the references to Noah are key to understanding Jesus’ statements about the last days.  Check out the Christianity Today article, Who Gets Left Behind?
  • Ever wonder what motivates some people to pursue the ministry ventures they do?  Pastoral callings are a little easier to understand, but callings to parachurch organizations are usually more complex.  In his continuing “five questions” series — though this one is actually nine Qs and As — Rick Apperson talks to Wess Stafford, the president and CEO of Compassion International.   Look… I know you guys aren’t big on clicking, but at least read the first question and answer, and I guarantee it will draw you into the rest of the article.  It’s a true survival story.   Check it out over at Rick’s blog, Just a Thought.
  • Here’s a bonus item; someone posted this video yesterday as a comment to a rather old item here, but the video is new.  The soundtrack is Timothy Keller preaching, author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God.  If you go to the source, there’s also a copy of the text, which some of you might want to keep on file.  [Note: Vimeo takes about three times longer than YouTube to load fully.]


Songs with substance
If you check the right hand margin over at Christianity 201, you’ll see that all of the various music resources that have appeared there are now listed and linked alphabetically. Take a moment to discover — or re-discover — some worship songs and modern hymns from different genres.

Today’s links list lynx is a Canadian Lynx as photographed by Max Waugh. Click the image to link to the lynx. 

February 18, 2011

When Better Isn’t Necessarily Better

Filed under: Church, evangelism — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:46 am

I live an hour east of Toronto, Canada in a town of about 16,000 which is somewhat twinned to a town of 18,500.  Between the two towns, not a lot happens, especially if we’re talking events of interest to the Christian community.  So when World Vision offered to include our area on its recent “Couples Night Out” tour, it was an offer not to be refused. The event featured Christian author and humorist Phil Callaway who probably spoke for at least an hour, but could have gone longer without anyone noticing.  And all for only $5 per couple.

Phil Callaway

Because Callaway is such a great communicator, the sponsoring local church decided to hold the event in a neutral auditorium, in this case the hotel next door; figuring that this would make it easier for people to invite “their non-churched friends” than having the event in a church building.  I don’t know to what extent people bought into that concept, but the event sold out all 400 seats, and Phil’s spoken content was, in one spot, definitely evangelistic.

Then someone stepped up with an idea to go one better, and use the banquet facilities of the hotel to offer a selection of desserts; a big change from an intermission that would, at best, consist of drinking coffee in a chuch lobby.  The dessert buffet was a gigantic and unexpected spread; even at 9:00 PM, I could have skipped dinner and simply waited for this.

It was a great evening, which also featured Jay Calder, who I can’t describe except to say that “classical guitarist” is too limiting to define what he does with the instrument.

But there was one catch. I mean, if you read this blog regularly, you knew there has to be a catch, right?

The intermission is the time for responding to the World Vision appeal for child sponsorships. That is the primary purpose of the evening. And the organizers were “disappointed” in the results at this particular event.

That’s because during the time we were supposed to be thinking about our response to the needs of hungry children, we were filling our stomachs with — among other things — chocolate dipped strawberries, bread pudding and banana crepes.

While I’m not a huge fan of the organization, I keep thinking that we went home full while World Vision came up empty.

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