Raising a salary & having nice things

Every time I enter into a time dedicated to MPD this issue comes back to the forefront of my mind. Well, maybe it’s more like every time I spend any length of time with my mother. She’s alwasys the one who reminds me of it. The other day I was telling her about an appointment I have with a donor and she said to me, “You’re not wearing those new glasses to the appointment are you?” What she was really saying was, “Having nice things can hinder your fundraising.”

The fact of the matter is, I would have had to save up for several months to be able to afford these glasses if I didn’t have health care coverage with Power to Change. I would have to save up to afford *any* glasses if it wasn’t for my health care coverage. But these glasses are stylish and outside of a big city might appear to be flashy (maybe even gaudy?).

I didn’t end up wearing my glasses to the appointment and I also didn’t end up wearing my glasses to church yesterday. I don’t think I have anything to hide, I just want to avoid anyone jumping to conclusions that I have more than enough money (especially when I’m trying to do MPD). I find this pretty frustrating. People don’t know that the clothes I buy are on sale or from cheaper stores like Joe Fresh (hello $19 dark-wash jeans!!!), but it’s easy to assume things. I have an iPhone, but I also don’t have a landline and so the cost is comparable. It’s also something I am personally willing to make sacrifices elsewhere in order to have.

I don’t really think this would be something I would ever have thought about had it not been for my mother telling me stories of experiences she had while I was growing up. I come from a missionary family that wasn’t necessarily well fund and so mom had to learn to be shrewd when it came to our family finances. Yet, my mom kept getting told by certain people who told her that it wasn’t right for us kids to have certain things like the skiis they had scrimped and saved to buy us second hand, or even the snowboard that my older brother got a job in order to buy.

Aside from my mother’s words, part of what got me thinking about this is when I got to hold an iPad at church yesterday. I have been thinking about an ebook reader for awhile because I read a lot and if I can save on books and travel with them more easily that would be great! I’ve also been dreaming up all the ways I could use an iPad on campus for surveys and in MPD appointments by showing videos. But what I felt like was even if the iPad was THE MOST AMAZING TOOL for campus ministry, even if it would change everything (which is arguably not true at all), I would feel like I would never be able to own one because people would just think “the iPad is a luxury item, and people who raise their salary should not own nice things.”

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced things like this? Am I totally on my own in this? Do you think this is an issue that is mostly for people who don’t come from bigger cities?


3 thoughts on “Raising a salary & having nice things

  1. Russ says:

    Great post. Many wonderful ideas/tensions here.

    re: “Having nice things can hinder your fundraising”
    Personally, I think I tend to give more money to causes that are well organized and appear to know what they are doing, use the latest tools etc… Having shabby things, can lead to a perception that you don’t know how to look after yourself or are untrustworthy. I’m not saying this things are true, but perceptions are huge. I don’t think having nice things hinder your fundraising.

    In general, as you’ve pointed out, I think it’s important not to judge. I choose to drive an older car and have only one pair of jeans and thus can afford nicer tech products. That’s something I value. Others would rather have 10 pairs of designer jeans than the latest model of the iPhone.

  2. Josh says:

    Great post Jess! I was going to respond, but in reviewing my comment, it was really ranty so I deleted. I have a lot of thoughts on this issue and probably would love to have a focus group on it at campus days or some other staff forum. But the crux of the matter is that we need to be wise on the stewardship of our resources, but not fearful to share or display what God has given us.

    • Jess W says:

      Thanks, Josh. Hannah Lee suggested (via Twitter) that I post this on the GCX to get more feedback. Maybe that’s a “safer” place to discuss.

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