Tuesday, November 26, 2013
A Dirty Little Secret
It's a dirty little secret, and one not often discussed outside of certain circles. In fact I had not known it until recently, after some conversations that left me both speechless and disgusted. The secret is theft - but not the usual kind of theft where someone breaks into your car and steals your iPod or when someone steals from a store. No, this kind of theft is even more despicable. It is the theft of items from non-profit fundraising events - and it appears some sticky-fingered guests are the culprits.
I was shocked when the stories were told to me. And I'm not talking about low-end events, either, but high-end galas where tickets can cost a couple of hundred dollars and guests wear gowns and suits. What I have learned is the appalling fact that most of these events have experienced theft, and the sad part is these thefts have a direct financial impact on the non-profit organizations at the heart of these events.
What goes missing? Coat check jars, from those coat checks often manned by young people in our community raising money for their own organizations. Silent auction items, which quietly disappear out the door when backs are turned. Bottles of wine, table décor, and other items meant to create an atmosphere but that end up slipped under a jacket or into a purse to show up on a private table somewhere in this community. And people, I think we all know this: theft is wrong.
I don't know if some people think that a $200 gala ticket should come with a table centrepiece. I'm pretty certain no one thinks they are genuinely entitled to a coat check jar, or a silent auction item they haven't paid for. And I am also dead certain that these thefts impact the people who organize, host, and volunteer at these events.
On the financial level the costs for those items must be recovered, and so typically they come out of the revenues raised at the events - which means that theft is just like putting your hand into the bank account of one of our venerable social profit organizations and taking funds from them that they rely on to function. On the emotional side it is incredibly disheartening to organizers and volunteers to discover that things have gone missing. I suspect it takes a bit of the shine off the success of any event, and makes them wonder about the morals of those who would do such a thing.
Some have even told me that people have told them about taking vases and candleholders, centrepieces and décor items. I doubt anyone has bragged about stealing a coat check jar, and yet someone out there has done it and thinks it is okay. This is what I think: no matter what you take from one of these events you are a common thief, and you are stealing from social profit organizations who often struggle to stay afloat. I'm not sure how you sleep at night, but I hope every time you hear of the financial woes of our local social profit organizations you feel a stab of guilt knowing that people like you are part of the problem.
And for the rest of us, those who attend these events and don't participate in such thievery? Well, for myself I know I will watching for people tucking vases under their jackets, and if ever witnessing it sharing with them my thoughts on the morality of people who think such theft is acceptable. And if I ever see anyone steal a coat check jar all I can say is that hell hath no fury like a social profit advocate. Just try me and see.