Continuing with the intent of being more positive and actually suggesting alternatives or options which can actually improve things, I revisit a topic which I mentioned a while back, in my first post. I wrote:”I value decentralization, over centralization. Central planning and its proponents, assume that life is static, linear and mechanistic; that it can be categorized, numbered and therefore, understood and controlled. However, life is not like that. It is messy, chaotic and dynamic. Unfortunately, the now widely discarded 19th-century ideal of centralization permeates the Baha’i community. . . Another example of centralization in the current Baha’i community is the funneling of donations from localities to the World Centre where they are expended without any disclosure or explanation – in contrast these funds could be used at the level where they are generated to build better communities.”
I know that this is not just one of my pet peeves, but that it is one of the most common critiques Baha’is allow themselves to whisper about the current situation in the Baha’i world community. A few years ago, all communities around the world, almost without exception, sacrificed their own present and future needs in order to support the monumental Arc Projects. This was not just happenstance. NSAs and LSAs, in turn, were so directed by the House in two separate letters (one to all NSAs and one to selected NSAs).
Excerpt of the message to all NSAs, May 25 1999, from the Department of the Secretariat of the UHJ:
“The House of Justice draws your attention to the necessity for increased support of the Baha’i Fund at an international level with full confidence that the impressive record of sacrificial endeavor by the believers will be sustained in their response to the situation described here. The formulation of budgets at a national and local level should be carried out in the light of these conditions. Above all there should be no interruption to your sustained effort effort to assist the friends in your area to acquire a deeper understanding of the spiritual obligation binding upon all, irrespective of their circumstances, to contribute to the Funds of the Faith.”
And the excerpt from the message to selected NSAs, May 25 1999, from the Department of the Secretariat of the UHJ:
“It is surely evident to any observer of world events that human affairs are now volatile and subject to sudden and unforeseen changes. The friends have an opportunity to ensure that their resources are used for the enduring benefit of the Cause through their sacrificial and generous efforts to support its global activities, at this time when their financial circumstances are so favorable.”
The result was that the Arc was finished (well, almost). But the consequence was that the vast majority of local and national Baha’i communities around the world simply did not have the material means to improve their community’s lot. Many communities put major projects and investments on hold or simply transferred them to the Arc projects instead. Some of these were the purchase or improvement of community centers, Baha’i cemeteries or proclamation projects.
But now, Baha’is are asking, why are we continuing to funnel money to the NSA and then to the UHJ? Why don’t we begin to invest in our own communities? And yes, its true that you can “earmark” your donations to the Baha’i fund, but all that accomplishes is designating a final destination for it once it leaves your locality. It does not do anything to help your community directly.
Unless, that is, you decide to educate yourself and ask a few simple questions. A fellow Baha’i did just that and came up with the following (and was kind enough to pass it along so that more can know about it). Please note that depending on where you are, the laws may be different. That doesn’t really matter though, because at the heart of this is to arm yourself with knowledge and take a positive step to do something about what you believe in. Rather than whisper-whinging between nacho bites at the next feast with your friends.
The idea taps a Canadian tax law regarding charities (a category which legally includes the Baha’i Faith). A “Ten Year Gift” is a special kind of donation which has a condition attached to it. It stipulates that the charity receiving it must keep the funds for at least 10 years. The charity can not spend the donation until those 10 years are up. But, the charity can invest or otherwise employ the donation to earn a return or income, and spend that return or income (towards their normal charitable ends). Or, if they want, the charity can choose to re-invest the return or income during those 10 years and then spend the whole lump sum (re-invested returns and the original donation) after the expiration of 10 years. Or the charity can decide to reinvest the returns or income generated and continue to do so after the 10 year period is up, only withdrawing a small amount each year, thus allowing it to continue in perpetuity. Got all that?
This last choice is probably the best, in my view, because it allows a charity (or in our case, an LSA or NSA) the luxury of having a continual and (theoretically) inexhaustible source of income. But that’s another ball of wax. Getting back to my main point.
What makes this type of donation extra neat is that the charity on the receiving end, can not by law, give “10 year gifts” to another charity (even a related one). So in our case, that would mean that once you give a 10 year gift to your local community in Canada, they must keep it and can not ship it off to the NSA or UHJ or elsewhere. That is, unless they want to break the law and risk having their charity license revoked by the government.
So how do you make such a donation? Its rather simple. You make it as you would normally (cash, check, etc.) but at the same time you attach the completed form below:
I hereby give $________ to the LSA of ________ with the specific direction that the LSA hold this gift or any property substituted from it for a period of 10 years (or more).
(Signature of donor)
Name of donor
So stop whinging. Here is a positive action step you can take to make sure that your local community has the material resources it needs for tomorrow and beyond. If you are outside of Canada, check your country’s laws regarding charities, you may have something similar to this (especially if you are in a commonwealth country).
If you are in Canada and you do decide to make a donation of a 10 year gift, be sure to talk to your treasurer about it beforehand. Don’t spring it on them and give them a heart-attack. The one’s that I’ve consulted wouldn’t know a 10 year gift if it lodged itself forcefully in their larynx. Be gentle. Educate them and tell them what their responsibilities are under the legal system.
For some reason, no one has informed the Baha’i local communities or treasurers, that something like this even exists.
I can’t imagine why.