As the federal government suffers the malaise of dysfunctional community organizers’ organizing, authentic community organizations that perform true service in the neighborhood are experiencing a slow and painful death. Intentionally.
Government and quasi-governmental agencies absorb an ever-growing share of funds collected from taxpayers in an effort to dry-up individual donation sources. Under this administration’s expanding taxation on non-profits (and targeting conservative non-profits to dismantle them), the philanthropic boom, birthed in the Reagan era of tax benefits for giving foundations, is retreating into the annals of history. The past wealth of community and private foundations that was liberally spread among the hard-working service organizations has long since been mothballed, having been replaced by government and semi-public agencies.
The trouble with community-benefit organizations with apron strings tied directly to government departments such as Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Justice and so on, is their lack of initiative to deal with community problems. These quasi-governmental organizations operate as mirror images of the governmental departments from which they derive their funding. And the funding, once attained, is never-ending and consistently applied in the most inefficient, administration-heavy manner possible, just like their government role models.
When colleges or other educational and similar institutions apply for a government grant, which are rapidly becoming the only types of grants available, approximately 35% is allocated right off the top to administrative costs. This is why learning institutions have grant offices staffed by fulltime employees. It’s become a racket to pay for grant and other administrators’ jobs. Consider that $67.3 Billion of the $141 Billion allotted to the Department of Education in the 2014 federal budget went to fund grants for all kinds of inconclusive research in areas such as developing tools to assess special populations’ access to and (non)completion of schooling, or faculty development and program innovation, all promoting political compliance. Even restricted-diet (i.e. inedible) school lunches are federally funded and should schools not abide by guidelines, they can lose unrelated funding.
Anymore, when small, private or faith-based service organizations reach out to their community for support, the financial base has already been drained by government taxation and recommended giving guidelines. Those guidelines are determined within the thousands of pages comprising the officiously cumbersome Internal Revenue Code.
The heartbreak of this state of affairs is that the Church has fallen in line with the new norm—that government will handle the problems plaguing the community. In fact, the situation has so deteriorated that the Christian community has thrown up their arms in defeat, turning a blind eye and offering an empty hand to their own local service workers. What money that hasn’t been directed (by acceptable government statute) to some mission, usually overseas, is pocketed for the upkeep of buildings and administrative salaries. Too many churches look first to handling operating expenses before they even consider investing in local service and outreach.
The consequence of these shortsighted and self-focused church decisions, is that individuals who have tithed their time and strength to serving in their community are not only going unsupported, but, in a growing number of instances are despised for the lack of affiliation with any one denomination.
This leaves the small, faith-based community-benefit organizations in a cycle of lack where the shrinking number of well-funded secular philanthropic foundations snub them, and the Church rejects them.
Realizing that this could raise some ire among the fully-staffed, and sometimes pretentious congregations, the following must be written: This attitude is the opposite of how the Christian community is called to serve, which is to live an example of Christ’s heart by sharing and reaching out to those in need before serving oneself or the church edifice.
That said, not all congregations are so self-absorbed. However, as Paul wrote, each individual has a gift to offer and is a member of the Body, without which the whole cannot function well or purposefully in the world. And part of that functioning in the world is to use those gifts in service among those of the world. Generosity comes in the form of finances and time, and for those who have not the time or the capacity to serve bodily, let them examine how the Church finances are being distributed. Are they being used to keep separate church operations from their brother denominations (and even dividing denominations within a single community) replicating administrative costs, or are the churches pooling efforts to bring solidarity within their community?
Too often, petty differences keep congregations from joining together to support sound ministerial efforts in their own backyard, preferring to send the majority of dollars overseas, overlooking the need next door.
Government cannot fulfill the work of the faithful because the rationale for “helping” is wholly political in nature. Its purpose is to provide tenured administrative jobs by creating a permanent welfare class to be perpetually serviced with tax dollars.
Which should we support? The real community-benefit organization or the faux service agency run by government and quasi-government? Our decision can make a true difference where we live.