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Servant Leadership

Servant Leadership 1200 628 Jill Pioter

(Excerpted from Vincentian Life: Conference)

Within the Rule of the Society, Servant Leadership is identified as a scripture-based method of leadership which all Vincentians aspire to practice. The following quotes are from the Rule.

Rule: Part 1, 3.11: Following Christ’s example, the Presidents at all levels of the Society endeavor to be servant leaders. They provide an encouraging atmosphere in which the talents, capacities and spiritual charism of the members are identified, developed and put to the service of the poor and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The President of the Conference or Council will have special responsibility for promoting Vincentian spirituality.

Rule: Part 3, Statute 11: Leadership positions in the Society, at any level, are always to be accepted as service to Christ, the members and the poor. Servant leadership is done in imitation of Jesus who said: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.

The passage below is an excerpt from the Newsletter of the Australian National Council by Livia Carusi and Jenny Papps. The article is entitled “Vincentian Leadership – Is There Such a Thing?”

“You say you experience great difficulty in the mission. Alas! Monsieur, there is no lot in life where there is nothing to be endured.” (St. Vincent de Paul)

It is believed that Vincent de Paul wrote over 30,000 letters during his life. For Vincentians, his letters provide a small window into his character, his courage, his struggles and achievements over a lifetime of service and leadership which was marked with great personal transformation as well as a steadfast vision for mission, charity, justice, spirituality and servant leadership.

Fast forward a couple of hundred years, and a young French man, Blessed Frederic Ozanam, and his companions, with the guidance of a Daughter of Charity, Blessed Rosalie Rendu, made a conscious and heartfelt decision to name our organization in honor of Vincent de Paul. This decision, we suspect, would not have been taken lightly, and in choosing the name “Society of St. Vincent de Paul,” they too would have understood the very essence of the man, his vision for the world and also the magnitude of his legacy.

Like other community organizations doing “good works,” the St. Vincent de Paul Society has its own unique DNA, of which our leadership model is a large part.

So what makes our DNA unique?

Briefly, it is our founding story, which no other organization can claim.

It is our place within the broader Vincentian family; our model of assisting people; home visitation (which remains authentic to our founder’s vision of assisting people in need and in pairs), and also being part of an international organization; the opportunities that we afford to members, volunteers and staff to connect and engage in our mission, our governance model of subsidiarity as well as our model of leadership.

The Vincentian model of leadership is quite simple – servant leadership.

Servant leadership is not connected to a person’s title, as it is quite different to the function of management. The cornerstone of this model is the belief that all people have within them leadership qualities and that an office, Conference or Special Work should facilitate opportunities for individual and collective leadership qualities to come to the fore.

Servant leadership echoes the message of Christ, Vincent de Paul, Frederic Ozanam and the countless number of Vincentian men and women around the world whose primary mission is to serve another first – so yes, there is such a thing as Vincentian leadership that is very much part of our DNA.

One of the topics that comes up very often related to Conferences (as well as Councils) and the role of the President is focused around a statement that has been made for years in our writings as well as our training sessions. That statement is: the Conference as a whole makes all of the decisions. Some people have a tough time grasping what that means; and that is very understandable since it is not a simple and straightforward statement. There are a few embedded qualifications.

Those two articles from the Rule (shown earlier) make it very clear as to how the Conference should be run. There is no place in the Society for a Conference dominated by one or two individuals. The Society does not support a small group of people making the decisions for the whole. Conference members should be made aware of all aspects of the item to be decided. And, for all practical matters, the decision should be made by the Conference simply through consensus. That means the members are in agreement with what should or should not be done. Formal voting on any topic should occur only when there is reason to believe there is a significant difference of opinion.

The President, as well as all members, needs to be an excellent listener and a good facilitator. This most likely means that some of us have to fine-tune our listening skills. The President must listen to what the Conference wishes to do (not tell them what he/she wishes to be done). Then the President must help (through guidance and facilitated dialogue) the Conference to make it happen. The President must serve the Conference – not the other way around.

There are times, however, that the democratic process is inappropriate. This is because the Conference is not totally autonomous. All members of the Society must be faithful to the Rule and spirit of the Society. No decision can be made at any level of the Society that contradicts the Rule. This holds true also for bylaws, standards of affiliation, or any other standards set by the general membership or by Councils.

