This post is inspired by the article, “Doing Good Well” by Charles Schade, which appears in the February issue of Friends Journal. I think that many Friends organizations are long overdue for the kind of evaluation which he shares. It’s also very helpful that he presented the various organizations side-by-side so that readers could compare them (similar to my own post, What Does Your Yearly Meeting Web Site Say About You? ).
I have served for quite a few years in three different yearly meetings on committees which were responsible for setting the budgets for giving to large Quaker organizations. Charles Schades’s guidelines would have been very valuable to us. Many yearly meetings practice what I call “budgeting by inertia” – they simply give the same amount, unchanged year after year (sometimes decade after decade!) without question or discussion.
When I served as clerk, I tried to get Friends to think a little more about their giving to Quaker organizations. Here are some of the questions I ask:
- Has the group asked us for financial support? Have they asked for a specific amount? Have we given to this group previously?
- If we’ve given to them before, did they send us a receipt, thank-you or acknowledgment?
- Did they send us a copy of their budget or a financial report?
- Are we making a meaningful contribution? Does our gift make a difference? Or is ours just a token gift?
- Do we help publicize their work in our meeting? Are we educating ourselves about the work of this group, or about the conditions they are trying to help?
- What percentage of their budget is being spent on fundraising?
- Is the group effective? Has their work made any difference, either in the lives of individuals served or in the problems the group is trying to address?
- Are the goals or mission of the group in harmony with those of our meeting? Do any Friends have serious reservations about the goals, mission or activities of the group? If so, are we willing to labor with them?
- Have we had any personal contact with the group? Has anyone from our meeting visited there recently? Are they willing to send someone to visit with us?
- If our support for the group is ongoing, has our giving to them kept pace with inflation? Have we given the same amount for many years? What rationale is there for the amount we give?
Charles Schade’s article is addressed more towards the clarity and transparency of the receiving organization, while my questions are aimed more at the process and self-evaluation of the donor organization. In my experience, Quaker meetings tend not to be thoughtful donors (which means we aren’t very good stewards).
I hope Charles Schade’s article read and discussed widely, both by local and yearly meetings and (hopefully) by the organizations which ask us for support.