“What we will do for love will always be far more powerful than what we will do for money. What we can do together will always be far greater than what we can do alone. And when we cultivate the heart of giftivism within ourselves, our companies and our communities, we begin to unleash our true prosperity.”
—Pavithra Mehta, Giftivism: Reclaiming the Priceless
What do we mean by “Gift Economics” at EBMC?
At EBMC we rely on a system of financial sustainability we call Gift Economics that combines the ancient Buddhist practice of dana with a commitment to social justice and equity.
What is Dana?
In the ancient Pali language, the word dana describes generosity arising effortlessly from deep gratitude. Dana is one of the Buddha’s first teachings and an essential component of spiritual freedom, as the practice of giving from the heart liberates us from attachment and reminds us of our interconnectedness with all beings. Many of the teachings offered at EBMC have been offered for over 2,500 years in parts of Asia, supported by a dana model: Monks and nuns offer teachings out of generosity, while the community supports the teachers and the centers, generously giving to the level of their ability. The practice of dana honors the interconnection of all beings and nurtures a heart inclined toward appreciation, joyous giving, flow of resources, and right relationship with one another.
EBMC is following that tradition by offering its programs with no set registration fees. We are able to sustain this practice because of the generosity of our teachers, who offer their teachings openly, and the generosity of members of our sangha, who offer financial support to continue the cycle of reciprocity and keep the wheel of the Dharma turning.
Gift Economics at EBMC
EBMC expands on the previous definition of dana to explicitly support radical inclusivity, diversity, fairness and equity. In this approach everyone is welcome and participation is not connected to ability to pay. Everyone is invited to give at the highest level they are able for the benefit of all, and through this practice we are encouraged to shift our relationship to money and to capitalism and to invite equity and radical inclusivity into our process of healing and spiritual liberation. By practicing Gift Economics, we hope to cultivate generosity and to co-create a welcoming and thriving spiritual community rooted in trust and connection rather than fear and separation.
At EBMC, we practice Gift Economics according to the following principles:
- Accessibility: No fees
We charge no set registration fees for any of the programs we offer (except fundraising programs). Unlike in a market economy, EBMC welcomes everyone, regardless of socio-economic status.
- Inclusivity: Everyone is invited to give
In keeping with the practice of Dana – generous giving arising effortlessly out of gratitude – we invite everyone to practice the core value of generosity. The generosity of those before you have made it possible for us to offer the teachings today, and your generosity today allows us to continue offering these teachings in the future in radically inclusive ways.
- Sustainability: The community collectively meets our needs
We seek to collectively give to meet the needs of EBMC and our teachers. Historically EBMC has received very little outside funding, and instead we have relied on joyful reciprocity within our community expressed in different ways, as people are moved to give of their resources to support EBMC. When the community meets our needs, we are not reliant on outside support like grants from foundations.
- Proportionality: Everyone gives to the level of their ability
We invite those with greater capacity to give a higher percentage of their income (including more than the prices or fees they would be charged in a market economic model) to balance the giving of others who can give less.
- Transparency: Feedback loops
We provide information about what we need, what level of giving would meet those needs, and when those needs are met. Here are a few examples of our programming and operational costs. For instance:
- EBMC’s costs for a One-Day Retreat, Class, or Workshop: $1,917
- EBMC’s costs for an Evening Class Series: $639 per class
- EBMC’s costs for a Weekly Practice Group: $255 per session
Program and event participants are offered an opportunity to make a gift to EBMC during the registration process or at the event itself. If everyone who participates in events at EBMC practices generosity, and gives to the Center and to the teachers, proportionally to the level of their ability, the Center will continue to thrive as a spiritual home accessible to all.
Support for Our Teachers
Teachers at EBMC devote tremendous time, labor and heart to preparing their offerings, and many of them rely on dana from participants at our events to support themselves. In the current economic climate, it has become challenging for many of our teachers to receive enough dana to sustain themselves and their practice.
As part of our commitment to equity, EBMC has begun to offer an optional small honorarium to teachers who teach multi-day classes and daylongs to supplement the dana they receive. This offering is only a small portion of what many teachers need for their sustainability. We invite you to join our effort to shift this reality by giving generously both to our teachers and to our center.
Why rely on Gift Economics and Generous Giving (Dana), instead of charging fees?
We rely on Gift Economics for several reasons. The Buddha and other wisdom teachers emphasized that generosity is an essential component of spiritual freedom. We also believe that our generosity-based system will allow the greatest accessibility to the Dharma for the greatest number of people because there are no financial barriers to participation.
EBMC was created by volunteers in our community and is heavily run by volunteers with few paid staff, so generosity is embedded in our culture. We see the practice of gift economics as an opportunity to cultivate the inherent gratitude and generosity in one another and all around us, and to shift our relationship to wealth to create collective abundance. Through our individual and collective acts we can transform the world around us to one of individual and collective liberation.
Lastly, we rely on gift economics because “we know in our hearts that there is a different way to be, a different way to live. Our generosity with one another is indeed resistance to the greed and fear that oppresses us. We provide for one another out of love for each other and love for ourselves. When we give, we acknowledge that all beings want to be happy.” (quote by Jacoby Ballard)
Opportunities for Generosity at EBMC
As a Gift-Economics based center, EBMC relies on your generous financial contributions to bring ancient wisdom teachings to the diverse communities of the Bay Area. Your donation to EBMC is tax-deductible. (EBMC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.) Donate Now!
Ask your employer how to access their matching gift program and e/mail us the form. We will take care of the rest!
Gifts of appreciated stock offer many tax advantages to the donor, in addition to benefiting the East Bay Meditation Center.
Making a Bequest
By including EBMC as a beneficiary in your will or living trust, you can leave a lasting legacy for years to come and possibly receive tax benefits now. Whether you wish to name us in your life-insurance policy or leave us your real property, your bequest gift will help ensure the continued strength of our programs.
Please let us know of your intention to include the East Bay Meditation Center in your will or trust, or you may ask your attorney to let us know.
Retirement Plan Legacy Gift
If you want to make a simple, tax-wise gift, you can name EBMC as a beneficiary for part or all of what remains in your retirement account when you no longer need it. This includes your individual retirement accounts (IRAs), Keogh plans, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans and other qualified pension plans. The proceeds of these plans will be distributed outside probate and are entirely free from federal estate tax.
Suggested Giving Ranges
The practice of Gift Economics is based on proportionality and transparency, where everyone gives according to their ability and where the needs of the center and the teachers are stated in a clear manner. The numbers below are based on these principles, where suggested donation amounts are calculated based on the center’s operating needs and adjusted to donors’ annual income ranges. Your generosity to sustain the center and these offerings helps us create healing spaces that embody radical inclusivity and equitable access for our sangha.
When considering what to give for a daylong retreat, class series or practice group, the following chart may be helpful:
When considering what to give on a recurring basis as a Friend of EBMC, the suggested donations in this chart may help: