Fund-Raising and Participation

by L

Totebaggers, many of us have experience with mandatory fund-raising as part of a group. We may have been part of the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts as kids (with cookie- or candy- or gift wrap-selling expectations), or now have kids in those programs; we may be board members of a nonprofit; we may be officers of a church; we may be part of a non-profit social group, masonic lodge, etc. Or our workplace may do an “optional” fund-raiser with the United Way.

My small non-profit had a very poorly attended fund-raiser recently. Many of the members of the group, and about 1/4 of the board members, did not attend! Should we be forcing members to attend or buy tickets? If so, what would be the best way to communicate this expectation to the group? If you have experience with this type of fund-raising, what strategies have worked best for you and your organization? If your workplace sponsors a United Way or similar fund-raiser, do you contribute (and if so, do you feel forced to contribute)?


128 thoughts on “Fund-Raising and Participation

  1. Should we be forcing members to attend or buy tickets? If so, what would be the best way to communicate this expectation to the group?
    Well, I don’t know how you do that and succeed in keeping your membership. Or if current members are unable/unwilling to fund the cause, maybe you don’t want them anyway. Do members pay dues now? Can you increase dues and drop the fundraiser?

    If you have experience with this type of fund-raising, what strategies have worked best for you and your organization? My only experience is with two organizations both of which have been strong locally for ~60 years at this point and have large current participation and large local alumni bases, so it makes it pretty easy to get critical mass for their annual fundraisers without relying solely on current members and a smattering from the community.

    If your workplace sponsors a United Way or similar fund-raiser, do you contribute (and if so, do you feel forced to contribute)? Yes. I have always participated in United Way, but at a pretty small level. My current group has 100% participation, so personally I want to be part of that. And it’s a low level. And I direct the donation to a group DW volunteers with.

  2. DD’s FFA group is having a donkey basketball contest next week as a fundraiser. How’s that for being totally untotebaggy? What is amazing to me is that there is a company ( that does this full time. PTM-perhaps you should suggest to your PTA group to do this as a fundraiser next year instead of the gift baskets. DD easily goes between the farm group and the calculus track at school, so don’t think that we are total rednecks.

  3. My two cents re: United Way – I give like $20 because it is “mandatory” at my work, but I don’t like doing it.

    I freeload at the elementary school – I am not involved in the PTA nor do I give money to the fundraiser. If they have a fundraiser for specific goods I will bring those in a bag. So I do have experience with being a slacker! :) Not sure how that translates into an organization that is membership-based – should we be expecting the same proportion of slackers among the members?

    Our nonprofit doesn’t have a lot of $$ – our budget for the year is right around 90 to 100K. About 30-40% of that is from a wealthy donor and we make up the rest in donations and ticket sales.

  4. I belong to a charitable organization with fundraisers. Members are expected to attend and sell ticket or buy. Spouses are impressed into service as well. DH also belongs to a similar organization. The expectation is communicated explicitly on joining. For example, prospectgive members are told that we do a fundraiser each year for this purpose, and everyone is expected to sell tickets and work at it. Here is the day. This is a different situation that trying to communicate the expectation to existing members. Members pay dues and there are fines for not attending events.

    My former workplace had a United Way fundraiser. I never participated. There were plenty of opportunities in my community to donate, and I had strong certainty the money was going to causes I supported.

  5. Fred – members are in the organization because they want to sing in this kind of group. We pick people for the group based on their singing ability, not on their donation ability. ;) Many similar groups do force members to buy a certain number of tickets to the concerts, so we could start doing that, I suppose.

  6. I participate in a few fund raisers at work. The group tries to keep the events very low key and such that most people can participate – like potlucks or cook offs with a donation to a cause.
    With fund raisers that take place year after year, it is tough to keep interest going unless you have new members or change the event up (in case of school fund raising events the new parents are the most enthusiastic, this wanes as your kid get older). I’m assuming this is what is happening with your fund raiser. We have consolidated our giving and I like giving directly vs. sending it indirectly through work place donations.

  7. Whenever I’m asked to join a Board of a charitable organization, I ask “how much?” I’ve significantly decreased this type of activity because of the fundraising/donation expectations. DH and I are very involved in the kids’ schools and Boy Scouts–donating both significant time and money. I also donate and volunteer for a dog rescue organization. That’s enough for now.

