When is the right time to ask for money?

Our university needs to change the way it thinks about getting current students to donate.

Chloe McElmury, Senior Columnist

We all know Hamline is a bit broke. As a result, they are very adamant on fundraising and getting current students and alumni alike to donate back to the institution. Last week at the St. Paul Hotel, Hamline hosted students and board members for the 100 Who Influence luncheon.

President Miller gave the closing remarks, and she delivered a very powerful story about how all of us matter, despite the Methodist Church’s failed effort to lift their ban on same-sex marriage and LGBT clergy. She told us about her childhood growing up as an African American during the Civil Rights movement, which I hadn’t been aware of. I was almost brought to tears as I could hear the passion, seriousness and sincerity in her voice. The room of students and board members fell silent as we nodded along to her story.

I respect her greatly, but was disappointed when she also took the time to mention how we need to give back to Hamline. I wholeheartedly agree, but she spent a lot of time talking about giving money to Hamline and called out the seniors in the room who are leaving soon. To give her credit, she did mention giving back in ways that don’t involve money, but I think that’s probably what stuck with most of us there.

She also shamed anyone who gets Starbucks and spends their money on that instead of giving it to Hamline. That also turned me off. Is the right way to raise money badgering students for their financial choices because you don’t agree with them? I know it’s her job to raise money for the university, but I was taken aback given the context for the event and the moving speech she had just given. It just didn’t sit right with me.

I even said to our table, which included a few board members as well as provost Dr. John Matachek, “How disappointing, she just ruined her really amazing speech.”

I thought it was incredibly inappropriate to follow up with that after a really powerful speech about her childhood and acceptance of others. This is not the first time I’ve been asked to donate money to Hamline in an ill-fitting context. At the beginning of this academic year, I had to attend the day-long meeting that all campus organization leaders have to go to.

Besides it kind of being a waste of time, there had been a whole segment on the Power of One Day. It mostly made sense because they talked about it in conjunction with fundraising for student organizations, but I’m fairly certain they also talked about giving back just as students as well. The only thing that stuck with me was the distastefulness of asking for money.

Hamline needs to rethink its strategy. What if instead of asking and belittling students for money, we made them want to donate without telling them? In an English context, I would call this “show, don’t tell.”

Let’s show students why they should donate rather than telling them. I know if I ever have more money than I need one day, I’d love to be able to give back to Hamline—to the magazine I run, the Writing and Communication Center or for Digital Media Arts seniors applying for mini-grants to fund their senior projects. If students are all passionate and excited about what’s going on here, I believe that they will be more inclined to donate to keep the passion and excitement alive for the students who come after they’ve left. We all know Hamline is a bit strapped for cash, but what is the best way to remedy that solution?

A thought—maybe Hamline could have saved some money by not hosting our luncheon at a 5-star hotel. It was mentioned multiple times throughout the event that they hadn’t hosted it here before. The St. Paul Hotel is consistently given awards and highly ranked. Public figures like Charles Lindberg and J.F.K have stayed and dined there. Their website oozes luxury and pats their own back—but sorry, that’s a different article waiting to be written.

If Hamline chooses to ask students who are still in school to donate back, I think they need to take a good, hard look at themselves first. Using guilt tactics already looks bad, but looks even worse when you spend the time preaching about it in arguably the ritziest hotel in the Twin Cities.