Recently I took some time and volunteered for a black-tie, non-profit gala. I have known the folks there for many years. They are all kind and passionate, so I felt like helping with their high-profile affair was the decent thing to do. I do not have the capability to make the sort of financial contributions that they were after, so standing around in a suit and moving tables and chairs was what I offered.
Let me state that I have no great love for black-tie events. Given a choice, I will attend as many occasions as possible in jeans and a t-shirt. I have a cat that I like napping with and hugging; keeping cat hair off of clothes, especially pristine, all-black ones, is a chore. Mostly, I think life is too short for dressing up on a regular basis. I wore my nice pants to work the day before the gala and I spent far too much time over-planning every step I took so as not to damage or ding my attire. In short, life is too short for tying ties and touching up make-up.
Perhaps my biggest quibble with non-profit galas is the sheer financial logistics of it all. Thousands of dollars are spent so that thousands will be donated. In order to court funding and gifts, organizations know that they have to put on a big show. Rent a space, rent furniture to fill the room, offer giveaways and raffles, make sure the food is A-plus, and dress to impress. That does not even include the hours and stress involved for those arranging and staffing the event.
I feel that if you are going to make a donation, you should expect nothing in return.
If you care about something, you should strive to support it. Not because you know you will receive some sort of reward for your efforts, but because you care about that area and think it deserves to thrive.
I tithe to my church because I feel God wants me to and I could never fully repay God for all the blessings I have already received. I remind people about cancer treatments and try to make donations because my best friend had cancer once and I am thankful she beat it. I volunteered for the black gala in part because of the impact their organization had on me as a child and because of the quality of work they continue to do.
I understand that people like to dress up. If a friend wants to celebrate, then yes, I will put on a dad-gum tie. (You are encouraged to wear comfortable/ non-expensive attire when celebrating with me. Honest.) Yet the whole process still strikes me as disingenuous. You are invited to a party so long as you understand the expectation that you will give money which will cost you more than the money you could have just given from home. To my logic-influenced mind, it does not add up. Of course, it could also be that I am a terrible schmoozer.
Yes, it is a bit of a jerk-move to criticize the donations others make. I offer that I am, “hating the game, not the players”. I feel that the system that is in place allows for a lot of money to be spent paying for such events when it could be spent on the non-profits themselves.
It is all well and good to sit here and comfortable criticize. What alternatives do I offer?
Tom Crist; that is who I offer.
In December of 2013, Crist made his public announcement that he had won a $40-million lottery. However, as he stated, he had done fine for himself financially and did not need all that extra money. So in honor of his late wife who had died two years earlier of cancer, he decided that all those millions of dollars should go to charities. He could have been extravagant in his living, but he chose to keep his life simple and celebrate a woman who he felt as an extravagant gift to him.
Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn gave his $14million stock bonus back to his employees to cover a shortfall. Mark Zuckerberg is giving away 99% of his Facebook shares. Tencent, a Chinese tech company, has a CEO named Pony Ma who is gradually giving away over $2 billion dollars to health care, education, and the environment.
These people will still have enough money to pay their bills, sure, but that does not mean that take away from the good their money will do. Warrant Buffett and Bill Gates are essentially making donations their full-time job. Buffett has given away about $25 billion dollars thus far. Bill and Melinda Gates have made some famous donations to combat disease and helping the education system. They have given over $30 billion to make the world better.
None of the people listed above will get a tenable reward for their giving. They gave because they could and it was the right thing to do. No fancy shindigs were required. No raffle tickets were harmed in the process. They simply gave.
Everyone gives how they best see fit. I have no right to tell others how to spend their money. But I do encourage considering it, even if the giving process does not include a several-course meal or a champagne glass.