  8. I wouldn’t try to force people to attend without asking whether the fundraiser is the right thing to do in the first place. I helped with the logistics for a local fundraiser auction last year at the request of a friend on the board- the logistics had gone poorly in previous years and they went fine with a logistics-minded person in charge. Our school does baskets for auction and this reminds me that I should send in a small cash contribution for the people who like this sort of thing.

    So far, we’ve refused to sell anything although I can imagine staffing a booth at the grocery store someday.

    We participate in school stuff we want to do (carnival, etc.) and contribute to the school via DH’s employer, who matches the contribution. Contributions pay for field trips, art supplies, etc.

  9. Sheep, a million years ago when I was class president in high school, we sponsored a donkey basketball event. I have never felt so bad in my entire life! In walked these tired (they looked old), worn, little donkeys and we made them shuffle along the basketball court for what seemed like eons.

    I swear that started a life-long distaste for performing animals. I had no idea donkey basketball still existed. I’d make seven baskets before I would support that.

    I think event board of directors should definitely be required to attend and contribute to their events. Period. If you’re sponsoring or endorsing it, go to it or at least contribute. The Mothers Club holds an annual prom. I hate it and I won’t go. But I help set up. And I buy a ticket for my wife and me both of whom do not attend for different reasons. I also underwrite the cost of beer for the poor dads who are forced to come. (I am very popular.)

    And I hate the United Way (overhead), but when I was in biglaw I had to contribute quite a bit each year. It was not in any way, form or fashion “optional”. That pissed me off.

  10. I think forcing people to attend a fundraiser or buy tickets is the wrong way to go. I work with a volunteer board and we have them sign an agreement upfront which states that this board will be one of their top three philanthropic priorities, which leaves the amount open ended, and they are expected to participate in some way (maybe they can’t always come to board meetings but can do conference calls, mentor a student, give more money, etc.). My feeling is when you give a specific dollar amount, people will give that and no more and when you require attendance it reduces enthusiasm.

  11. Like PTM, I don’t like giving to the United Way because of the overhead. Also, because of the way they distribute funds, directing your donation just means you free up an equal amount to be distributed elsewhere, so it’s not the same as directly donating. I prefer to just give directly to local causes. But PTM is right–if you have any plans to stick around in biglaw, it is not really optional. We didn’t so we didn’t participate in the UW drive.

  12. This doesn’t answer L’s question at all, but I’ve been participating in the church men’s group charity event where we do a day of fast/intense home renovations for a poor person.

    It’s fun for me to get some instruction in very basic home repairs and manual labor. This year I removed old siding (with crowbars and claws), helped build a new deck, and installed a new sliding glass door. One of the guys who always leads the work is the same one we’ve hired for a number of our own house projects, so I feel like I get to learn a small fraction of his skills, and he’s a patient teacher. A number of the volunteers are office rats like me who need instruction in how to use a hammer, and another portion are contractor types in their weekday lives. I think it’s much more admirable for them to come out to do this, because it’s not a break or novelty for them; it’s just the same work they’re doing Monday through Friday.

    Sometimes I wonder, as I’m wont to do, how a particular beneficiary has gotten so helpless. In the most recent case, the guy who is living alone in a total hoarder’s pig sty was sort of disabled because he was still recovering from a foot surgery and, at times, scooting around the yard on one of those scooters you see at Disney World. At other times he was walking around like normal and chatting. So I imagine he’s on SS Disability, and if working would mean he loses eligibility for that, you can’t hardly blame him for making the logical choice. On the other hand, he’s a good 10 years younger than my parents, and a couple of the older volunteers that were doing all this work for him very clearly had their own physical ailments that they’re dealing with, and as one, who’s still working full time in roofing said, “I just don’t have the good sense to stop working.”

    It’s never as exciting or fulfilling as one might imagine from watching the TV shows or even Habitat for Humanity pictures. We just have a very limited scope of things to fix and a limited budget. We didn’t leave a shiny, brand new house with freshly painted walls and new floors. What we left was slightly more functional and better suited for the weather, but still a disgusting disaster inside.

  13. Could you send out a group email, explain what happened at the fundraiser, and solicit suggestions for how to proceed?

    As some of you are aware our X event was lightly attended and raised $Y. We need Z to maintain current programs.

    We have a few choices:
    – eliminate activity 1, 2, or 3
    – hold another fundraiser
    – start a membership fee which will cover baseline activities, and then charge or fundraise for extras

    Then ask for any other suggestions and put it to a vote.

    I hate the constant fundraising from my alma maters. I paid over $100k for each of them, I still have loans to pay off, and they both have multibillion dollar endowments. Stop sending me mail every month, calling, and cajoling my classmates to email me, as nothing I could send could make any difference to anyone. It puts me off all other charitable solicitation because it is so incessant.

  14. @L — Ah, ok, that makes more sense — I was wondering why someone who cared enough about a particular issue to be on the board of a charity wouldn’t care enough to attend that charity’s major annual fundraiser to support that issue. But if it’s a singing group that people join because they like to sing and do it well, I can totally see why they might not be so interested in the logistics/$ involved in keeping the group running.

    I do know there are groups that rely on major annual fundraisers to fund the ongoing operations, where the fundraiser itself has become a big to-do and is almost self-sustaining. But I think that is the exception instead of the rule. I think most of us have enough demands on our time/money already, and another invite inspires more of a “not again” approach.

    So I would tend toward pretty frank with people — send people letters, call a special budget meeting, whatever to get their attention. Tell them that historically, you have relied on this fundraiser; that this year’s flopped, and you are now $XX short of expectations; and that the extremely low attendance, even by people who are very committed to this group, seems to indicate that people just aren’t interested in this approach. You can then suggest some other pre-thought-out options — i.e., continue the fundraiser, with every member responsible for selling XX tickets or contributing the equivalent in cash; impose a dues structure across the entire membership; impose dues/fundraising expectations on the Board; call on individuals with connections to bring in corporate sponsors/individual gifts; bring in a consulting company to help you run a capital campaign; create an alternate fundraiser that people are interested in; or shut the club down. Etc. And then give people plenty of time to debate and come up with alternatives. And then make them vote — it’s the only way to get buy-in from the existing members.

    Note: the key is to make sure that all of your options are coupled with binding commitments that will ensure the group brings in enough $$ to survive. Because IME, the immediate response will be “oh, the fundraiser is wonderful, we need to keep doing that, of course we always *try* to come” — and then the same thing happens next year.

    Oh: and expect to lose some people whatever you do. Some folks don’t like change; others may enjoy your club as long as they can freeload; etc.

  15. LfB – good ideas. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the organization can survive WITHOUT the current big donor, which is not possible right now, but I doubt that push will come to shove as long as the big donor is active, healthy, etc. A survey is in the works for the membership.

    As a side note, we have no specific asks of the board for donations – contributions probably range from 100 to 5000/year from board members, average more like 400.

  16. Oh, and as another side note. We have never had success with fundraising *events*, but this year was particularly bad. Fundraisers have never managed to raise more than say $3K/year. We have had more success with “match” donation challenges.

  17. L, if fundraising events have such a poor track record, why keep doing them? Do they enhance the camaraderie of the group?

    If there’s no benefit other than the small amount of funds raised, you’re probably better off giving up on them and focusing on something else, e.g., ask your members for donations in lieu of the fundraisers.

  18. Rhett – They should call the first one “Fifty Shades of White.”

    The second one is so depressing. The charity house we fixed up had better potential than that one.

  19. @Rhett – are you tempting RMS by posting the first home ? I don’t think she’d be tempted by the second one.

  20. Finn, yes, camaraderie is part of it. However, my thinking is that we ought to bifurcate things: morale/community building activities among the group should be separate from the fundraising, which should be the board’s responsibility.

  21. Interesting how they don’t even bother showing pictures of the inside of the second.

  22. The charity house we fixed up had better potential than that one.

    What? You could turn the garage into a third bedroom.

    From the lack of interior photos I can only assume it’s being sold as a tear down. So, that $2.1 million is the value of 1/6 of an acre.

  23. “Should we be forcing members to attend or buy tickets?”
    I echo what others have already said – no. My non-profit group had a similar situation with just regular events. I said, how can we make members attend these events? But an outsider wisely pointed out to me, you can’t MAKE people attend, you need to make the event so attractive that they WANT to attend.

    My business school is doing a (free) wine and apps event and I’m trying to decide if that is attractive enough for me to attend…on a Thursday night…my DH will be out of town, so I’ll have to get a sitter…people have to consider many factors when deciding to commit/attend events/etc.

  24. Do you enjoy making me cry, Rhett?

    Actually, my new theory is to wait until The Big One hits (as we Californians refer to the earthquake that will come) and the whole town is a shambles. Maybe real estate will come down 10% or so and I can grab a pile of rubble for only $2M.

