Ethic fundraiser or am I standing alone on this hill?

I’m a new member, serving on the local public school foundation board. (Note, this is NOT the school board, but the foundation board.) Our primary responsibilities are to oversee the monies in the foundation account and ensure it’s spent accordingly–mainly through grants to teachers within the school district for classroom “extras” and a yearly scholarship for graduating seniors from the district. Occasionally, there are fund raisers to raise money for these endeavors. I’ve served on this particular board for less than a year, so I’m new to this group of people (although not to serving on non-profit and foundation boards.)

At the last quarterly meeting, it was announced that we would be conducting several fund raisers, and these would be ones that had been successful in the past–a golf tournament, a 5K run and a Gambling night.

The gambling night is a night were adults (over 21 years old) buy tickets to spend the evening drinking (beer is included with the cost of the ticket) and buying “games of chance” including scratch off tickets (all of which are purchased separately). That’s it. Different games of chance are held throughout the evening. No band, no “shrimp feast” or “bull roast” or any of the other million ways to raise money–just beer and gambling.

Neither of which I do, BTW, but hey, if that’s how someone wants to spend their money, then go for it.

Now, when I first heard this–gambling and beer night as a fund raiser for a public school district foundation–it rustled up my ethical feathers a bit (and kinda reminded me of the Catholic Charity saying thanks, but no thanks to Hooter’s raising funds), but I shut up and didn’t say anything. Partly because I’m new to the board (and don’t want to stir shit this early in the game) and partly because I didn’t have any better suggestions for a fund raiser, and partly because this was already well under way (hey, they’ve done it for several years! And it raises lots of money!). Until now…

Board members are requested to sell a minimum of 10 tickets each. When the email first came out “tickets are ready, pick them up at the school administrative office!”, I ignored the email. Another email came out earlier today for those who haven’t picked up their tickets to sell–“You know who you are”.

I have a suspicion that I’ll have to have a heart to heart talk with the President of the board’s foundation and explain that I simply don’t feel this particular fund raiser is appropriate for a school district foundation and I’m not selling tickets, and I’ll resign from the board if this is an issue. But I’m curious to see if anyone else sees this is not quite right, or if I’m in this corner by myself.

I don’t know if this helps, but every foundation I’ve served on there was an expectation (often specifically spelled out in the by laws) that each board member must provide X amount of money, either by direct donation, fundraising (selling raffle tickets, for example) or in kind (volunteer time at events).

Can you simply donate the cost of the tickets? Would that be allowed?

Personally, I don’t find anything inherently wrong with the event. A little unimaginative perhaps, but not immoral. But I can see how someone might feel otherwise.

I’m a believer that fundraisers need to be appropriate for their cause. Superficially, I tend to agree that a fundraiser involving alcohol and gambling might not be a good fit for a school district foundation.

If you aren’t comfortable with pairing, then I think expressing your concern to the President is a good step. If the board accepts that you can contribute nicely in other areas, including other fund raisers…great! If they think it’s a stumbling block for your membership, and you feel that your stance is important, then maybe it’s not the right place for you to spend your time.

Or…you could try to change them. But that’s probably hard.

I’ve been to a couple Casino nights put on by a Jewish community center. And the local hockey team. It’s a fairly trendy way to raise money.

Have you had to sell tickets for other things?

No, I haven’t had to sell tickets for other things. Quite frankly, I don’t have the funds to buy them (even if I wanted to, which I don’t), nor is it required in the by-laws that I do so.

If the kids aren’t drinking beer and gambling, I don’t see the objection. Drinking and gambling are no worse than a read-a-thon or a 5k run. In my opinion, anyway. If you disagree, don’t sell the tickets. What are they going to do about it?

I agree. Given that many schools already get gambling money through state lotteries, I don’t think this is a unique issue. However, if it bothers you that much, I think that may not be the board for you.

I guess I don’t really understand your dilemma. You say you have no problems with either of these activities in and of themselves, so you clearly don’t find them immoral or unethical per se. So why is it unethical to have a school fundraiser wherein adults do these things?

I mean, it’s not like schools don’t have games of chance available at their fundraisers all the time. Raffle tickets, anyone? Or maybe you’d like to take part in this cakewalk? Or how about a few games of Bingo? And they let the kids take part in that sort of gambling. :eek:

It does sit a little weird to have a school fundraiser that no students are allowed to attend, but on reflection it honestly doesn’t sit any weirder on me than having one that vanishing few students want to attend, like say a golf tournament. If all fundraisers must be suitable for the children, then they really ought to be truly suitable for children, not the sort of thing that kids technically could go to but would be bored out of their minds at.

Out of sheer nosiness, how does the ROI on this fundraiser compare to that of things like the golf tourney/shrimp feast/bull roast things you’re okay with?

While I’m not sure I have exactly the same moral opinion as you, I do understand your view and, IMHO, you’ve handled the situation fairly well: You feel that you can’t advertise this yourself, but are not going to block the organization from going through with it, certainly not until there’s been time to raise your point and see if other people agree enough for a larger discussion.

IMHO, that’s a principled but respectful and adult way to deal with it. Tell the President that you understand your obligations and will double up your efforts on the next fundraiser. If they have a major problem with that, then, well, maybe you will go your separate ways.

(Of course, gambling was historically one of the great motivators for advances in probability and number theory…)

If I’m reading the thread correctly and the following are true:

  1. You were a part of the fundraiser selection process but did not voice any opposition or concerns at that time; and
  2. Board members are, while not required to, highly encouraged to support the effort through ticket sales,

then you have no leg to stand on. Now that the selection has been made (especially with no objection from anyone) the board should appear as one in their support. What I hear in your OP is “I will withhold my support for this project based on my ethical concerns that you had no way of knowing about prior to now”.

Are there more suitable fundraisers for a public school? Perhaps. The time to object and raise those concerns, however, was during the selection process - not after. If you (to be blunt) had the courage of your convictions up front, argued your case then , indicated that you would not be able to support such a fundraiser and the board still went ahead with the idea, then you would be justified in not selling tickets or otherwise contributing to the effort.