Right now isn't a time of great financial resources for me. Aside from having three small ones, the demands of a couple of jobs, plus charitable activity, we have a hard enough time month-to-month making ends meet. The stoic, American, Protestant-work ethic side of me sees that struggle as "a.ok". Life should be a little hard, then it's rewarding.
You Don't Need My Money
But, let's be honest: when I want to give, I give. Most people who ask for my money, I am just not inspired to give. Take my alma mater, the College of William and Mary. I get constantly barraged to give to help fund this grand iniaitive or build that new building or secure the future for our students. My heart strings are tugged because the College is my alma mater and because I know I benefited a great deal from the genorosity of others to get me through my four years.
And yet...I took a look at the school's financials! Boy! They're doing quite well. The endowment is growing at a steady clip. Investments are up. New facilities are attracting grant money. The Commonwealth of Virginia (thanks to my taxes) continues to fund the college at a generous clip. Students are enrolling. Tuition is up.
I have a hard time believing given the maturity and health of the institution that the College of William and Mary needs my $500 pledge. Oh,I'm sure they could use it, but given all the wealth they already have, I just don't think it's good stewardship on my part of give them more money when it's clear as day they don't need it.
I often feel the same, unfortunately, about my local diocese at the time of the Bishop's annual appeal. I know, it's a tough time for the Church, but I've taken a look at our local diocesean finances: they're doing quite well! There's a generous amount in savings, a growing endowment, a self-funded construction financing account, and well, no one is exactly loosing their job thanks to layoffs at the Diocesean or parish level. It's not clear to me that my generous response to the Bishop's appeal this year carries the moral weight to it that the appeal brings each time it is brought up in my parish Church.
A Marginal Advantage
No doubt, mature organizations like the Church and my college need continued generous support. But the way appeals are run every year (with the sales pitch of constant heart-strings on me) makes me wonder why fundraising for these organizations has taken on a life of its own. And often seems to be one of the key missions.
The truth is that in our daily fabric of society, there are a whole host of organizations flourishing and growing who could probably love my few dollars more than the large college or local diocese. That is, a fledgling start-up Catholic school can probably do more and marginally impact its trajectory more with my $500 than my local diocese.
When we Catholics speak of solidarity and subsidiarity—standing with one another and with those closest in need—we've got to think critically about the charities we support. Sometimes it makes sense to band together. But often charitable activity is nothing more than the rich getting richer. With a little forethought, we can do better.