I am a whore.
Well, allow me to clarify, a fundraising lecture-circuit whore. For years, whenever asked, I’ve spoken at local charities, literary groups and foreigner-led churches, about the history and culture of San Miguel de Allende. I realized early on there’s nothing in it for me, financially. Folks that come to a lecture, whether in a theater, church or civic hall don’t later take a tour or buy a book. They come because they belong to the sponsoring group or want to be momentarily entertained live and while seated.
I’m fine with that figuring for years I did what I do for free (donating proceeds to these various groups) and the more positive energy you put out, the better. But recently I’ve had some different thoughts, namely about the use of words in foreigner run fundraising.
Now, in an effort of full disclosure, I started and later sold a multimillion dollar writing company, so I’m probably hyper-sensitive on how words can be manipulated.
There’s a local foreigner run church and also a charity that both have similar core beliefs they start every service/meeting with. This week while sitting through one waiting to speak I had some interesting thoughts.
The organizations firmly believe in what is true and fair, as if the concepts were similar to black and white. As anyone with siblings knows you can grow up in the same house, with the same parents, at the same time and have wildly different memories. Truth is not set in granite, it ebbs and flows with time and circumstance. You and I can experience the same event today and have wildly different “truths” in regards to it tomorrow.
Fair is even harder to define. In every situation, we all know fair means “I get more”. The rationale may be sound (I worked harder, I’m prettier, whatever) but the concept of fair totally depends on where you stand at that moment.
Then comes the concept of “democratic” implying how we do things in the USA is, naturally, the best approach. However, even in the US we’ve the Electoral College to make sure the one person, one vote, concept doesn’t go too far afield from the ruling class.
Fair, true, democratic all fit into the approach the foreigner-run charities, churches and civic groups ascribe to which, in theory, is admirable. However, when I first arrived in Mexican locals warned me when doing fundraisers for these groups stating “Foreigners form charities to line their own pockets.” At the time I was horribly insulted devoting so much of my energy to raising money for these groups. Over time I realized the old axiom was true.
True, fair, democratic and what is beneficial to others all depend on where you stand in life and war. It’s an extremely rare person that has big picture perspective to determine the reality of a situation that involves others solely by themselves, without input from the others. (aka – It is good for you because I say it is.)
For fellow speakers and fundraisers, it is best to expect nothing from your speaking engagements beyond perhaps meeting some interesting folks and simply enjoying the ride. If you are steadfast on waiting for a thank you you’ll be a Catrina before that arrives, because the pervasive logic among foreigner-run groups is you owe the organization your fundraising skills.
Or you can say no to these type of fundraising opportunities which has a certain fair and mutually beneficial appeal, if only because you say so!
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin