RE: Charging Fees
May 25, 1997 05:25 PM
by Anna S. Bjornsdottir & E.A.
It has been interesting to follow all those suggestions and discussions on whether charging fees or not.
As we have noted, some branches charge, some don't, some pay wages, some don't.
I think maybe that demanding none-charged meetings is quite unrealistic in some cases, we have to partake in the costs, but the best thing is if the cash flow passes sort of unnoticed by the average visitor, or as least as a natural thing.
Let me tell something of our experiences in Iceland.
We have roundabout 350 members nationwide, out of 260,000 inhabitants. Not all pay the annual membership dues of US$ 35.- of which half goes to the Section, (there are free or reduced fee membership for elderly and handicapped, students etc.).
We don't charge fee for any lectures, seminars etc. but we charge for material, paper, food, and lodgings in case of summer school etc. One particular income is important. Once a week, on Friday evenings, there is a lecture open for public and advertised in the local paper. After the lecture we invite for coffee, tea and cakes, a venerable fiesta at times, - a very good time for mingling with newcomers and discussing the talk etc. - and we "charge" $ 4.- or rather expect donation in an open box at the door. Then on Saturdays there is an "Open House" with discussion, where we also have coffee and something for $ 2.50.
We never pay any wages for teachings, although we regularly get "celebrities" that charge considerable sums elsewhere. This is probably because we don't charge for the attendance, and partly because we have a reputation of quality of subjects at our meetings. Among regular lecturers have been professors in philosophy, psychology, literature, anthropology and theology. We try to have a balance of intellectual and spiritual teachings, with profundity as a guiding light.
This is all very important basic foundation for the theosophical work, but one must not forget or neglect the personal, communional, brotherly/sisterly, social part of it. If the members, especially new members, don't feel at home - if we can't bring about the spirit of universal family within the group as a whole, then we can't expect anyone to pay anything. This is not a "spiritual grocery store" where you bargain for the lowest price - and it should not be - it's a shared togetherness, where it's a privilege to partake in the expenses, but where companionship is the most valued and valuable asset there is.
It is therefore mandatory for the growth of our society that we can find a balanced menu of spiritual food, which should be fresh, intellectually and spiritually uplifting, practical and useful for the average person's life, and with a profound meaning or direction towards an individual spiritual growth. We have to find a way to convey the ancient perennial philosophy with new words, new insights, new enthusiasm. Our era demands more practicality and less intellectuality, - discussion, meditation, community, rather than intellectual study, and more of psychological introspection and mystical contemplation rather than intellectual analysis. But most of all we need a HEART into the work and study, - that love which makes giving the highest provider of happiness.
We should not become a slaves of (in)voluntary work, (in)voluntary service or help to others, but willful workers for and because of the immense happiness that sharing and partaking endows upon the true giver.
If we can build up such an enthusiasm within our lodge or branch, it won't matter much whether we charge money one way or another, money will be there when you need it. It takes an enthusiasm of one or two really engaged people to light such a kindle within a branch that no "light-extinguishers" can cope with for long. If you have a light and energy within, why not let it shine, so that weary hearts can warm themselves in it?
Let me conclude with a real example.
Few years ago it came painfully obvious that our 80 year old headquarters building needed a massive rebuilding, (or else we could risk a disaster when full of people). We had a fund of approx. 35% of estimated cost of US$ 150,000.-. It was decided to go along with the first of two stages, which was carried out in 5 months, with such a lot of volunteer work and goodwill, that when we started regular work with a fundraising opening festival, we had still some money in the bank. Two years later we concluded stage two, and believe it or not we came out almost even from the whole thing.
What was the beauty of it was not the money, but the unison and goodwill that flowered within the society while and after the restoration. It was the best thing that had happened to us for a long time.
With love and light,
Since many lodges don't charge fees or pay their lecturers, it may an
interesting exercise how they are able to do it.
I recall during the days when HPB lived in NY, she did not have 9-5 working
hours and Old Diary Leaves describe there were constant stream of visitors
late into the night and self-serve coffee in the kitchen. I wonder how she
was able to manage.
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