Ask Mike

“Ask Mike” – Our new Q&A series addresses common questions Chicagoland Vincentians may have as they go about their work for the Society. Have a question? Email us at

March 2021

Q: If our conference receives monetary donations to directly offset the cost of a community dinner, do we need to pay solidarity dues on the donation because it is basically like a pass-through?

A: Solidarity is paid based on total income less what we receive from other SVdP entities. The annual report is the basis for the solidarity calculation. There is a place for income from fundraising events and expenses from fundraising events. The solidarity on the amount of fundraising events is not likely to be significant. 

February 2021

Q: Do I need to attend Ozanam Orientation? I thought it was just for officers or just new members?

A: The requirement is for new members and for officers. However, it is important for existing members to attend an Ozanam Orientation every few years as a reminder of what this is all about. If you have never attended one, you should. If it has been a while since you attended one, the reminder will do you good.

Q: Can our conference help sponsor a food give-away with a local church? They are looking for a small donation and to "advertise" through our SVdP conference?

A: In serving those in need, it is important to let our friends in need know of opportunities that can help them. We cannot give funds to another organization, but we can give food or other household items if what we give will be given free of any costs.

January 2021

Q: What is an appropriate amount for a Conference to have as a reserve?

A: The typical Conference needs no reserves. The only time you need a reserve is if you have fixed expenses. For example, if the Conference is asked to give the parish $200 per month for the use of a pantry or office, then the Conference should have a reserve of $1,200 (six months). Most Conferences don’t have fixed expenses. Conferences are expected to spend the funds they have in serving the poor, including bringing their balance down to zero.

Q: We are wrestling with the question of for how long or how much financial assistance can be provided to someone–in a given period such as a year, in total–or whether there is necessarily any limit at all. Generally, the idea is to provide short term assistance or emergency assistance, get someone straightened up, and hopefully back on their own feet. You don’t want to become an enabler and generally can’t afford to be if you are going to have enough to assist others who need help. But you may have some people who are chronically in need and seem to have nowhere else to turn to except the local SVDP conference. Just wondering whether there are any formal guidelines on this question.

A: This question has been addressed many times over the years – in separate counseling as well as in National’s E-Gazette. There is no set policy on this. There is no set timeframe and no set amount of financial help. Everything depends on the individual circumstances and the resources available. The Society has never published in its writings the statement that we are to provide emergency or short term assistance only. Our Society was founded on the principle that our founders stayed with the families they assisted until they were out of crisis. Unfortunately, for some families, it takes a long time (even months and years) to get out of crisis. So:
  1. Help as long as you feel the need is real,
  2. Help as long as you have the resources to do so,
  3. Help to the best of your ability to get them out of crisis mode (which may take more than money),
  4. Do more than pay a bill and give good advice, and
  5. Love them to the best of your ability.
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