The spirit of the Society is determined by the traditions of the Society on a global scale. As it is, the current Rule is very explicit about most things. Our focus in our decision-making should be on ways to enhance the spiritual growth of our fellow Vincentians as well as improve our service to those in need. There are many official writings of the Society, both current and historical, which can help define what is proper for Vincentians if it is not explicitly defined in the Rule.

So in summary, the statement “the Conference as a whole makes all of the decisions” is very true within the constraints described above. Our servant leaders must be geared up to serve the members rather than dictate to them. It’s all part of being Vincentian.

12-07-23 Questions & Answers

12-07-23 Questions & Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q: Our Council is under the “District Council with Separate Boards” Bylaws and my tenure as Council/Board President is ending. I was asked if it is allowed for the Board President and Council President be 2 different people? The Board President could have the business acumen and the Council President could have the Vincentian Spirit. What are your thoughts?

A: The President and other Council board officers are one in the same. There cannot be two sets of officers within a Council. We hope that as many members as possible have the Vincentian spirit, and this can be led/organized by the Spiritual Adviser.


P: Nuestro Consejo tiene los Estatutos del “Consejo Distrital con Mesa Directiva Separada” y mi mandato como Presidente del Concejo/Mesa Directiva está terminando. Me preguntaron si está permitido que el Presidente de la Mesa Directiva Separada y el Presidente del Consejo sean 2 personas diferentes. El Presidente de la Mesa Directiva Separada podría tener la perspicacia para los negocios y el Presidente del Consejo podría tener el Espíritu Vicentino. ¿Qué piensa usted?

A: El Presidente del Consejo y los demás funcionarios de la de la mesa Directiva separada del Consejo son lo mismo. No puede haber dos grupos de funcionarios dentro de un Consejo. Esperamos que el mayor número posible de miembros tengan el espíritu Vicentino, y esto pueda ser dirigido/organizado por el Consejero Espiritual.

11-29-23 Questions & Answers

11-29-23 Questions & Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q: Should Conferences pay tuition for Catholic school education since elementary and high-school education is free? 

A:  The National Governance Committee has recently reviewed and agreed to the following:

  1. Helping a family make a tuition payment under the right circumstances can be justified.
  2. Making a contribution from Conference funds to the parish or school to support the tuition-assistance program is prohibited by the Rule as a donation to an outside organization. Tuition payments are directed to benefit specific families.
  3. There are a couple of appropriate conditions that the Committee identified: the case of a student needing to be removed from public school as a way to ensure his/her health and safety; and a case in which a student is already attending Catholic school, but the parents are having financial problems and it would be improper to force the child to attend a new school. These are not the only possible special conditions.
  4. The Committee confirms this is actually a decision to be made by the Conference.
  5. The Committee recommends that a possible alternative is to pay other bills for the family allowing them to pay the tuition.
  6. The Committee also believes that Conferences need to have good advice related to this available to them.

Q: Can members use personal funds for payment of neighbor’s utilities if the treasurer is not available to write a check to the utility company?

A: Vincentians should refrain from providing help using their own personal resources, especially since those we serve will view the assistance as being provided by SVdP.  We are not a personal ministry for individuals; we are a group ministry, and members should treat the Conference as such. In extenuating circumstances, if no one from the Conference is available to issue the check, the member may do so from their funds if they are available. But the member must be reimbursed by the Conference as soon as possible. Remember, this is not a personal ministry. This is the work of the Conference.


P: ¿Deberían las Conferencias pagar la matrícula de la educación en las escuelas católicas ya que la educación primaria y secundaria es gratuita? 

R: El Comité Nacional de Gobernanza ha revisado y acordado recientemente lo siguiente:

  1. Puede estar justificado ayudar a una familia a hacer el pago de la matrícula en las circunstancias adecuadas.
  2. La Regla prohíbe hacer una contribución de los fondos de la Conferencia a la parroquia o escuela para apoyar el programa de asistencia para la matrícula como una donación a una organización externa. Los pagos de matrícula están dirigidos a beneficiar a familias específicas.
  3. Hay un par de condiciones apropiadas que el Comité identificó: el caso de un estudiante que necesita ser retirado de la escuela pública como una forma de garantizar su salud y seguridad; y un caso en el que un estudiante ya asiste a una escuela católica, pero los padres tienen problemas económicos y sería impropio obligar al niño a estar en una nueva escuela. Estas no son las únicas condiciones especiales posibles.
  4. El Comité confirma que en realidad se trata de una decisión que debe tomar la Conferencia.
  5. El Comité recomienda que una posible alternativa es pagar otras facturas para la familia que les permitan pagar la matrícula.
  6. El Comité también cree que las Conferencias deben tener a su disposición buenos consejos relacionados con esto.

