By Chris Wolf

In my seat on financial matters, the short term tasks are fairly straightforward: tracking inflows and outflows, making sure that the bills are paid, and the checks are deposited, that the people making decisions have the financial information they need, and generally ensuring that our monetary resources are tended with care. Based on the expectations with which we entered this fiscal year, we are mostly on track; still operating in a significant budget deficit, but there are some larger grant applications underway that could quickly turn that around.

Holding a longer time frame, there’s the ongoing task of reimagining our work with money more broadly. Just as we have courageously redesigned curriculum to truly be in service to the growth of healthy individuals, healthy community and a healthy world, there is an impending imperative to redesign our financial framework to be more aligned in this way. We have already been experimenting with language about decoupling financial contribution from program participation, but for all intents and purposes, we are still largely working in the fee-for-service frame, and tit for tat accounting.

What if we were bolder here in aligning our structures with this intention? We’re not quite sure exactly what this would look like yet, but maybe more like a religious organization that offers programs freely and invites members to contribute (tax deductible) tithes. Maybe there’s an altogether different structure we will discover, or you, dear reader, will bring to us. 

In the last weeks, I have had a series of somewhat disparate experiences and questions that are informing how I’m thinking about stewarding the next steps in our work with money:

  • In September and October a number of families, without prompting, contributed more than their expected monthly payment. I’m so inspired by these few transactions as examples of reciprocity and integrity. 
  • I sat in on the main course for our older learners this week. In one of the class materials we came across the following Krishnamurti quote: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” How is the thinking of a profoundly sick society limiting our imagination? What are the true limitations of our current context? How can we take the first step toward a healthier society? 
  • On our recent trip to Alabama, we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. There was a special exhibit on A. G. Gaston, a prolific Afican-American entrepreneur who became a multimillionaire. He kept a low political profile, but played a very important role in the civil rights movement by supporting it financially and negotiating behind the scenes. Seeing this exhibit has me asking new questions about the role of money in culture change and leveraging the opportunities available within the constraints of any given context.
  • At a recent staff meeting we all brought pictures of elders- people who lead by their example and whose lives inspire us. After we had all shared the photos we brought, looking at the beautiful array on the floor, I had the experience that this is true wealth. 

We continue to strive for long term thriving. It’s not immediately apparent what our route will be toward that end in the financial sphere, but we continue to move with the trust that if we listen deeply and work together courageously, life will reveal the way.

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