Fundraising? The rights and wrongs of it

What we’ve learned about Stewardship
By Fr. Ken Van Haverbeke
“Bingo!” she yelled! Excitedly she came forth to claim her prize from the associate priest who was running the parish bingo parlor. “I don’t think I was ordained to run a Bingo parlor,” the associate priest thought, “I really would rather hear confessions or preach the Gospel.”
Fundraising is defined as the process of gathering voluntary contributions of money by requesting donations or by selling products. There is nothing wrong with fundraising, but the Diocese of Wichita made a collective decision in 1985 to stop relying upon fundraising to pay for the various missions of the Church.
Instead, each family and each parishioner was asked to sacrificially, generously, and proportionately tithe a portion of their income. No more Bingo! No more selling of candy. No more operating a restaurant out of the parish buildings, and no more second collections at Mass to fund a worthy project.
As a diocese we promised if parishioners would simply tithe generously, sacrificially, and proportionately, the diocese and parish would not “nickel and dime” them with fundraisers and second collections.
This does not mean the youth group will not have a car wash, or that the Knights of Columbus won’t give out candy, but it does mean our parishes will not depend upon fundraising to pay for its ministries; rather they will depend upon stewardship tithing.
Why is this important? Spiritually it is vital. As disciples of Jesus we believe everything we have is from God. Our life, those whom we love, our talents, family, vocations, etc., everything is a gift from the Lord. Therefore we respond by developing and sharing our gifts: sacrificially, generously, and proportionally.
The spiritual difference between contributing to a fundraiser or making a donation and tithing of ones income is dramatic.
When asked to donate or contribute, we give something and receive a product or an experience in return. I give, I get. In the case of donations, we give and then leave. Often our “donations” are what we no longer need, or what is left-over. Not so with a tithe of our income.
In the Diocese of Wichita, we have learned that when we tithe as part of the Stewardship Way of Life, we are saying, “Lord everything I have is yours. Everything! Therefore I will give back to you, through my parish or church, the first fruits of your gifts.
It is very hard Lord to give you the first portion of my paycheck, but by giving it to you first, I place my trust in you. I’m not giving you leftovers, nor am I getting a food product or gambling experience in return of my money.”
Depending upon fundraising to pay for the cost of our various ministries is neither biblical nor sound financially. We are in the business of saving souls, not running gambling experiences or restaurants.