P: ¿Pueden los miembros usar fondos personales para pagar los servicios públicos de un vecino si el tesorero no está disponible para escribir un cheque a nombre de la compañía de servicios públicos?

R: Los Vicentinos deben abstenerse de brindar ayuda utilizando sus propios recursos personales, especialmente porque aquellos a quienes servimos verán la asistencia como proporcionada por SVdP. No somos un ministerio personal para individuos; somos un ministerio grupal, y los miembros deben tratar a la Conferencia como tal. En circunstancias atenuantes, si no hay nadie disponible de la Conferencia para emitir el cheque, el miembro puede hacerlo de sus fondos si están disponibles. Pero el miembro debe ser reembolsado por la Conferencia lo antes posible. Recuerde, este no es un ministerio personal. Este es el trabajo de la Conferencia.

Ground Rules For Visitation

Ground Rules For Visitation 1200 628 Jill Pioter

There are a set of basic ground rules that should be kept in mind before visiting with those who have requested our help. It is a good idea to review them on occasion, understand them and put them into practice.

 1. If you are on a witch hunt, stay home.

One of our purposes as members of the Society is to bring the love of God to those who are in need. You cannot do this if your personal expectation is that the people you visit are on the take, that they are out to get us for whatever they can. If you believe that the people you are going to visit are going to give you a phony story, if you believe before you actually meet with them that they “are only going to sell the food to get money for cigarettes or alcohol or drugs,” then you have prejudged them and shouldn’t be participating in the interview. Our role as helper obliges us to keep as open a mind as possible. Give those we serve the benefit of the doubt — at least until you have heard their story and can make a reasonable judgment as to the validity of the need. Remember, it is the need we are judging — not the people. So, the first ground rule calls for you to judge yourself — not the circumstances, not others. What is your reason for going on this visit? If you are on a witch hunt, you have no Vincentian reason for being there. Stay home.

 2. If you are an expert on life, stay home.

Have you ever heard the comment: I’ve lived a long, difficult life and I’ve never had to ask for help? (Better yet, have you said such?) Some people (Vincentians) have a tendency to feel that they know the answers, they’ve heard it all before, they know the circumstances, they know what questions will be asked, and they know what they are going to do to resolve the request before the visit occurs. The problem with being an expert is that experts have the answers before the questions are asked. The problem with experts is that they are ready with what needs to be done while the words of the request are still being formed in the mind of the one asking. The problem with experts is that they don’t listen. And, that is exactly what is expected of Vincentians: Vincentians must be good listeners. Vincentians should go on a call with no preset plans in mind. Vincentians should visit those in need with the spirit of a servant asking their masters “what is it that we can do for you?” Our Lord has called out to us. It is He whom we are serving in the person of the poor. We must go to Him humbly asking what it is He seeks. But He does expect us to say “yes” when appropriate and “no” also when appropriate. Be a good listener. If you are an expert on life, stay home.

3. If you cannot smile and be pleasant, stay home.

Let’s face it, everyone has a bad day once in a while. It happens to the worst of us. It happens to the best of us. However, as Vincentians we represent Christ to those we serve. We must be pleasant, loving and caring when we encounter those in need. Our Lord asked us to love one another as He has loved us. That’s a tall order and we need to represent Him well. What this means is that if you are having a bad day, you can’t show it. And, if you can’t not show it, stay home.  You are doing no one any good — including yourself.

If your normal personality matches the movie title “Grumpy Old Men,” then you shouldn’t be going on home visits. Grumpy people never provide those they encounter with feelings of love and renewed hope. That’s part of what we are doing when we go to those in need. We are showing them that God cares. He cares so much that He sent us to try to help. So, if you are a grumpy old man or woman, stay home.

Burnout often reflects itself in rude, crude and downright ugly behavior. Unfortunately, we never recognize it in ourselves. It’s always someone else who sees it. And it is worse if the one who sees it is the one you are supposed to be helping. If you see this in your partner, make sure he/she stays home.

