Threshing Session on Making Financial Contributions

October 23, 2005

Topic:  Whether or not Patapsco Friends Meeting should make financial contributions

Fourteen Friends were in attendance.  A couple of people left without speaking.


A.    Should (or Why should) the Meeting support any Quaker or non-Quaker organizations, financially or otherwise?
B.    Reasons for the Meeting to make financial contributions to outside organizations/Reasons for the Meeting not to make financial contributions to outside organizations?

There was some discussion that the questions were not the right questions.  However, the session proceeded with people responding as they felt led.


1.    Wardell:  The Meeting should not financially support other organizations.  Individuals should make individual contributions to organizations.

2.    Ken:  It is important to make distinctions between three situations:
a.    Giving money to an organization because we want to support that organizations’ work;
b.    Responding financially to an organization that is already giving the Meeting something;
c.    Responding to an organization in which we as a Meeting are already participating in.
Ken feels sympathetic not to give money in the instance of (a) above.  But he thinks there may be an issue of integrity in responding to the other two instances.  The FGC is one example of this.  It provided materials to us.  The Yearly Meeting is another example, and in one way, we don’t have to deal with that issue because by deciding to be part of the Yearly Meeting, we necessarily have decided to be a part of the apportionment process.  IAF is another example.  If we as a Meeting embrace the IAF process and efforts, then we should contribute.
Also, we need to distinguish between individual discernment and collective discernment.   Ken has considered how helpful it would be to leave his money to the Patapsco Friends Meeting so that through the discernment of the group, they could decide what to do with it!

3.    Sam:  If you participate in an organization, you don’t necessarily give money.  There is a tradition in religious groups to support each other.  It is important for the Meeting to participate in the local county.  Taking the IAF as an example, it is just a nominal amount to participate and Sam supports the idea of our Meeting doing that.

4.    Bob:  Career has been spent in non-profits.  A big piece of that is raising money.  Sometimes you can barely manage the organization on the money you have.  There is a concept of Free Ridership (like National Public Radio).  Occasionally, there are non-profit Quaker organizations that will need some expenses covered to carry out their mission and these one time situations merit consideration.  Patapsco should give in the name of Patapsco to give support.  By doing so, in a way we are getting out name out to the community as a form of outreach.  Some outside groups get money by charging for things.  FCNL is an example of this.  When they have their general meeting, they charge for attendance.  And the payment of this – which the Meeting covered for him –  is really a contribution to the FCNL.  The same is true for Pendle Hill events.  You can make some distinctions between this kind of contribution, in which you are also paying from some goods/services, and the kind of contribution which is completely a contribution.  But the two are actually very similar.

5.    Ramona:  Has worked for non-profits in the past and is aware that when contributions are received, they are more than just money.  They represent a message of approval and support – an outreached hand saying “yes” to what that organization does, and expressing appreciation for the efforts of that organization.  If it’s just the money, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s from individuals or groups.  But it is more than just the money or the amount of money – it is a symbol of support – and therefore, it is important for Patapsco to give contributions to show its support as a Meeting for certain causes or organizations.  Patapsco is more than a collection of individuals.  It is an entity and as an entity it should be heard from.

6.    Jim:  Experience on the Sandy Spring Peace Committee in this regard had a strong effect.  The Peace Committee had a budget for contributions to outside organizations.  They didn’t really know why there were giving particular amounts to particular organizations.  And the people in the Meeting didn’t know to whom the money was going.  It was a rote action.  The Peace Committee proposed to the Sandy Spring Meeting to have a threshing session on what the Peace Committee should fund, and that proposal was rejected and was termed inappropriate.  Jim has great misgivings about back room decisions about where the money goes.  On the other hand, he wants to support members of the Meeting in their leadings.  If individuals feel that working for organizations is part of their path, this issue should be brought to the Meeting as a whole so they can benefit from the discernment.   But if our motivation to support organizations doing good work is not spiritually based, then this is not good.  Also, the Meeting shouldn’t be a pass through organization.  As an example of this, people shouldn’t give contributions to the Meeting earmarked for the FCNL, thus getting a tax deduction (FCNL is not a non-profit since it lobbies) and then expect the Meeting to pass those contributions along to the FCNL.  This is not what Quakers are about.
What does it mean to give a gift?  We don’t attach an expected result when we give a gift.  We aren’t making gifts to organizations, but rather we are making contributions to organizations for following a particular program.  There are organizations to which we all want to say, “Yes.”  Some organizations though don’t really need the money.  They don’t need for the Meeting to say “yes” to those organizations.  There is a great deal of divisiveness for a spiritual body to make a financial decision.  When we had this discussion before, one of the conclusions was to have a three ring binder for individuals to collect info in about organizations that other people can be helped to decide on individual contributions.  This wasn’t carried out, but it was a good idea.

