Saturday, December 13, 2008

Memo to Future Fundraisers: Publicly Thanking Donors is Offensive to Non-Donors

Just how low can the grievance culture stoop, you wonder? Well, ask the members of the Parent Teacher Organization of Bear Tavern Elementary School in Hopewell Township, New Jersey. Jeff Trently of the Trenton Times did just that.

"Just a few pieces of cardboard pasted to the hallway of Bear Tavern Elementary School. A trunk, some colored leaves," Trently observes. "But what's printed on the leaves has caused quite a stir in and out of the school's hallways."


More than 100 of them.

Names of parents who gave money to the school's Parent Teacher Organization.

Names printed for all to see on the leaves of the tree.

Names some parents say are designed to shame those who haven't donated into giving money to the PTO in tough economic times.

Yes, you read that last sentence correctly (and you probably wish you hadn't). Some parents have their knickers in a twist because the PTO has chosen to recognize the contributions of parents who donated to their fundraising drive by printing their names on individual leaves of the "Tree of Thanks."

The narcissism is palpable. Somehow, if you give money to support a cause and I don't, that's our own business. But if that cause decides to publicly acknowledge you for your community spirit and generosity, then somehow that's all about me.

Apparently so. The complainers have taken to calling this hallway display the "Tree of Shame."

Some parents say that having the tree in the hallway where they pick up their kids is embarrassing to them, and makes them feel pressured. For several, it would seem that they are merely projecting their own economic worries and anxieties onto this tree display. But the PTO president, Chris Butrym, insists that there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

"This was supposed to be a positive thing, a way to thank the families that give," she said. "It's not meant to pressure people."

Butrym said the PTO prints the names of parents who donate time in their monthly newsletter but parents who donate money never got any recognition before the tree was put up.

"It was lopsided," she said. "We take great pains to thank parents who give time. People never knew who gave money."

So, if you don't have the money to contribute, then donate your time, right? Recognition acquired, embarrassment assuaged, narcissism validated, right? Would that it were that easy. Butrym even offered to donate $5 of her own money on behalf of any parent who was feeling financial hardship this year, and post their names on the tree as well. Well, a nice gesture, but that could be genuinely humiliating to some parents.

So, we arrive at the ruffled-feathers-compromise-solution that never should have been necessary:

The PTO suggested adding a paper garden next to the tree that would have the names of parents who volunteered time but did not give money printed on the petals of flowers.

This just reminds me of why I've always ended up hating committee work of any kind.

No comments: