Educate for Service.
Our motto shows Etown’s 117-year commitment to serving others through the development of students into active members of the community. When I saw that the senior class gift was going to be a donation toward building a well in an African community, I was excited. Building a well in a developing country epitomizes the College’s motto and is a great opportunity for us to do something meaningful for others. I was planning on donating as soon as the campaign began.
But then I read the email sent out by the Class of 2017’s officers.
“The Senior Gift Program’s primary focus is to end the year with a 100% participation rate, because high participation sends a positive message about the state of the school to alumni, and other donors who have substantial resources to make large donations,” it read. (Note how they bolded and italicized primary focus.)
I have a huge issue with this: The primary focus is stated in a way that makes the program more about getting donations to the College from alumni than about actually raising the necessary funds for the well. In fact, the amount needed to build the well isn’t even stated in the email or the information packet that was sent out.
This furthers the idea that Senate cares less about the amount of money we raise, and more about the donation rate. If every senior donated one dollar, we would be grossly short of the amount needed. But hey, that’s okay right? The primary focus’s goal would have been met. See the issue here?
When developing any kind of campaign, two of the most important things you have to develop are your objectives and your tactics. Your tactics are how you plan on achieving your objectives. The way that the email was worded made the objective to get alumni donating to the College (not the well, mind you) and the tactic is to encourage a high donation rate by current students in this controlled circumstance.
In my opinion, the objective should be to raise enough money to provide the well. The tactic can very well be to encourage a high donation rate. You don’t need to be a business major to understand that a high donation rate will have a strong positive correlation with the amount of money raised. It is not the tactic that bothers me; it is the objective.
Encouraging the alumni to donate to the school is essential for the growth of the College. I get that it’s an important objective.
However, it shouldn’t be the primary objective in a program like this. It can be a secondary objective; I would have no problem with that. But having it as the primary objective does not encapsulate the values of our school; if anything, it makes Senate appear as having grossly misplaced values. And because of their status as representatives of the student body, it reflects poorly on us as well.
I emailed the Class of 2017 back in response to this phrase in particular to let them know how I felt.
In the response to my communication, a Student Senate representative for the seniors attempted to tell me that their primary goal is to have enough funds to donate a well. If I am not mistaken, the original email stated quite clearly that the primary goal was to “end the year with a 100% participation rate.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that you can have two primary goals because that is conflicting. You have to pick one. This is not Burger King: You cannot have it your way.
You cannot have one goal that you send out in a mass communication and then try to tell me that I am “confused.” You guys were honest the first time. Your primary goal is to have a high donation rate in order to encourage alumni to donate to the school, not to do good in a community that does not directly serve you.
Now, when I first read Senate’s email, I shut down. I decided that if their values were that misplaced, I wouldn’t donate. I did not want to help them achieve a high donation rate. But I realized that if I did that, I also would not be helping build the well, which I believe is a worthy cause.
My plan now, which is one that I encourage others to consider, is to get a group of friends together who plan to donate, and give money as a group, under one friend’s name. That way we can still make our donations, but the recorded participation rate stays relatively low.
Let us achieve the goal we should—raising money to help others—instead of selfishly trying to get alumni to benefit the college and thus ourselves.