Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why I Continue to Support Montreat College, and Why You Should, Too

This message is written to a more focused audience than what I usually write. Today, I am writing specifically to people who are alumni of Montreat College (whether under that name, or its former name of "Montreat-Anderson College"). If I may be so bold as to do so, I am writing in my capacity as the Student Body President for the 1994-1995 academic year (incidentally, the final Student Body President in Montreat-Anderson College history, thanks to that name change).

It's no secret that I love Montreat, and that I definitely have an interest in what happens there. So, I've been following the current drive to boost the college's percentage of alumni giving with great interest. For those who don't already know, here's the gist of it: it's accreditation review time over there. Accreditation is important, because it tells would-be employers that folks with a Montreat diploma have actually learned what the degree claims to have taught. The college has met every one of the 88 items that the accreditation reviewers look for, with one exception. That one item is one that should be no surprise to anyone who's followed higher education these days, as it involves financial stability. Even on that item, Montreat College is not doing unusually bad, and indeed has shown growth over the past few years. The accreditation folks have simply asked to see one more good year of financial stability. One element of that (the one that prompts me to write this message) is building up the college's percentage of alumni giving. As of this writing, alumni giving is at 11.2%. The college would like to get that number to 13% by June 30th. If they can meet this goal, the accreditation reviewers will almost certainly be satisfied.

It's always a challenge to convince people to give their money away, even in good economic times. It's especially hard when so many people are feeling a financial pinch. You may have heard people say that "any amount is helpful." That's not just hype. They really mean it. Part of the reason is that it isn't just about the donation itself. If an alumni member gives as little as $1, that person is counted toward the 13% goal. This not only has the effect of signaling that there is a stable base of people giving to the college, but it is also a valuable tool that can be used to generate even more money from other donors. If a development officer is able to tell would-be donors that a lot of people believe enough in the school that they give money to it, then those would-be donors are far more likely to be convinced that the school is worth giving money to. "If other people believe in the school, maybe I should, too." Thus, more people will give money because some people have already given.

Convincing people out there that the school is worth giving money to is its own challenge. In the recent campaign to build alumni support, I've seen at least one person proclaim in no uncertain terms that she would not be giving to the college because of the "hypocrisy" that she has experienced there. Others have already responded to this complaint by acknowledging that the school "isn't perfect," and of course it isn't. No human institution is. But I want to take her comments seriously. While I love Montreat deeply, I've also tried not to make it a secret that I have some ambivalence about my past there. For example, prior to my enrollment at the college, I was involved in the Montreat Conference Center via their youth conferences. Both the college and the conference center have provided formational growth in my Christian life that cannot be underestimated. Unfortunately, some constituents of the college have tended to speak of the conference center with contempt (generally not even "thinly veiled" contempt. I mean that they straight-out speak of the conference center as though it is an enemy to be fought). Presumably this is due to the kinds of differences in religious politics that have been widely discussed both here and elsewhere, and I am fully aware that the conference center and the college often come down on opposing sides of significant issues.

Make no mistake, some of my friends from my time at Montreat College are people that I have trouble maintaining civil discussion with today because of their views, and without naming names, I would tend to agree with the person who posted about "hypocrisy," at least at some points. But the college is not limited to those people! I am also in touch with a great many people from Montreat College who are doing tremendous work that I very much want to support. While I might wish that certain aspects of the college were different than they are, I can't ignore those aspects of the college that are doing exactly what God wants them to be doing, and this is why I continue to support Montreat College, and I now invite you to do the same.

Full disclosure time: Although I have not been consistent about my donations to the college, I have indeed given to them several times over the years, and have done so again in specific response to the current need. Now it's your turn. You can follow the news through the Montreat College Alumni Association Facebook page, and make your donations through this link (which further allows you to designate your gift to specific needs of the college, should you so desire). Thanks in advance for your support.

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