Thursday, January 25, 2007

they shoot horses, don't they? well, duh!

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.


Molly Malone said...

i love it when you have a little scotch in your belly!

... you're right about the budget fairy. i'm still waiting for her to come and drop a couple thou in my lap to defray school costs.

ding said...

ah, a little scotch and who knows what i'll say!

i just think that those of us who don't work in private enterprise are incredibly naive about money. cash is evil, it's bad, blah blah. probably so.

but it's also the thing that makes an organization actually operate - if you don't want to be a completely volunteer organization (which some non profits are). i'm not saying that cash is the most important thing to consider but let's not discount the role it plays in our work. that's all i'm sayin'.

RC said...

man, fundraising is hard work...i mean look at the word...raising funds...

no one wants to part with their money, unless they're buying something, so fundraisers have to be the greatest marketers of them all.

best of luck.

Wasp Jerky said...

I think the secret is more scotch.

I am, incidentally, always available for cocktail hour. Preferably cocktail evening or cocktail half a day.

ding said...

sometimes i have a bill o'reilly moment and wax nostalgic for those days long past when folks had those liquid lunches or smoked at their desks. i want to smoke at my desk. i think better.

really, i do.

so, hey, whenever you want to have a cocktail day, count me in.

ding said...

fundraising *is* hard.
it's putting your hand out, asking for what you need, but having to do it in the most possible way instead of coming out and saying, 'look, you're totally loaded and you owe it to society to not be a complete capitalist pig. give us some cash and you'll feel better.'

how much easier if all social/financial transactions could be that honest. but, alas. we have to do the dance of fundraising.

ding said...

i meant 'in the most positive way.'
'possible way'?

i must be tired.

Wasp Jerky said...

Well, it will have to be warmer than 5 degrees outside, but you got it.

ding said...

it'll *never* be warmer than 5 degrees...

Wasp Jerky said...

It better be. I can't take this anymore.

ding said...

i woke up this morning and saw the sky and almost cried.
all i want to do is call in sick and go to the movies all day.

and eat cupcakes.

Wasp Jerky said...

mmmm. movies and cupcakes. and vodka.

ding said...

hey! i think it's above 5 degrees today.

Wasp Jerky said...

Now if it will stay that way.