4. We are responsible for our effort, not for success.

It would be great to point to every Home Visit that we make and be able to say, “This is one of our finest success stories. We did such and such and it really turned things around for this family. They’re doing great now.” Well, in doing a reality check, we know better. We know, in fact, that very few of the families we visit for the first time ever even take the good advice we give them. That’s part of human nature and we should not expect much more. So then, what is our role if it is not to change people’s lives and get them on the road to heaven? Our role in serving those in need is twofold. First, it is to show those who are in need that God cares about them; He cares so much that He sent us to do what we can to help. Second, our role is to make life a little bit better for them right now, this moment, to give them some hope. If we can do more, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too.

We are responsible for making the effort to help. We are responsible for our attitudes, for the amount of love we put into the visit, for the amount of love we put into the advice we give. We are not responsible for making it all work. We can give advice but we cannot force those we are trying to help to take the advice and run with it. We cannot place conditions on the help we give; so we should never refuse to help because they didn’t follow our last advice. Christ asked us to love one another as He loved us. His love was unconditional. Focus on what you can control and that is your effort. You may walk away from a visit feeling like you have made a real difference or you may feel like you were not able to change anything. The impact of what you do today may not show up for months or years. If you are going to make an evaluation of the visit, then evaluate yourself, your effort, the impact of the visit on you, and not whether anything is different for the family you visited.

 5. Judgment not judgmental!

Every day we are faced with making decisions and every day we make a choice on each one of those decision points presented to us. Some of those choices are good, some are bad and some are inconsequential. We hope for the most part that our decisions are good ones. When we are faced with what our Lord presents to us on our visit to Him (in someone’s home), we are asked again to make a decision, a choice, a judgment.

We are asked to judge the validity of the need and the level of resources that are available to us. We are asked to listen to what is presented, observe the surroundings, analyze the circumstances, and evaluate what we have to work with. It is the need that is important. Is this real? Do they really need the groceries? Do they really need the rent help or is the rent not even due for another two weeks? Do we have enough money to pay the portion of the bill that they cannot cover? We are asked to make a judgment — period.

Don’t make your decision based on any one of the many varied lifestyle choices that people make: are they living together instead of being married; is it a mixed marriage; are they just going to take our help and use their own money to buy cigarettes, beer or drugs; is the house filthy and the kids as well; does the whole place smell of stale cigarette smoke or urine; is the old man just lounging on the sofa? These and a thousand other questions are based on lifestyle choices and cause us to be judgmental.

We are asked to make good judgments about whether to help or not. We are not to be judgmental about lifestyle choices. It’s not easy. We have to deal with mind and heart issues as well as all our life experiences. Our Lord told us to love one another as He loves us. Don’t deny someone your help because you disagree with how they choose to live. Make the judgment — don‘t be judgmental.

6. Who owns the groceries? Let go!

Letting go is something that has been promoted as a necessary part of maintaining both a good mental and emotional balance. Essentially the saying is “let go, let God!” Within our Vincentian way of life we are asked to do the same thing but from a slightly different aspect.

Often our members place a tremendously high value on the material things that we give to those in need. Often we are judgmental about the people we serve based on how they deal with the things we give them. Jesus told us to love one another as He loves us. And He loves us unconditionally. He doesn’t attach any strings to the gifts He gives us. He doesn’t ask us to dance to a particular tune in order to receive the gifts He gives out of love. And He certainly is not going to withhold any future gifts because we didn’t care very well for what He gave us in the past.

The same should be applied as Vincentians give their gifts to those in need. There are no strings attached. Our gifts are unconditional. When we give a person or family a box of groceries, who owns the groceries? They do. When we give a person or family some clothing or some furniture, who owns the merchandise? They do. They have ownership. How they handle it, how they dispose of it is their business.

We are asked to make a judgment about the need that is presented to us. We are not asked to be judgmental about the actions of the people we are about to help. Let go. Judge each case on its own merit. “The measure with which you measure will be used to measure you.” (Matthew 7:2)

 7. Work within the guidelines of the Conference.

It has been stated in many ways in many St. Vincent de Paul publications: the basic unit of the Society, the most important unit of the Society is the Conference. It is the Conference that has the resources. It is the Conference that does the works of charity. It is the Conference that decides what will and what will not be done. In the United States, all Conferences are run democratically. All decisions are made by the group. No individual member has a right to override what the Conference decides. Every Conference establishes a set of guidelines upon which the members may operate as Vincentians. Assuming that the guidelines do not contradict the Rule of the Society, it should be understood by all members of the Conference that the guidelines must be followed.

