Weathering the Windfall Contest


How Do Meetings Manage Unexpected Large Gifts?

Our December issue will look at Giving and Philanthropy. During our staff brainstorm on this topic, our executive director Gabriel Ehri recalled a workshop he participated in at the FGC Gathering called “The Spiritual Practice of Managing Money,” led by Lisa Smith and Tom Kangas. As part of the workshop, participants did a role-play exercise in which they broke into small groups and discussed a hypothetical situation: Your meeting has just received a large bequest; how do you discern what to do with the windfall? Individuals were assigned different interests to represent during the discussion. After the workshop, Lisa and Gabe got to talking and came up with the idea to incorporate this exercise into Friends Journal‘s December issue in the form of a contest for meetings. The winning meeting will get their own mini-windfall: a $500 cash prize!

We were also inspired by Philip Gulley’s recent novel A Lesson in Hope (reviewed in FJ Aug.), in which this same scenario plays out in the fictional Hope Friends Meeting in Hope, Ind. “Sam Gardner has been pastor of Hope Friends Meeting for just four months when ninety-eight-year-old member Olive Charles passes away. What’s more shocking news is that Olive has left her entire estate—worth nearly one million dollars—to the meeting. At first the gift sounds to Sam like a godsend. Yet as word of the unexpected windfall spreads, it stirs up a storm of conflicting opinions amongst the church members as to how the money would best be used.”

Both Lisa and Philip have graciously agreed to serve as judges for this contest.

Submit here: https://friendsjournal.submittable.com/submit/67566

Deadline: January 31, 2017

Prompt: What would your meeting do with $1 million?

A beloved elderly member has passed away, leaving $1 million to the meeting. How do you manage the windfall?

This is a contest to utilize and celebrate Quaker process. We’re less interested in the awesomeness of your final idea and more interested in the process you follow to get there. But yes, you should have a final answer for what you would do with the money. Using your imagination will be necessary to fill in the story, but it should also be realistic and believable.

To start, we suggest forming a small group of three to six people and then either role-playing the perspectives below or allowing participants to vocalize their true opinions. Have someone take notes of the discussion and incorporate these voices into the submission. We estimate this exercise will take 1 to 2.5 hours to complete, plus additional time for editing and submitting the final piece. Remember, this is only an exercise, and we hope Friends have fun imagining how this scenario might unfold in their own meetings, communities, and cities.

Maybe yours is a meeting that has already gone through this process of deciding what to do with a large amount of money. If this is the case, please share with us what and how it happened.

Word count: Submissions should be between 500 and 2,000 words.

Starting Perspectives

Your submission must include a clerk or a pastor and at least three of the remaining five “starting perspectives” that serve to represent the realistic varying interests of members and attenders within a monthly meeting. Entries that incorporate all of or more than the listed perspectives will get bonus points. In following Quaker process, it’s important to recognize that every voice counts even though they may disagree.

  • Required to include: Clerk (unprogrammed meetings) and/or Pastor (programmed meetings): serves to facilitate discussion and step in when appropriate, listening for the sense of the meeting.

Plus, entries must include at least three of these five perspectives (bonus points for all or more):

  1. First-day school teacher: example interests might include investing in the community’s youth programming, starting a new Friends grade school under the care of the meeting.
  2. Clerk of Building and Maintenance Committee: often is grounded in the day-to-day realities of caring for the meetinghouse (plumbing issues, roof challenges, mortgage, etc.)
  3. Clerk of Earthcare Committee: example interests might include installing solar panels on the meetinghouse roof, donating to Quaker environmental organizations.
  4. Clerk of Peace and Social Concerns Committee: example interests might include supporting peace lobbying, working with the local gun control group, hosting a family of Syrian refugees.
  5. Clerk of Finance Committee: example interests might include investing all the money or starting a long-term endowment fund.


Successful ideas should effectively attend to a majority of the following criteria:
  • Engage the majority of the meeting’s members/attendees at several points in the process
  • Involve innovative, creative, or out-of-the-box thinking
  • Ensure the team honors, engages, and enrolls a diverse set of perspectives (especially the most difficult to work with) in the final decision
  • Value both short-term and long-term needs of the monthly meeting community
  • Allot adequate time for deliberation
  • Employ conflict or dispute resolution resources in decision-making process, as needed
  • Pay deliberate attention to the donor’s passion/priorities, if known
  • Ensure decisions contain broad benefit to diverse racial, gender, age, etc. range—young to old people in the meeting
  • Underpin Quaker testimonies to the essence of the plan
  • Inspire broad and joyful feelings from the final decision



lisa_smithLisa Smith has served as the executive director of Enterprise for Equity since 1999, a nonprofit that helps people with limited incomes start small businesses and offers microloans up to $25,000 for start-ups. Lisa has facilitated discussions and events for groups of 50-300 people, presented at national and international conferences, and provided training and technical assistance for many organizations over the last 25 years. She is a member of Olympia (Wash.) Meeting.


philip_gulleyPhilip Gulley, heralded as the voice of small-town American life, is a Quaker pastor and author of 20 books that have sold over 1.2 million copies. He has received numerous awards, including the Christy Award for his acclaimed Harmony series and two Emmy Awards. Philip contributes to the Indianapolis Monthly and the Saturday Evening Post. He and his wife have two sons and a granddaughter and live in Danville, Ind.


shree-nathShree Nath has worked in the academic, governmental, and private industries (oil and gas, biopharma) and traveled the globe extensively. He was born and raised in Kenya, and then spent 15 years in Kerala, India, before making his way to Oregon to pursue twin PhDs in fisheries and bioresource engineering. He now lives and works in Olympia, Wash., and enjoys learning, assisting the personal development of young adults, and dealing with complex decision making involving multiple parties. He is active in Olympia (Wash.) Meeting. He is grateful for his wife, Meenu, their two children, Sitara and Hari, and a beloved Aussie Shepherd mix Hannah, who help to keep him grounded in the simplicities of daily life.

gabriel-ehriGabriel Ehri has been the executive director of Friends Journal since 2011. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Gabe grew up attending University Friends Meeting in Seattle and is a member of Green Street Meeting in Philadelphia, Pa. After earning a degree in English from Haverford College, he spent time with an Internet startup before landing with the Journal in 2004. He’s an avid home cook and reader and enjoys Philadelphia’s vibrant restaurant and music scenes. He lives in the Bella Vista section of Philadelphia with his wife and two sons.


  • First prize: $500 for your meeting
  • Second prize: 5 copies of A Lesson in Hope by Philip Gulley (provided by Hachette Book Group)
  • Third prize: six-month subscriptions to Friends Journal for up to 10 new subscribers in your meeting


(Photo of money by Flickr user Ervins Strauhmanis, CC by 2.0)

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