  25. “So, that $2.1 million is the value of 1/6 of an acre.”

    Then they should subtract the cost of tearing down. Also, what are the local ordnances and other requirements for tearing down?

  26. One of my college friends lives right next to Mountain View, and had to save for 8 years (biglaw) to be able to buy a place there. AND it was in awful shape when they bought it.

  27. Off topic – the first home that Rhett posted is the size and ranch style, I will be looking for when we downsize. I could do with less of a backyard too.

  28. Rhett brought up the other day that WCE should move to Silicon Valley because it is designed to reward people like her. Without knowing their specifics, I doubt a 100% pay increase could produce equal quality of life — I know it couldn’t for us. With DH working in tech, we have considered moving there a handful of times – professionally, he could advance faster there. But I don’t know how families make it work there.

  29. Sold cookies as a girl, help my girls sell cookies now. However, the point is that prior to the sale, the girls decide what they want to do and how many boxes it will take to get there – this is their goal. It is not a mandatory sale, and, if the parents allow them to, the girls learn about inventory management, presentation of a product, business ethics, time management, persisistence, and rejection. If they don’t sell enough they have to find a way to fund their activity they chose or scale it back.

    United Way at work is not mandatory, but highly encouraged. Other organizations – fundraisers that have clear goals – raising money to give a scholarship for X – do much better than general ones – to support XYZ organization. Most boards I am familiar with expect board members to give at least a minimum amount (not written, but known) and attend a certain number of events each year as the hosts – as well as bring in donors who support the mission of the organization. Also, sometimes a fundraiser that requires little effort goes a long way. One year we had a dinnerless dinner – sent out an invite with a menu, you RSVP’d with a check so that you didn’t have to do anything. It was more sucessful than the year before’s actual dinner. A friend in another state had a Kentucky Derby watching party. Each person came and “bet” on a horse in the race with their donation. An anonymous donor would match the donation(s) of the first three places in the race. If more than one person picked a winning horse, the match was for the highest “bet”. She reported great success.

    Our school is always doing something – school supply drive, food drive, pennies for puppies, jump rope for heart, etc. We set a budget per kid and let them decide how to give it.

  30. What is the point of United Way, anyway? Is it purely so that the connected people running it can collect salaries and enjoy the power to make all the potential beneficiary groups kiss up?

    I mean, I’ve never known anyone who genuinely liked it.

  31. Rhett, I will fight you for the turret one. The office, the fireplace and ceiling beams, the four-car garage. . . . Except the kitchen is (comparatively) small and cut off, and I’m generally not a fan of shiny white cabinets with brass knobs. But if I could afford a $5MM house, I could afford to redo a kitchen and replace some brass. And for a turret! Totally worth it!

  32. I doubt a 100% pay increase could produce equal quality of life

    Looking at Apple, excluding senior executives, each Apple employee gets RSU (restricted stock units) valued at $93,000 per year and they have gone up 297% in the past 3 years. So, if you’ve been there five years you could have enough to pay for the Palo Alto house for cash.

  33. I think for a singing group, an annual membership fee would be far more appropriate than fundraisers. My DH used to play in amateur orchestras, and they did that (though they also sold tickets for their concerts and did OK there too)

  34. This is germane. I recently joined a parent group that listed itself as a group to advocate and support music education in our district. There are some real issues, and I had been hoping that parents might start organizing. But it has collapsed into nothing more than fundraising and socializing at overly long meetings. I need to bag this group

  35. MBT,

    It looks like the property tax rate is $11 per $1000 of assessed value. So, $22k for $2m and 55k for $5 million.

  36. Rhett, 99% of tech companies are not Apple. We had stock awards that hit 6 figures and Mr WCE’s expired underwater. (Mine were cashed in for 5 figures, because I’m less of a gambler.) We sold all our unrestricted stock in July 2000 to make our mortgage payment and I was sufficiently vocal about the company stock price at the time that people in my group knew about my decision- we sold within 1% of the 20 year peak, thank you very much. :)

    I prefer our small town life to the stress of the Bay Area. I knew I wanted kids, and we have a moderate income and sufficient family time. If we’re still here in 10 years, they can attend what meets Finn’s definition of our state flagship university for a moderate cost. We have time to help Mr WCE’s widowed mother occasionally, and expect to have more time as she needs more help.

