Tuesday, June 17

Sustainable Fund Raising

In my real life, I'm active in a vibrant, urban church. In fact, I'm on both the Fundraising Committee and the Board. This after a decade of doing youth and young adult ministry. One of the things I am wrestling with now is how I can do a better job of integrating my concerns about climate change and peak oil into my work at the church.

My concerns are very much influenced by my faith. I think climate change and peak oil have the potential to cause massive human suffering, and therefore I have a responsibility to do what I can to avoid that. I believe that a benevolent and powerful deity exists, but I know that throughout history God has often not prevented human made or natural catastrophes. The Black Plague and the Potato Famine come to mind. In Bible college I developed a passion for the writings of the minor prophets, and over and over again they cry out to the people for the sin of being overweight while others starve. I think we're in a situation where the people who have the money have all the options and the people who don't are going to live or die based on how we spend it.

Okay. So that's the long and short of how an evangelical Christian can get really motivated by Global Warming. What does it mean in practical terms? Well, it means that I can influence a building other than my home. Buildings are estimated to contribute 48% of the CO2 produced on a daily basis, and commercial buildings constitute 17% of that. So everything I do for my home, I should be eager to also do for my church home. That includes paying for CFL and LED lighting and leading a project to change bulbs and continuing to look like a stick in the mud when I resist replacing our swamp coolers with AC.

It means that I can be a voice for less car-dependent congregational life. Home study groups can draw neighbors together instead of asking everyone to drive into church for every event. E-mail lists can allow for planning to happen outside of meetings. Providing secure, supervised bike storage can encourage more bike riding. And planning for public transportation and ride sharing would allow more people to engage those options (and perhaps encourage the bus system to run more buses on Sunday...)

And then there's fund raising. Fund raising is an essential element of most urban churches, just as it is of most school districts. As much as we grooved on the idea of "paying it forward" for a couple of years, we've lost the sense that by investing real money in our communities we are actually paying ourselves forward. We forget we benefit when we have strong schools even when we don't have kids going to them. Our churches compete with our shopping and for many of us, what church we go to and whether we go at all is subject to whims. So the idea of setting a significant chunk of my money aside for something that other people are getting more benefit from than I am is totally foreign.

Fund raising is designed to get organizations enough to survive on by providing you some other good or service you need or want. It puts these organizations back in the mall, obviously arguing for those dollars. So, how do we do that sustainably? At my church, we look for the following opportunities:

  • Events that bring people together. One thing we do is for the summer months we have a barbecue after church on the lawn. We encourage people to buy lunch from us and stick around to have conversations.
  • Re-sell items. We don't have a thrift shop, and I don't think we could get one to fly, but we have two events where we ask people to donate sell-able goods and then throw an event to sell them off.
  • Sell services. We have a service auction where we auction off service donations ranging from haircuts to hotel stays.
  • Events that showcase talents. We have enough musical and performance talent in our church to do concerts to raise money.
  • Events that turn time into money. We have a contract with the local sports arena to staff a booth during season games. It works out to about minimum wage for the folks working, but the church gets the money and the stadium gets a booth full of folks who normally get paid more than minimum wage.
  • Sell value-added items. A few years ago we gave up on the chocolate and wrapping paper sales. On the food side of things, there are many people in our congregation living with diabetes and heart disease. We knew the pool of people who could buy candy in good conscience was much smaller than the pool of people who wanted to give money. We also ran the numbers and hated the margins we were looking at. A $1 candy bar might net fifty cents for the church, but the time and the guilt associated really eroded that. We found a nursery that would sell us plants at wholesale, so we pot them up and get them ready and have a plant sale. We've also designed an attractive necklace we can make from items we buy direct from the cottage industries that make them and sell them, making 90% profit, as long as the labor is donated.
This is our stab at fund raising that supports our community in a holistic way.

Personally, I am urging us to look at some of the following as well:
  • Waste-free events. We don't have a dishwasher or a working kitchen, so this is a little tough right now. But I think it's a good goal to work for.
  • Using our property for power generation. Our buildings are mostly empty during work hours, which would allow us to upload solar and/or wind-generated electricity to the grid during peak use and download it during off hours.
  • Selling home improvement items. I'd love to see us sell compact fluorescents as a fund raiser. I can't find a way to get our cost below what Home Depot sells them for when the local utility is doing their specials though.
  • E-waste collection. One stream is to collect usable items and sell them to a re-seller. This is recent mobile phones and items like that. The other stream is things like CRTs. I think this would take an 'angel' to establish a bounty program. For every CRT donated, the organization gets a couple bucks and the recycling fee is covered.
  • Low carbon fast. I think it would be interesting to get a Sunday School class or whole church to fast beef or most meat for a month and to make a donation to the church for every pound of meat avoided. Perhaps during Lent... Could also work for household improvements. Avoid using lights after 9 pm for a month and give .25 cents to the church for every kilowatt hour saved.
  • Swap-o-Rama-Rama. An event where people come and re-make used items for their own use. Extra items could possibly be sold as a fund raiser.
  • Honey-Do list. Keep a list of personal errands at the church. People who put something on the list add what kind of help they want and how much they're willing to donate for it. People who do the work go and see what's needed. Helps turn talent and time into cash.


monkey said...

composty perhaps? :)
(i dont know how hard it is or cost effective to get the stuff... but it cant be too much cause they do it at the farmer's market)

meybeh ^,^
it would eliminate the dishwasher aspect.

start a church garden with composty goodness maybe? ^,^

monkey said...

what is a CRT?
i do like the reselling thing. just gotta make sure to post standards clearly, and of course, have a place to send it... :)

i gotta ask, what's your demographics generally look like?

(i did see the part bout heart and other health issues) perhaps settin up some classes on cooking or general living? i mean..... not the traditional doomy shtuff, but how to make somethin just a little better even though it's not what your'e used to type classes? :) (if you can get a person to teach?)

monkey said...

ps: i love you and i worry about you occasionally.
i am excited about what you posted here, and i think they will work :) some might be harder than others, but i can see the pictures moving and it's good :)

i just want to remind you of something you posted a while ago in your journal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005
"Don't Go Insane"

christy said...

thanks for commenting on my blog! i am really interested in some of the things you are thinking about with this post....especially like the "carbon fast" idea. if not corporately, i think that would be a great exercise personally for me.

John Thompson said...

"Massive Human Suffering" - a presentation I attended last year noted that melting of the Greenland Ice Cap (**see below if you don't understand land-based ice vs sea-based ice) could cause coastal flooding sufficient to displace 60-100 Million people. It's my belief, despite statements of and focus on religious difference, that much of the Middle Eastern tensions stem from shortage of resources - water, arable land. The country of Iran has 26 million people. THINK what the displacement of another 60-100 million will do for Geo-Political tensions, world-wide. And, I'm not just talking about distant lands. I'm talking about 20-50% of Connecticut disappearing into the Ocean; Manhattan underwater; Florida half gone. You cannot imagine the consequences.

** Land-based ice caps sit 'out of' the water. When they melt, water levels rise. By contrast, ice that is floating in the world's seas now, when melted, will cause no ocean rise. It's like this - put ice cubes in a tumbler of water. Fill it to the top. When the ice melts, it still does not overflow. But if you hold the ice in your hand and let it drip into the full tumbler, it will all spill out. So it is with land-based ice pack - its melt will raise sea levels around the world. Don't believe it? The Greenland ice pack is wll over a mile thick, and now melting from its base - flowing into the northern oceans.


From Wikipedia: If the entire ice mass were to melt, it would lead to a global sea level rise of 23.6. This would inundate most coastal cities in the world and remove several small island countries from the face of Earth.

Jo said...

Hi! Thank you for your post. I'm also really interesting in understanding how to live responsibly in the context of faith, so it was really great to encounter a similar desire.

To speak to the subject of your post, becoming waste free might require vermicomposting. I know a hotel in Cape Town that is able to dispose of all their organic waste, including paper goods (apart from the thin waxy film) by vermicomposting, so it has massive potential on a large scale but I would have to do more research into how much this has been done on a large scale. It has the bonus of being really fun and pretty fast.

Thank you!
Jo (www.concretegardener.com)

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.