i was at the planned parenthood gala/fundraiser tonight. i worked a little late so i missed half the cocktail hour and i've resolved that, next year, i am not going alone. it was totally boring without someone to dish with and get secretly smashed.
however, todd stroger, our new county board president, was there. he's really short. (i will ignore the fact that he looks like a guy i dated in my dad's church.) and his handwritten nametag gave him a forlorn, paddington bear kind of air. poor thing. (everyone called him Urkel behind his back.) but, hey, why should i feel sorry for him? there he is, in a feminist organization's annual gala, rubbing elbows with other politicos (like gov. rod blagojevich, jan schakowsky and carol ronen). he's made in the shade. but he's also the guy who's proposing to get rid of the women's justice services dept in the sherrif's dept (meanwhile, men's services stay intact.) i wonder if he felt the irony. i know i did. i wonder if anyone approached him to ask him about it. probably not.
then i hung out in the bar to drink a glass of jameson's and overheard some staffers complain that the big donors got tables while the frontline staff didn't; she railed on about the hyprocrisy and i hid a smile. i've heard this complaint before, from folks in my own organization, and i have to admit to a certain lack of patience with the complaint. it's petty and painfully childish.
in a perfect world, organizations that provide crucial social and human services would be fueled by all the good feelings it produces in the world. butterflies would bring me coffee and birds would read my email; then, a blue fairy would hit me with her wand and i'd suddenly become a real boy.
but, alas, we live in the world of cold, hard cash. the money that staffer is so quick to scoff at actually means something to the organization. it's a fucking line item in the budget - a line item that needs to exist if the organization is going to keep functioning.
fundraisers aren't about recognizing the hard work of front line staff; unfortunate, but true. they're about the story we tell donors so we can get our hands on their money. they're marginally about the work we do. what they're really about is telling a great story of our organization to the donor so the donor can feel good about parting with hefty sums of cash. it's an intricate dance of seduction - and, if you've done the job well, you will celebrate and feel a little icky that you've just spent one night whoring yourself out for nearly $1 million. (hence all the folks who shook hands with todd stroger with gritted teeth.)
yes. $1 million dollars. what would you do for $1 million, knowing that it pays for programs, overhead, education, advocacy capacity, and direct service? can those of us in the nonprofit arena afford to be so frakking naive about how our organizations operate and what our money is used for? with the increasing strictures of govt funding and private sources of funding becoming even more important, i think not.
(this is also what i think about my church's huge annual fundraiser; it's glitzy, obscenely rich and raises scads of cash for our social service center. a center that doesn't bring in PROFIT but needs to spend money in order to operate. while some folks get skeeved out about a church raising this amount of cash in this manner, i think, what else is it going to do? wait for the Budget Fairy to stop by?)
so i say this to all the true believer non-profiters out there who think the taint of cash pollutes their mission and work:
leave graduate school behind and frakking grow up a little.