    I like this board because I learn how other people live. I am only-very-occasionally jealous. But I also like chatting about coupons at the library with the Mom with 4 teens and a $40k household income. Most people are good people.

  37. People who volunteer a LOT of time often feel that they have contributed in hours vs. dollars. I work with an organization that my average hourly contribution is 5 hours a week. Of course it is cyclical, but if you take my rate of pay for those hours, it exceeds $5,000. I often pick up small costs rather than turning them in for reimbursement. I also contribute in small amounts, about $100 a year, to fundraising events. How do you view the time contribution vs. the $$ contribution?

  38. We had stock awards that hit 6 figures and Mr WCE’s expired underwater.

    My point would be if that happened in SV there would always be other jobs you could get that would offer you a better deal. However, if you’re living in an area with limited employment options for your skill set, if the company starts circling the drain – you’re stuck.

  39. Mooshi – That is often because advocating requires developing an argument that is supported by data, proposing a well-thought out solution along with how it will be funded, and getting a person (or several) to articulately represent the position publically – or at least in the appropriate venue – regularly enough to make an impact on decision makers. IMO, that is much harder to pull off than fundraising.

  40. “How do you view the time contribution vs. the $$ contribution?”

    My rule is that if I give my time (e.g. as an elected officer) I don’t also give money. But if my time is not involved (I support a trail maintenance group but don’t help with the maintenance!), then I gladly give money instead.

  41. If I lived there, I think I’d buy Consuela one of these to transport me from my den on the right to the garage on the left.

  42. “For the same price in Leesberg your property taxes would be $30,728.”

    Yeah, FOR THE SAME PRICE. But you don’t need to spend $2M to get a 4,000 sf house.

    Anyway, if I’m honest with myself, I have an unfairly harsh reaction to recurring costs in comparison to my much milder reactions to one-time costs. It took me months and months of listening to commercials before I agreed to the $5 per month upgrade to Pandora One.

  43. Also, the 13k sq/ft house was built in 2004. Did they build the main house in 2004 and then add on the near exactly replica addition at some later date? Or, was it build like that… all asymmetrical with oddly spaced dormers?

  44. Rhett – You’re right, the second one looks like a huge duplex where the builder made a big mistake on the front.

    The first one is on “Bold Venture Dr.”??? OMG. It’s almost like some cynical developer’s idea of a joke that got mailed to the state before anyone bothered to change it. I like the wine cellar in the first. “We need a 5,000-bottle wine cellar to hold the 30 bottles of Kirkland Signature Blend we have accumulated.”

  45. Rhett, percentage-wise, very few people in the Bay Area wind up able to afford a home based on stock options. I am likely neither smart, driven nor personable enough to be one of them. Mr WCE’s uncle was VP/CFO for a couple Fortune 500 companies down there, then several internet startups and his aunt did taxes for internet millionaires. Their sons have taken a better route, marrying wives whose families have 8 and 9 figure net worths (and not in the Bay Area)

    I’m just not a gambler- better a bird in hand than two in the bush.

  46. Milo,

    Check out photo 19 on Bold Venture Drive – is that a wine fridge in the master bathroom?

  47. WCE – One thing you have to appreciate about Rhett is his absolute confidence in everyone’s superiority, talent, and ambition. To him, if I had stayed in the Navy, I was destined to be a four-star admiral. If you were to go to Silicon Valley, you’d end up as a billionaire.

    It never hurts to have good cheerleaders in your life.

  48. “It took me months and months of listening to commercials before I agreed to the $5 per month upgrade to Pandora One.”

    This made me laugh. My 16 yr old son is weirdly anti-materialistic for a teen. He got so annoyed that I forced him to get an iPhone 6 when I switched cell phone providers a few months ago, because there was nothing wrong (!) with his old phone. When his school friends mocked his New Balance tennis shoes, he told me if I ever spent $150 on a pair of tennis shoes for him he’d throw them out. But radio commercials? Forget it!! He thinks no price would be too high, but we spend $3.99/mo on our Pandora, and now refer to commercial radio (only between him and me) as “poor-people radio”. (And I cut the cord on cable TV last night, forcing him to use a very glitchy HuluPlus to watch the Daily Show before school, and he is equally scornful of my attempts to save money here.)

  49. Yeah, well, we would need WWIII to bring back the five-stars. Little-known fact: General Custer was only a general by wartime field promotion during the Civil War. At his Last Stand, he died as a mere lieutenant colonel.

    Yep, that’s a fridge in the MBA. Can’t blame them. If you and the lady are enjoying a soak in that tub and you decide you want a drink to help relax and loosen up, you don’t want to walk a half-mile to the kitchen.

    L – The Poverty Hollow estate is like my Mom’s dream house. Right up there with the best that Martha Stewart and Paul Newman ever owned.

  50. WCE – One thing you have to appreciate about Rhett is his absolute confidence in everyone’s superiority, talent, and ambition. To him, if I had stayed in the Navy, I was destined to be a four-star admiral. If you were to go to Silicon Valley, you’d end up as a billionaire.

    It never hurts to have good cheerleaders in your life.

    What I wouldn’t give for Milo’s ability to find the bright spot in every situation.

    No sarcasm meant.

  51. Rhett – I found the missing front door at Running Colt Pl… it’s in picture 20, with the 2 washers and 2 dryers

  52. I had an offer to work at the Google mothership and turned it down – could not relocate the family to SV. They increased the offer and I said, ‘no’. They then offered it to me in my current location (Seattle) with the exact same package. When later I looked at relocating to Pittsburgh, the salary would also not change.

    The morale: The person who can make a salary + 93k at Apple in SV can likely make the same package elsewhere.

  53. Rhode – LOL. I had to go back and look. The first time I was just looking at the two washer/dryer pairs. It’s almost like they bought one and realized there was so much empty space, they should buy a second pair just to complement the first. There are more than a few odd things about that house. There’s a picnic table in the dining room, but it only has one bench. And this might be a mere technicality, but in the poker room with the wall decorations, what is there to celebrate about a A/J combo? This is poker, not blackjack. “I’m all in, fellas. Read ’em and weep. Ace high.”

  54. I would definitely like two washer/dryer pairs. My optometrist friend who worked part-time when her kids were small did this when they built their house. With weather and families like ours, you need “dual I/O”.

    Rhett, thanks for the compliment. And Milo helped me realize that being sick and chasing after kids anyway will only help me lose the pregnancy weight.

    On topic, our SWE section is mostly bifurcated between people who fund stuff (DINK/post kid couples where both husband and wife contribute the maximum matched amount to the scholarship fund, for example) and people who do work (essay contest, certificates of merit, Girl Scout, etc.) The DINK wives are very gracious about the part-time SAHM’s time commitment in a way that wasn’t true in college. Maybe people here are just nice.

  55. “I have an unfairly harsh reaction to recurring costs in comparison to my much milder reactions to one-time costs.”

    I was talking with a work colleague about this a while back. But the subscription model is the logical way to price/sell tech things (i.e. services…the dreaded “services” economy) that the company in the background is investing in to improve. Some things you pay for monthly, some annually. It just seems like the list becomes never ending with relatively small amounts every month that themselves will never end (unless you stop subscribing).

    The good news is for many of the things that cause you to react harshly, you really can stop subscribing if you want.

  56. Fred – I recently signed our minivan up for the Unlimited Wash Club. All it takes is two washes per month and the option’s in the money. But this is more of a discount place, as once you ride through the tunnel, it’s your responsibility to drive up to a vacum and do the inside yourself.

  57. ” Maybe people here are just nice.” My boss is in your area (town?), and the thing I like about my current job much more than the actual work is the people. I have a fabulously nice team, and it so refreshing to interact with only pleasant, positive people all the time.

  58. “the Unlimited Wash Club” I joined my car when these first came out around here about 3.5 years ago. They have raised the price to newcomers, but I’m still at the rate I signed up at, so my breakeven is about 1.5 washes/month. In addition, by linking their payment/rewards card to my checking account I get about $0.15/gallon off gas which makes it that much lower than BJs/Sam’s/ Costco that are nearby. hand drying by them included in the price (but I still need to do the inside myself. For that I usually buy $10 tickets for their quickie interior clean every 6-8 weeks).

  59. On volunteer organizations, I try to make it so that the organization can accept time, treasure, and talent with the understanding that no one person is likely to give all three.

  60. Fred – But I was unsuccessful in my attempts to negotiate a multi-car discount to enroll the rest of my fleet.

  61. I’ve always learned that the value of volunteers for their time is about zero, if that. Professional staff merely tolerates volunteers. They need to be supervised, work checked, things that they do on occasion re-done. What is really needed and appreciated are these people’s wallets.

