My $3200 Mistake

Courtesy of Commons License

It’s funny to think that around five years ago I should have been fired.  It’s funny because I didn’t get fired, but I would have understood why.  The reason for my questionable future was because I had cost the church $3200 on what was supposed to be a fundraiser…that’s right a fundraiser.
To make a long story short, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I didn’t know how to promote an event this big, I didn’t know if I was overspending, getting overcharged by vendors, etc.   What made it worse was I never told anyone I needed help (because I thought I could pull it off) and when it was all said and done I didn’t tell my pastor how badly it turned out.  Let’s just say he wasn’t too pleased when he found out…from someone else.
I know $3200 isn’t that much to some, while to other’s it’s their entire budget.  No matter who you are, we’ve all found ourselves in a situation where we’ve been in over our heads.  Whether the situation was given to us or we thought it would be a great idea, if you don’t surround yourself with wise council and take the time to discern your decisions you’ll find yourself drowning.  But what happens if we find ourselves in the middle of a bad situation?  How do you get out of it?

  1. Pray for Humility:  If you don’t have humility, you won’t be open to any of the following options.  You probably got yourself into the situation because you ignored the wisdom of others or God.  Humility is going to open the door to letting someone help you.
  2. Ask For Help: Ask someone you love, someone who loves you but must importantly someone you trust to give you insight or assistance into the situation.  Oh and as much as it might stink go to your boss and let he or she know that you need help.  If they find out later that you didn’t ask them, they have every right to see it as a sign of you not trusting them.
  3. Don’t Lie:  Don’t try to cover it up, don’t try to tell a little white lie and don’t try to save face.  You get caught lying about a making a mistake, again you lose trust.  It’s stupid to think we can pull a quick one over on others, but all you are doing is showing them disrespect. 
  4. Determine Lowest Collateral Damage:  Now that you’ve gotten help, now that your mistake is out in the open, don’t continue on, figure out the best possible exit strategy.  If you have to cut your losses (if I had canceled the event ahead of time I would have only lost $300) do so as soon and smoothly as possible.  Events get canceled, projects get canned, don’t see something to the end to avoid being labeled a “Quitter”.  Again, if you need assistance with an exit strategy ask for help.
  5. Seek Forgiveness and Never Forget: After all is said and done, make amends with those you may have hurt through and most importantly go to your boss and talk about it.  This is a chance for you to seek their wisdom and that will show them that you honor them.  Lastly, write down the experience.  Don’t try to forget it or you may do it again.

Fortunately, I have a pastor full of grace and mercy.  I’ll admit the experience scarred me, in order to plan any events I need the encouragement from others.  But what made the situation bad was not asking for help and not admitting to my mistake sooner.  Making mistakes can be costly in many ways, but the worst is that it can fill us with fears.
How do you recover from your mistakes and guarantee yourself that they won’t be made again?  Please comment.

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  • jay sauser says:

    i have been scared to do fund raisers at my church for the exact same reason. don’t know if any cash will come in.

  • jay sauser says:

    i get scared of doing fund raisers for that exact same reason. i don’t know if any cash will come in at the end of the night. luckily i had a great budget for a church my size

  • That was kind of my situation. The other thing that I’ve found myself in is planning trips. I used to be petrified of asking for help, fortunately I had people step up and help me out. I feel as if I’ve gotten better at asking for help. Humility is hard to grasp and hard to continue to hold onto. Thanks for sharing Jay…anyone else?

  • CJ says:

    I lost over $7000 doing a fund-raising concert in Kissimmee, FL in 1997. It’s a long story, and I didn’t get fired. In fact, there were a number of positives to come from it. You can read the whole story at

  • For me, there has been a tendency to immediately argue in my head about why it is NOT my fault. I start putting together my grand argument and become very defensive internally. Then there is an agonizing few minute to an hour where I know what I must do and am desperately trying to figure out how not to do it. It is only at surrendering my pride that I find any peace. And yet I replay this scenario almost every time I make a big mistake, though the amount of time involved in the process has gotten less.

    Thanks for your honest post.

  • CJ…$7K that’s huge, your experience seems like it was similar to mine…I had prayed the day before and of for crowds and only got a few people.

    Kathleen, I have the tendency to allocate blame to others before myself…that’s a good one to add to the list. Before we seek humility we need to embrace the situation.

  • Brian Kirk says:

    Two things I’ve learned the hard way over the years: 1) It’s always best to do fundraisers that cost $0 up front (e.g. dessert auctions where all the food is donated) or very little so that basically any money you make is profit. 2) Never be hesitant to involve others in leading the ministry. In one church I served, I had an adult volunteer who was much, much better at organizing mission trips than I was. So, after initially getting over my feeling that “I’m supposed to be able to do this by myself,” I invited her help and from then on we partnered on those efforts together..and it worked great!

  • Brian, thanks for sharing, that actually brings up a great question, “How do you all find the hidden talents of your ministers?” Knowing that would be very essential to event planning, retreats, etc.

  • […] Lost $3200 on a fundraiser […]

  • […] the situation to grow complex.  When my pastor had to learn from a separate source that I lost money on a fundraiser, he definitely showed and expressed his […]

  • […] Not many people like conflict; however, it’s inevitable.  It might be the angry parent barraging you for not communicating or the pastor chewing you out for losing $3200 on a fundraiser. […]