For example, a Conference guideline may allow for any visiting team to spend up to $150 based on their own evaluation of the need and circumstances. If more than $150 is needed, then it must be brought back to the Conference for a decision. It would be improper for any visiting team to simply approve payment of or pay a bill for $220.

If the Conference as a group decides not to give any further assistance to a specific family (regardless of reason), it would be wrong for an individual member or visiting team to assist the family in spite of the Conference decision. All members must work within the guidelines of the Conference.

 8. Your decision is the right one.

The visiting team must have confidence in themselves and their decision-making ability. They are being asked to make a decision that will affect not only the person/family they are working with but also the Conference. The visiting team members are the only ones present to hear the story, to ask the questions, to understand the circumstances and to formulate a resolution to the problem. Their decision is the right one. The only exception to this is if their decision contradicts a Rule of the Society or a prior decision/guideline made by the Conference.

No one within the Conference has a right to criticize the team for the decision they made. Other members may make recommendations as to other questions that may be asked in similar circumstances next time, other resources that may be referred, other paths that may be suggested. But criticism is out. Our role as Vincentians during the meeting is to bolster, encourage and assist each other.

Always remember: unless you are doing something contrary to your Conference’s prior decisions or contrary to the Society, your decision is the right one.


Take a moment and review all eight of the ground rules. Essentially, they all deal with attitude. Attitude is what you bring to the visit. It affects the way you think and the way you act. It truly is your contribution to the encounter. Our Lord presents us with opportunities to serve Him by serving those in need. It is not so much the material things that we give that are important as what we bring from our hearts. Let us close with an excerpt from Praying With Frederic Ozanam (pages 92-93, Ron Ramson, C.M.).

Frederic’s Words

 On 21 October 1848, Frederic wrote a remarkable article in his newspaper, the New Era. The article was entitled “Help Which Humiliates and Help Which Honors.” 

Help is humiliating when it appeals to men from below, taking heed of their material wants only, paying no attention to those of the flesh, to the cry of hunger and cold, to what excites pity, to what one succors even in the beasts. It humiliates when there is no reciprocity, when you give the poor man nothing but bread, or clothes, or a bundle of straw — what, in fact, there is no likelihood of his ever giving you in return… But it honors when it appeals to him from above, when it occupies itself with his soul, his religious, moral, and political education, with all that emancipates him from his passions and from a portion of his wants, with those things that make him free, and may make him great. Help honors when to the bread that nourishes it adds the visit that consoles, the advice that enlightens, the friendly shake of the hand that lifts up the sinking courage; when it treats the poor man with respect, not only as an equal but as a superior, since he is suffering what perhaps we are incapable of suffering; since he is the messenger of God to us, sent to prove our justice and our charity, and to save us by our works.

Help then becomes honorable because it may become mutual, because every man who gives a kind word, a good advice, a consolation today, may tomorrow stand himself in need of a kind word, an advice, or a consolation; because the hand that you clasp clasps yours in return; because the indigent family whom you love loves you in return, and will have largely acquitted themselves towards you when the old man, the mother, the little children shall have prayed for you.

A Time for Thanks

A Time for Thanks 1080 1080 Jill Pioter

At this special time of the year when our thoughts turn to giving thanks, it is appropriate to reflect on the many reasons Vincentians have to be grateful.

Perhaps the two most important are the ongoing guidance of Divine Providence, which has been wondrously at work on behalf of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul during the past 190 years, and the constant inspiration of the Holy Spirit evidenced so beautifully by the way Vincentians respond every day to the challenges we face in serving Christ’s beloved poor.

We are privileged to participate in the perpetual miracle of our Society: Ordinary people doing extraordinary things which restore hope to those who have none and change their lives for the better. Our countless benefactors, whose generosity makes it possible for us to help so many people in so many ways, deserve our gratitude as well.

On the most personal level, going to the essence of Vincentian spirituality, we should be thankful to those we serve for the blessings they bestow on us which transform our own lives.

Very importantly, we have each other, truly something to cherish. Loving and supporting one another while helping the poor is an integral part of our mission.

Vincentians have been graced by God to be members of one family throughout the world living Blessed Frederic’s divinely inspired vision of a global network of charity and social justice. We should thank God for our Vincentian vocation, a blessing of eternal value.