    Now I can think of a lot of exceptions to this rule. But as a lawyer who occasionally works as a guardian ad litum, I have to the heck of a lot of supervision before I go into court. And the poor staff know that my heart is in the right place and I want to help, but frankly I think they would rather do it themselves if they had the resources. I waste a lot of their time.

    Believe me, the Mothers Club doesn’t want me– I’m not artsy-craftsy, nor do I have a husband to complain about– and I don’t want them. But they certainly want my financial contributions!

    Our church staff just shudders each time a new group of leaders are elected. We mean well, but we are a burden.

  62. With 2 dishwashers, you don’t really need cabinets. Just pull out clean dishes to use, then put them in the dirty washer. When it fills up, run it, and switch!

    Just got in from a long day of travel, and now I’m off to a nonprofit board meeting. I give my time & talents, donate used items for resale in our thrift store (saves me the trouble of having a yard sale), and just a little bit of money.

  63. Hmm, the organization I’m involved with has made it clear that they don’t expect volunteers to attend the expensive fundraising events. I’ve attended a few, but since I donate several hundred hours per year of my time, I feel like I’m pulling my weight plenty. The fundraisers are more targeted at wealthy people who support the cause but would rather write a check since they don’t have the time and/or desire to get involved with more than attending a charity dinner.

  64. I suppose with an organization whose purpose is performance it makes a difference whether it’s primarily for the enjoyment of the performers, as L’s group seems to be, or primarily a cultural resource for the broader community, such as a city’s symphony orchestra or one of its major theaters. In the former case, the performers can reasonably be expected to pay to keep the whole thing afloat, whereas in the latter, you’re mainly expecting the board members and regular subscribers to turn out for the fund-raiser rather than your volunteer or low-paid actors and musicians (unless they’re performing at the event or helping to run it or something.)

  65. I just spit my wine out all over the keyboard when I got to the exercise room with stone fireplace and dark beamed vaulted ceiling in L’s Poverty Hollow house!

  66. Milo,

    It all depends on the situation – 62 sq/ft can be tinny or the ultimate in luxury:

  67. If all you need in the world is a swimsuit and a couple t-shirts, fine. Nobody’s cooking in those places.

    The bottom one is where DW wanted to honeymoon if we could have taken two weeks. It’s still our “someday” vacation. My question is can you get a hut from which you can swim naked in the ocean, or is it still too crowded and that’s kind of frowned upon?

  68. Rhett’s optimistic view and increase your revenue mantra resonated with me and I took a new position because it seemed as manageable as my old one but with more money, so I reasoned why not go for it. I can’t take a position that involves travel but even so I can try to find rungs on the ladder that work for me.

  69. Louise,


    Swim naked at the Intercon Bora Bora? If you’re Tom and Gisele, sure. Ma and Pa Kettle? Not so much.

  70. I’m late to the party, but congratulations, Louise!

    I despise enforced fundraising. Our kids’ girl scout troop has a minimum number of boxes to sell. They’ll let you out of it, but it’s a hassle. (My kid is 7, so she’s not doing this independently. When she’s bigger and wants to be self-driven? Rock on.) A bunch of other kid activities come with volunteer requirements too. So for now our time is booked. We prefer to choose our own places to donate money than the various places we’re pushed to, but we’re pretty generous with the school. I like the sample phrasing you got up there. I know I’ve been more than happy to pay for the cost of participation in something over endless rounds of fundraising. I could buy $100 worth of bags to raise $10 for the school, or I could just donate $20. I go with the latter option.

  71. I have to admit, I never got charity dinners. Those seem far more onerous than simply buying some candy bars, or volunteering time. If you have the money to attend, why not just write the check, avoid the terrible food and dull speechifying, and sack out in front of the TV at home, happy in the knoweldge that your $10,000 check will do good and that a dried out chicken breast was spared?

  72. When I read Rhett’s comments on corporate America, I want to laugh, they are eerily accurate.
    Somewhat on topic – the volunteering by company employees does a lot of good but these “bonding” events have replaced fun outings like going to a baseball game, bowling, group lunches/dinners etc. The participation in volunteer events is mandatory. It is good publicity for companies but I don’t feel connected to a charity chosen for me.

  73. Louise, congrats!!!

    HM – good point. We are good enough to be a cultural resource, though! ;)

  74. Mooshi,

    What about balls? Like the one at the Frick or at the Museum of Natural History? Or one that has big name entertainment?

