November 23, 2007

Architecting the Act of Giving

Giving charity is one of the most important things we can do. It is a fundamental expression of our humanity, an act of compassion on those not as fortunate as ourselves, and a show of belief that all that is bestowed on us comes and belongs to the One above.

According to the Wall Street Journal (23 November 2007), Americans give an estimated $97 billion to congregations in 2006, almost a third of the county's $295 billion in charitable donations." The total is the equivalent of roughly $1000 for every man, woman, and child in this country!

The great thing is, many people do tithe and that is wonderful. However, what about those that don't, should they be as the article states "urged to donate?" Is there a point where the line between giving as personal act of religion, faith, or humanity, is tainted by exonerations, required contracts, or even threats to make people give?

The Journal reports that "Mormons must give 10% to the church or they may be barred from temples where ceremonies take place. Some evangelical Protestant churches require new members to sign covenants, promising to tithe or give generously. Those who openly refuse might be denied leadership roles or asked to leave the congregation."

All the pressure is leading to a "backlash against tithing."

For example, some potential charitable givers are turned off by the way funds are being used. The WSJ gives examples of "megachurches, some with expensive worship centers equipped with coffee bars and widescreen TVs."

Yet religious institutions are increasingly employing sophisticated technology to encourage and enable charitable donations. "Some Baptist churches are trying to encourage credit card payments and automatic deductions from checking accounts...[another church] created the 'giving kiosk' machine that allows congregants to donate at the church from their bank cards [over 50 of these machines have already been deployed]...[additionally,] the machines can help track which families are giving the most."

It seems that religious institutions are doing more than using technology to enable giving--they may be crossing the line into "manipulating" people through "catching them" publicly if they don't give...they are taking away all the excuses and tracking giving behavior.

Where is the line between business and religion?

The article concludes with a church employee who worked for a pastor who "said he expected employees to give 10%," but the church employee felt "all decisions to give and how much to give are between the believer and their G-d, not meant to be used as stumbling blocks or judgments against others." This employee no longer works for the church--instead he now drives trucks.

From a User-centric EA perspective, we need to be thoughtful of our stakeholders' needs and how we work with them. The article at one point states: "you can't beat people over the head." However, you really can beat them into submission, but is this really what we want to accomplish?

From an enterprise architecture perspective, we use technology to enable business execution for all sorts of organizations. But ideally, technology is used to further legitimate human aims, and not to manipulate users into compliance. Especially from a religious perspective.

In short, good EA is applying technology to solve business problems. Bad EA manipulates people's emotions to get them to do what they may not want to do.

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