By Micah McIntyre
Loud music and friendly competition set the mood as faculty, students and even the Chick-fil-a cow crowded into Lower Beamer last Wednesday afternoon. Blue and orange decorations covered the walls and playful banter between faculty coaches filled the air as student volunteers shouted over the commotion to get the attention of their classmates and bring in donations for Wheaton’s first annual giving day.
WheatonGives 2019 is described on its website as “Wheaton College’s first annual 24-hour giving campaign designed to empower you and other like-minded Wheaton alumni, faculty, staff, parents and friends in supporting transformational Christian higher education.”
On March 21, the WheatonGives website opened for donations from any current students and alumni, with booths set up in Lower Beamer for students to donate in the name of their class. Student volunteers from various groups across campus, such as dekes and phonathon employees, manned the booths throughout the day.
In the end, the class of ‘21 hast the most donors at 134 followed by a close second with the class of ‘19 with 132 donors. The class of ‘22 finished third and the class of ‘20 rounded out the top four. Collectively, WheatonGives 2019 recruited 1,179 donors from 67 different classes of Wheaton and raised a total $238,578 to the Wheaton Fund.
Sophomore deke Collin Kavanaugh enjoyed his experience listening to the live music, all while raising money for what he believes is a worthy cause.
“WheatonGives is a way to directly support organizations we love on campus,” said Kavanaugh. “You were able to specifically request what you wanted your money to go to — whether that be Crew, Improv, A Rocha, or any other club — so you were benefiting your peers and (truthfully) yourself with whatever you donated.”
To energize the campaign and engage students and alumni, prizes were awarded to the class — past or present — with the most donors. T-shirts were handed out to students who donated to the booths in Lower Beamer and those who shared the donation page on social media were entered into a raffle. In addition to prizes, a number of events were held that afternoon, featuring performances from Gospel Choir and Jazz Band as well as a trivia contest between the faculty coaches for each class.
“We are trying to put giving to Wheaton in a positive, exciting, stewardship kind of a context and get people excited about contributing to a Wheaton education for all of our students,” said Vice President for Advancement, Vocation and Alumni Engagement Kirk Farney.
While the event aimed to raise funds for this year’s budget, members of the administration explained that they hoped Giving Day would also help establish a giving culture in the Wheaton community, as well as show that current students can help support their classmates and the organizations they care about on campus.
“I think what’s important is the opportunity afforded to a student to know that they are a part of growing Wheaton,” said Associate Director of the Office of Multicultural Development and one of the coaches for the class of ‘20 Billye Kee. “Whatever the organization is that you have really benefited from, you can give your money [to that] organization.”
All proceeds from Giving Day and WheatonGives 2019 go directly to organizations and scholarships supported by the Wheaton Fund. Some of these groups include the Discipleship Ministry, Men’s Glee Club, International Justice Mission and Wheaton Women’s and Men’s Swim teams. All donors were allowed to choose the organization they would like their money to support.
One of the things that made this particular fundraiser unique was the participation of current students in making donations. Many students participated and donated money, however, others were not opposed to donating, they simply did not feel the situation warranted a donation.
“I can’t say I really felt compelled to give,” said sophomore Chris Baer. “Especially [with the donations] online — it feels much less personal and there is not much of a draw because of that.”
Others consciously chose not to donate — they were unhappy that the college asked for money from students who are already paying for tuition and did not approve of the way that Giving Day was conducted.
“My issue was that [Wheaton] made it seem like a time for the community to grow closer together and fellowship,” said freshman Luke Rutt. “To me, it came across as greedy more than anything.”
The administration understands that some students may not feel that they should donate money since they are already paying tuition. However, they say that the money will be used for things beyond what tuition covers.
“The cost of providing a Wheaton education is not entirely covered by your tuition,” said Farney. “Tuition pays part of that expense and we realize that tuition at any school is an expensive thing … but a Wheaton education is not covered by tuition even if you are a full-paid student.”
Farney went on to explain that the proceeds from Giving Day and the rest of the endowments in the Wheaton Fund go directly to the yearly operating budget, meaning that the donations of current students directly support the education of their peers.
“There are a lot of students at this institution who benefit significantly from the Wheaton Fund,” Director of the Center for Vocation and Career and one of the coaches for the Sophomore class, Dee Pierce told the Record. “How awesome [is it] for those students to say thank you with a dollar donation and how awesome for students who are blessed enough to pay full-pay to know that they are having an impact on their fellow classmates.”