  75. My wife works at big Pharma where once a year 10,000 phd’s get up from their desks where they are trying to cure cancer and go plant trees in the inner city in the name of giving back to the community. This is progress?

  76. “fire coral”

    Yikes. That would certainly put the kibosh on any further intimate activities on that trip. But look at Rhett’s picture–nothing around those huts but crystal clear water and white sands.

    My wife works at big Pharma where once a year 10,000 phd’s get up from their desks where they are trying to cure cancer and go plant trees in the inner city in the name of giving back to the community. This is progress?

    I never understood this obesession with not cutting down trees, or planting trees. Trees are no different than grass; they just have a slightly longer lifecycle. Cutting them down should give you no more heartache than mowing the lawn.

  77. Congrats, Louise! It’s with your same company, right?

    I thoroughly enjoyed a mini-Totebag cocktail party (okay, it was iced tea!) with meme, atm, & Lauren. It’s fun to finally see the people behind the handles!

  78. I wish we could post pictures of our meetups! I know it’s not the posting that’s the problem, it’s the privacy aspect. In a different online group, we posted pictures of our meetups over the years and it was fascinating to see how wrong one could be about what people looked like.

  79. Congrats Louise!

    CoC – how fun! I remember meeting up with Providence and Favors Balance when we were on TOS. We had a fun time! I’d love to meet up with more Totebaggers! Anyone in the Boston area interested?

  80. I, too, hate fundraising lunches or dinners. 100% agree that staying at home with pizza, wine, and a good movie is so much better.

  81. I’ve found down here that a few of my wealthier clients are “bundlers”, typically for republican climate change deniers and Big Sugar supporters. These are candidates I actively work against! Yet I find I need to contribute $500 to them. It drives me beyond crazy. If I’m particularly friendly with the client, I may try to protest, but it seems I’m writing the check anyway.

  82. For many who attend the big annual fundraiser, it’s the social event of the season/month/week. They and their friends all support the same groups and get to see and be seen doing so.

    There are 1 or 2 of these events I actually like attending, because either I know (and like) a ton of the other attendees and/or the event is always done in a fun and interesting way.

  83. At large consumer products company, a so called turnaround specialist CEO enforced mandatory United way. He h a d been a desk captain starting out and liked to win local exec of the year on his stops. The CFO wanted to get the internal contribution awArd by department. Then when bonuses were awarded each one of us got a note with the suggested contribution to the .company PAC. He had written a tribute to Reagan on his death, so no doubt where that was going. I decided that if I was going to lose my job over no participation, so be it. Habitat for humanity day was optional. I was by far the most senior person participating.

  84. Congrats Louise. GTG yesterday was enjoyable. Today we are off to the transit museum at one totebagger,s suggestion. Best performances so far were a first rate Un Ballo in Maschera and a lively On the 20th Century. Levine was indisposed on Tuesday, but I am sure he will show up tonight for Stravinsky. Then back home to the kitties.

  85. Congrats Louise!

    DD’s school has an auction every other year where we all dress up, it raises an enormous amount of money for the school and it’s so fun because you know so many people there. I’ve been to other charity events with DH (firm bought a table, needed people to fill it) and those are ok (stuck with work people and others you don’t know).

  86. I’ve been to 7:14 for our honeymoon. Ridiculously over the top indulgent (probably spent 1.5x what our car cost) but don’t regret a penny.

    Oh, and Congrats Louise!

  87. Thought you answered it in 8:19. I don’t know that nudity is “frowned upon” (there were some topless sunbathers in the area I think and Bora Bora is French, so…) There probably aren’t going to be other people within 25+ yards of you depending on which neighbors are swimming at the time, but people will be walking over the floating walkways in the area, and every hut is within view of many huts from somewhat of a distance of many others. And the water is crystal clear…

  88. I never understood this obesession with not cutting down trees, or planting trees.

    You don’t understand? I’ve planted over 10,000 trees in the decade, and I’m a bad guy.

  89. Tying these conversations together, one time at the annual beach picnic/family fun day for my father’s employer, held along a stretch of beach that is pretty empty when there’s not an event going on, a couple of boys wandered up the beach a ways to find a couple (not part of the picnic crowd) engaged in extra-marital frolics in the sand. It was quite the topic of conversation for the grown-ups that day.

  90. Congrats Louise!!

    I enjoyed lunch, and it was great to cross into the real world. My DH was concerned, but I told him that most of you seem to be smarter and saner than many of our “real” friends.

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