Saturday, April 11, 2009

Those Parking Spaces Close to the Building

I've been thinking lately about our Catholic mission and some of our fundraising practices. With the economy dipping and all of us fearing late tuition payments and falling enrollments the importance of annual appeals and third source fund raisers becomes even more critical.

One common practice is to auction off certain naming rights or privileges. We frequently auction off annual naming rights for our gymnasium and of course the two parking spaces closest to the front doors. I don't know why but as of late these practices seem to bother me. Maybe it's because I recently finished E.F. Schumacher's "Small if Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered" (It's a fabulous read and I highly recommend it) Maybe it is just the effects of a long Lent. I wonder though what message it sends when the first impression we often make to our visitors is here are the parking spaces for the rich children or here is the gym named for the local business. We claim our mission is to make the world a better place - where the Gospel message radiates the love of Christ through our own lives to those around us. I wonder how this practice helps accomplish the mission.

Philanthropy is great and I don't mean to discourage our community members from supporting our mission with their donations. We all know these families could just as easily spend these dollars elsewhere. Obviously we are thankful for all the gifts we receive. We need their support but I sometimes wonder where the line needs to be drawn. What if we put a sign over the closest parking space that said "Reserved for the Least Among Us." It would be interesting to see who takes the space at the next sold out basketball game. I suppose in some ways this type of giving and public naming might encourage others to give - a type of positive peer pressure.

We are gearing up for a building campaign and these issues will become critical over the next three to four years of our school's existence. I suppose it is to dreamy to imagine the science wing donated to the anonymous giver or the "we give because we care" performing arts center.

I realize I am a total hypocrite as I recently purchased at my local grade school's auction the first rows for my sons' upcoming first communion. The price was only $48 but then again that number rings a little too close to 30 pieces of silver. I've been assured it isn't simony to sit in the front row but then again somehow I feel like one of those money changers Jesus came chasing after.