And, ultimately, how blessed we are with the gift of faith, and in that faith Christ’s greatest gift — the Eucharist. How fitting it is that “eucharist” means “gratitude.”

11-22-23 Questions & Answers

11-22-23 Questions & Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q:  If a Conference receives a large donation to be distributed to the poor and needy in the area where the Conference is located, and members decide to distribute the funds in increments of 25% per year over a 4 year period, would this be in keeping with the use of money as stated in Rule, Part I –3.14 and in Rule, Part III –Statute 24 and in Rule, Manual –Chapter 2.1 Funds of the Conference?

A:  When Conferences receive significant amounts of funds it is appropriate that they make a formal plan to spend it down. A Conference’s decision to distribute 25% a year over a 4-year period is acceptable. However, if the 25% is spent before the year is up the Conference should allocate additional funds from the balance to help those in need.


P: Si una Conferencia recibe una gran donación para ser distribuida a las personas que viven en la pobreza y necesitados en el área donde se encuentra la Conferencia, y los miembros deciden distribuir los fondos en incrementos del 25% por año durante un período de 4 años, ¿estaría esto de acuerdo con el uso del dinero como se establece en la Regla?  Parte I – 3.14 y en los Estatutos, Parte III – Estatuto 24 y en el Artículo, Manual – Capítulo 2.1 Fondos de la Conferencia

A:  Cuando las Conferencias reciben cantidades significativas de fondos, es adecuado que hagan un plan formal para gastarlos.  La decisión de una Conferencia de distribuir el 25% anual durante un período de 4 años es aceptable.  Sin embargo, si el 25% se gasta antes de que termine el año, la Conferencia debería asignar fondos adicionales del saldo para ayudar a las personas en necesidad.

How to Run a Good Meeting

How to Run a Good Meeting 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Among the group leadership skills that come into play for Conference and Council Presidents is knowing how to run a good meeting.  Here are a few tips for use whether you are a new or veteran President:

  1. Never hold a meeting without an agenda; send a tentative agenda in advance to everyone who is expected to attend.
  2. Make sure that copies of all reports to be discussed are sent out in advance of the meeting.
  3. It does not hurt to have a consent agenda for matters like prior meeting minutes and financial reports with discussion or reporting needed only if there is a question or correction.
  4. Begin every meeting with prayer, a spiritual reflection and brief discussion on the reflection. Business can wait for prayer and spiritual reflection.
  5. At the beginning of your meeting have those in attendance approve the tentative agenda so that it then becomes theirs.
  6. Stick to the agenda and politely keep those who are present on topic. Remember to treat everyone with dignity and respect, and remind them that we discuss matters, not argue about them.
  7. Provide an opportunity at the end of a meeting for new business to be brought up for discussion at that time or at a subsequent meeting.

We hope these basic suggestions help your meeting run smoothly.

Pricing Strategies for SVdP Thrift Stores, Part 3

Pricing Strategies for SVdP Thrift Stores, Part 3 1500 1125 Jill Pioter

A Discussion by Dave Barringer
National Chief Executive Officer

Knowing What Actually Works
(catch up on Part One and Part Two)

How Do We Know What Works?

Which pricing strategies and tools work best for your store? Here is what you must do to get to this answer.

  1. Know the store’s mission. Some thrift stores are designed to make the most money possible and then use the profits to fund other SVDP programs that have no funding on their own. Other stores are designed with a specific charitable intent to give away a lot of goods, but they still need to make some profit to pay the bills and stay in business. Both are fine, but you can’t do both at the same time! Your Board of Directors and leadership need to know clearly how stores fit into the overall SVDP program. Pricing strategy follows.
  2. Know our customers. In part due to the above, everything from your store location to pricing needs to be based on your anticipated customers. If you are giving away so much, maybe your store is in a poor area of the city and prices need to be lower. Usually, however, our best customers are middle-income shoppers who have many choices where to spend their retail dollars. The store therefore needs to be where these shoppers live and shop other retailers, and prices can be set higher and still be affordable. A common, historical, view of thrift stores is that these are stores where poor people shop. Most current thrift stores are designed for middle-income people both to donate and shop, with profits going to assist the poor.
  3. Test, test, test! The beauty of pricing is that you can change it. Consider a new pricing strategy in just one of our multiple stores, or in just one department if you have only one store. Check staff and customer observations and reactions. Certainly, check the differences in sales and profits. You will likely need at least one month, maybe several for some ideas, to see if a new program is working effectively.
  4. Pro testing tip: Test only one thing at a time. For example, don’t run a new advertising campaign at the same time as new price points. Which one brought more people to the store? Which one created more sales? It can be hard to tell. The more you isolate any factor, the easier it is to measure. By the way, advertising brings people to the store, while pricing, customer service and enough goods on the shelves create more sales. Advertising often gets too much credit for sales, when it should only be measured for store traffic. But that’s another article…
  5. Use the POS! A Point of Sale (POS) system is a tremendous resource in evaluating pricing strategies. Using categories, price points, units sold vs. processed etc., gives you a great deal of useful information that can help you evaluate pricing change effectiveness over time and department/category. Sometimes what feels like success, such as increased store activity, is disproven by cold, hard facts when it comes to profitability.