7.  Rosemary:  Managed non-profits for most of career.  There is a feeling of support for the work when contributions received.  Most of the time, they were underfunded.  Outside support was more than the money.  In this kind of Quaker setting, there would need to be criteria and a process for contributions.  Would be interested in an open meeting for decisions to be made.  If we could design a procedure that the Meeting could support, Rosemary would support the Meeting making contributions.

8. Sherri:  Our Meeting has been talking about this topic for a long time.  She has worked in non-profits for many years, and grew up in a family without much money.  Has difficulty with the position that if we don’t participate actively in an organization that it’s meaningless to give a contribution.  Money is extremely valued for itself.  It is what pays the bills.  She is uncomfortable with withholding money when funds are needed, if we can’t give assistance and help as well.  Would support the Meeting corporately giving contributions.  When we withhold contributions, this says something about our Meeting.

9. John Farrell:  (sent via email)  I generally concur with the idea that as a meeting we don’t need to contribute money to outside organizations.  I believe it is important that we be aware of various organizations which provide services which we as Quakers support.  Accordingly, we have tried to provide periodic presentations from a variety of organizations so we at Patapsco Friends might be informed and more able to make contributions which we, as individuals, might find appropriate.
My concern about contributions to outside organizations focuses on the term ‘outside’.  I don’t consider other Quaker organizations which are working to support our professed values as Quakers, which are supported by BYM of which we are a part and contribute to financially, to be ‘outside’ organizations.  When the P&SJ Committee supported allocating part of our committee budget by sending AFCS $75.00 to co-sponsor the Eyes Wide Open exhibit, this decision was not supported by PFM.  Clearly, when we act as a committee we speak for Patapsco Friends Meeting.
I believe committees within PFM ought be to able to make special contributions in support of programs offered by fellow Quaker  groups with BYM.

10. Terry:  A few points:
a.  As a Meeting, we should not be wedded to a particular group or organization.  There needs to be ample accountability and visibility.  This shouldn’t be done out of habit.  We shouldn’t limit the number of groups.
b.  We can encourage personal giving.  People can give in the name of the Meeting.
c.  With regard to the idea of the list that Jim mentioned, Terry started to put together a draft of a list of groups, and this will be continued.  This can tie the individual giving to the Meeting as a whole.

11.  J…:  Has tremendously mixed feelings on this issue.  On the one hand, wants to support groups.  On the other, is not sure what process to decide this could work.  Isn’t clear whether such requests or proposals would come to the Meeting or to another group.  Thinks decisions need to be made by a broad group.  Doesn’t want the business meeting to be bogged down in a lot of controversy.  Wonders what process there could be to resolve this issue.  One thing she likes about the Meeting is that we are a small budget Meeting.  If we were to start making contributions to other organizations, it would mean more money to come into the Meeting and she is not sure that she wants that.  We don’t have a bunch of money hanging around.  We can also give time contributions rather than money contributions.  Monetary contributions are not the only way.  We need procedures that would work re: money without causing divisiveness.  It may not be worth it to discuss money issues.

12.  Susan:  It is a question of honoring our time.  Agrees with Wardell that it is individuals who give money.  It can be through the Meeting or we can give it directly, but it’s really individuals either way.  Possibly we could give as a Meeting if we could develop procedures and if we could decide who to give it to.  Being able to meet our budget would depend on some people giving money.  Sandy Spring had a significant budget for the Peace Committee to give money.  When it comes to maintenance, we need to give money for that.  Or, if we say we can’t meet our budget item for contributions if we don’t have money, there is a real problem with that.  It is hard to figure out what worthy causes to support.  It is a very important exercise for each person to do.  One Meeting got a big amount of money.  You can bet that they are having long long sessions trying to figure out what to do with it.  We can’t turn this responsibility over to the Meeting.  Susan really doesn’t understand the distinction between the individual and the entity.  If as a Meeting we sat and threshed and came to unity – this wouldn’t have anything to do with spiritual leadings.  And, this is not an issue of withholding money.  We don’t have money we are withholding.

13.  Ken:  The Development person for FGC has a new title:  Associate Secretary for Development and Interpretation.  Laboring in a business meeting over money is a teachable moment.  There is a benefit in learning about what the organization is trying to do – there is value in that.

14  John Buck (emailed to the clerk, but not read at the threshing session)  I would greatly appreciate it if the Meeting would contribute to selected organizations. The responsibility to select those organizations should be assigned to a present or newly formed committee. The organizations selected should be those that, in the judgment of the committee, reflect the values and concerns of the Meeting. My reasons are that (1) I think that the Meeting should make statements as a Meeting, (2) I might choose to make contributions to those organizations above and beyond what the Meeting makes and would benefit by someone else having vetted them first, and (3) I willingly delegate such decisions to a duly formed committee and do not feel that the decisions need to come before business meeting for approval.

15.  Doris Rausch (emailed to the clerk, but not read at the threshing session)  I agree with John that we do not NEED to contribute money to outside organizations.  However, if any outside organization has goals which we as Quakers could support, I see no reason why we, as a matter of principle, should not.

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