We need the entire Community's input and advice.
We do not charge any fee for what we do here in the Forum, and we do not now accept donations. This place has always been provided as a service to all who sit, and Taigu and I do not ever want to require, push or aggressively solicit donations.
Despite this, many of our members have, from time to time, expressed the wish to make some small donation to us without any solicitation by us, all simply from the goodness of their heart. Until now, we have turned down even such donations.
However, there is no ignoring the fact that there are items involved in running this community that could use funding, such as any future significant upgrades and improvements in the computer and audio-visual software and hardware we use at the heart of what we do here, costs faced in organizing "on site" Sesshin we would like to offer here and there in the coming years, costs of placing the sometime notice in Buddhist publications and places like "SweepingZen" to let people know we exist, and the like. (Here, for example, is the little notice we run at SweepingZen, to let Zen folks like yourselves know of the resources available here):
Such is necessary to fulfill our "mission statement":
Right now, most all funding comes from my (Jundo's) pocket and from Taigu, but all our priests give their daily time and money to this place without any compensation. (None of our priests receive any salary or like compensation for what they do here, and they never will even if we accept donations.)Treeleaf Zendo was designed specifically as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online.
For this reason, we are proposing that we begin to accept donations that people voluntarily wish to contribute from time to time. In doing so, we will continue not to require or pressure anyone to do so in any way. There will be no obligation whatsoever, Treeleaf will remain totally free, and any giving will just be as the person feels.
What do you think?
Here is what Taigu and I Propose:
-1- All services of this Sangha would continue to be without charge, and no fee or donation will ever be solicited or even suggested. However, there will be some place on our web page where people could click to make a donation should they wish, purely from their own inspiration to do so. The link will connect to PayPal or a like service where donations can be accepted for charities. (Some unusual and special events ... like a Sesshin in America or Europe in a borrowed hall ... might require participants to pay for their food, room and space rental, but even then we will try to do what we can ... including using donations ... to help cover the expenses of people wishing to come with a true economic hardship).
-2- We will establish a small bank account and a "Donation Expenditure Approval & Oversight Board", which will probably consist of about 5 of our long time members (other than Taigu and me) appointed by consensus of the whole community. Taigu and I would propose something we think we need to spend money on, and then ask the board to approve it by majority vote. The board would have to approve all expenditures. The board would also oversee the bank account, and the making of a balance sheet or report showing every penny that comes in and goes out. That balance sheet and report will be disclosed to the entire community each year, showing all income and expenditures (however, while amounts of donations will be shown, the identity of all donors will remain anonymous).
-3- Treeleaf will -not- incorporate as a "charitable corporation", a "501(c)(3)" with the American IRS or the like. We will remain an unincorporated association. The reason is that there is little benefit, and much cost, annual paperwork and complexity, if we were to do so. For example (and although we know that nobody will be making a donation thinking about a 'tax deduction'), donors in the U.S. should be able to claim the same tax deduction whether we incorporate/become a "501(c)(3)" or not. The IRS will treat us the same. Furthermore, it would not help people in countries outside the US receive a deduction, which they may or may not anyway (they need to ask their accountant about the rules in their own country if concerned about this). In any event, we believe that donations should be made without thinking about some "tax deduction".
-4- Our "Online 'Dana' Bowl" would be accompanied by a message expressing that we do need money to keep a (digital) roof on this house, and people can give what they feel in their hearts they are receiving from being here. If people have little or no money, it is fine to donate little or nothing at all. One does what one can. If someone has more money, and feels it is right, one can donate more than someone without much money. All donations are completely voluntary, without obligation, according to ability, and according to what one feels in one's heart.
-5- We will continue to ask our Sangha members to be generous ... beyond where it begins to hurt ... in making financial donations and/or volunteering with other public charities which are engaged in such activities as feeding the poor, finding a cure for a disease and like good works in society.
-6- Our informal survey revealed that most Buddhist groups (not to mention churches and other religious groups) accept donations, and I am sure you know some can be quite aggressive about it. We will never be demanding of donations, or use any pressure whether overt or subtle.
That is basically the plan as it stands.
Please freely post any comments or questions.
Gassho, Jundo (on behalf of Taigu too).