Effective thrift store pricing can be designed to create shopper excitement, drive additional sales, and maintain needed profits. It must be designed with the end in mind – your goals for the store program amidst the rest of the Society’s goals. Pricing must be considered in the context of the neighborhood economy, the competition, and the availability of continuous product flow. Finally, pricing strategy and execution can be, and must be evaluated to ensure that “you get what others are paying for” in funds for the Society’s mission and activities. In the end, we are not retailers. We are used goods collectors and resellers working to advance our mission. Effective pricing leaves no potential dollars on the table that we could be using to serve people in need. Please do not be afraid to raise prices. After all, your costs probably have risen, and you need to cover these costs just as any other retailer. However, please do be somewhat afraid to lower your prices. The first cents taken off are always your profit!

If you have a topic that you would like addressed in a future Stores Corner article, please e-mail Jeff Beamguard, National Director of Stores Support.

11-16-23 Questions & Answers

11-16-23 Questions & Answers 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Q: Some Conference members give their personal phone numbers to our neighbors and purchase Christmas gifts with their personal funds and deliver with a member of their family ,unbeknownst to the Conference. Is this practice okay? 

A: The National Council does not encourage nor endorse the practice of members giving out their personal phone number. Phones can be abused, and those whom we serve should only call a designated SVdP contact number for assistance.

Vincentians should refrain from providing help using their own personal resources, especially since those we serve will view the assistance as being provided by SVdP. We are not a personal ministry for individuals; we are a group ministry, and members should treat the Conference as such. If individual members want, they can donate resources directly to the Conference to assist others.

Q: I have a store committee that wants to fundraise in the community, to host a Christmas party for employees and volunteers. It does not sound right to me, but I want to make sure that I am not being too conservative, and I say no to something that is not against any Rule or standards. I need guidance. 

A: As long as the community knows that the fundraising is for a Christmas party for employees and volunteers, it is okay to do so. Funds cannot be collected for another purpose and then used for a Christmas party. We must be very careful with this because then it looks like SVdP is collecting money to serve ourselves (employees & volunteers). No fundraising is acceptable under false pretenses.

Spanish Translation

P: Algunos miembros de la Conferencia dan sus números de teléfono personales a nuestros prójimos y compran regalos de Navidad con sus fondos personales y los entregan con un miembro de su familia sin que la Conferencia lo sepa. ¿Es esta práctica correcta?

R: El Consejo Nacional no alienta ni respalda la práctica de que los miembros proporcionen su número de teléfono personal. Se pudiera abusar de esta práctica, y aquellos a quienes servimos solo deben llamar a un número de contacto designado de SVdP para obtener ayuda.

Los Vicentinos deben abstenerse de brindar ayuda utilizando sus propios recursos personales, especialmente porque, aquellos a quienes servimos verán la asistencia como proporcionada por SVdP. No somos un ministerio personal para individuos; somos un ministerio de grupo, y los miembros deben tratar a la Conferencia como tal. Si los miembros individuales lo desean, pueden donar recursos directamente a la Conferencia para ayudar a otros.

P: Tengo a un comité de una tienda que quiere recaudar fondos en la comunidad, para organizar una fiesta de Navidad para empleados y voluntarios. Creo que no está bien. Por favor, deme orientación.

R: Siempre y cuando la comunidad sepa que la recaudación de fondos es para una fiesta de Navidad para empleados y voluntarios, está bien hacerlo. Los fondos no se pueden recolectar para otro propósito y luego usarse para una fiesta de Navidad. Debemos tener mucho cuidado con esto porque entonces parece que SVdP está recaudando dinero para servirnos a nosotros mismos (empleados y voluntarios). No se acepta la recaudación de fondos bajo falsas obras. Como alternativa, es una práctica común incluir eventos/reconocimientos de voluntarios y personal en el presupuesto de la tienda como un gasto legítimo.

Conflict in Conference Meetings

Conflict in Conference Meetings 1200 628 Jill Pioter

Conference meetings are intended to be “mutually fulfilling” gatherings where members joyfully share their experiences, grow in faith and make plans to serve others. Sometimes, however, members do not always agree on how to go about these activities and the meetings are far from mutually fulfilling. Managing meeting conflict is almost never at the top of any Conference president’s list of favorite undertakings, but it doesn’t need to be a negative experience. In fact, sometimes it can be healthy and help your Conference grow. Here we share a few tips to better prevent and manage conflict within your Conference meetings.

 To Prevent Conference Meeting Conflicts

Send out a detailed, specific agenda ahead of time so that members know how the meeting will proceed. Make it clear that the meeting will unfold in an organized, respectful manner.

  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of the members in your Conference, and tailor the discussion style to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses.
  • Encourage frequent communication among Conference members outside of meetings so that members feel informed and are not taken by surprise.
  • Ensure that minutes are kept of Conference meetings, including specifics about decisions made and timeframes. Distribute minutes in advance to all Conference members to reduce inconsistencies in memory.
During a Conference Meeting
  • Make sure all Conference members have the chance to speak and be listened to respectfully.
  • For significant topics, give members a few moments to process the question at hand and perhaps write down a few notes before starting the discussion.
  • Present things in such a way that indicates the Conference is working through issues together.
  • Try to anticipate conflict and address the issue before it happens. Be aware of members’ nonverbal communication and apparent discomfort.
  • Encourage the Conference to be specific in its decisions to avoid ambiguity about when or how something will be done (i.e., “Jesse will contact Father Mike by noon on Friday,” not “Jesse will contact Father Mike soon”).
Should a Conflict Arise

Pause briefly to allow the Conference and its members a chance to temper emotions and think of how to say things in a thoughtful, respectful fashion.

  • Repeat/summarize what you have heard Conference members say so they know you heard them.
  • Neutralize personally-directed comments by restating them in terms of objective qualities, issues or actions, not people themselves (i.e., “Maria tries to avoid us all of the time and refuses to answer our phone calls” to “You feel that Maria is not making herself available to the needs of the Conference,” or perhaps even better, “You feel that our current system of reporting home visits is not working”).
  • Redirect tangents back to the agenda item under discussion.
  • Restate and reframe the larger context of the situation to keep the topic in perspective.
  • Identify and outline the points of agreement that exist between disagreeing parties.
  • Find a “grain of truth” in an opposing viewpoint and use that to begin to build consensus.
  • Strive to arrive at group consensus; avoid voting on a divisive topic if possible.
  • Place the discussion on hold and ask the Conference spiritual advisor to lead the Conference in a prayer before continuing.
If the Conference Is Stuck
  • Reduce unknown factors and fear by assigning a subgroup to research the topic a bit more and report back at a future meeting.
  • Table the conversation until a future meeting.
  • Discern whether someone perceives a threat to themselves or to their interests. If so, address/discuss the issue in a kindly fashion that preserves their dignity.
  • If the topic is hijacking the meeting, arrange for either the whole group or those members most invested in the topic to hold a separate meeting in the future to discuss it.
  • If only one individual is upset about an issue for a prolonged period of time, ask to meet separately with him/her after the meeting.
  • Consider whether another factor(s) may be contributing to rigidity in mindset or aggression in verbal response.
  • While maintaining confidentiality, seek advice from fellow Conference/Council presidents, National Office staff, committee chairs or other Vincentian peers. Many other Vincentian leaders may have faced similar circumstances and have suggestions based on what worked for them.

Know that you are not alone in facing difficult Conference situations at times. Facing conflict may not be your favorite part of serving the poor, but your adept handling of it will allow for so much more love, respect, commitment and loyalty to grow among Conference members and toward those in need as a result.

Unoriginal material in the above list was drawn from the following articles. If you would like further information, follow the links below:

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