Lauren Hoekstra – Staff Writer
Some Dordt students have run into economic hardships this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. They may be working lower-paying jobs, losing employment opportunities, having to contribute the money they make to their family, or experiencing other money-tight situations. Dordt University came up with a way to help.
Established during the early days of the pandemic, the Hope Fund is a way for students to receive additional funds to facilitate their return to Dordt this semester.
As Dordt first began making plans in response to COVID-19, the Development and Admissions Offices originally came up with the plan.
“Our lives changed with the virus too,” John Baas, vice president for college advancement, said. “We said, ‘I think our donors want to help. How can we best give them an opportunity to help?”
“It was our most successful spring fundraising season we have ever had, by far.”
According to Brandon Huisman, vice president of enrollment and marketing, the fund is named after the idea that it will serve as a message of hope for students by making it possible to complete their degree at Dordt.
The initial collection for the Hope Fund started mostly through phone calls to major donors to gain their feedback on the proposal. Some of them became very enthusiastic and offered large sums of money as matching gifts.
In order to reach as many people as possible, the development staff reached out to hundreds of people, sent emails, posted on social media, and even employed student work-studies to make calls from home.
They tried to reach out on all fronts in order to best provide for students, starting at the top of the pyramid with big donors and then working through the entire donor base.
To date, the Hope Fund has gathered $618,000.
“It was our most successful spring fundraising season we have ever had, by far.” Baas said.
Every dollar raised for the Hope Fund went towards additional financial aid for current students. For students to receive these funds, they needed to fill out a form explaining their situation and detailing how much money would allow them to come back to Dordt. The fund amounts given out ranged from $500 to $10,000.
Dordt estimated $750,000 would be needed in order to fill every student’s need.
Baas said the number of students who gave to the Hope Fund served as a huge inspiration to donors. Whether it came out of their housing adjustment or their own checkbook, about 100 students gave a total of $47,000 to the Hope Fund.
“It was a big deal to give that money,” he said. “These are current students that are paying tuition and saying, ‘I want to give this to help my fellow students, my friends.”
President Erik Hoekstra said he has to pinch himself sometimes that he even gets the opportunity to work at Dordt.
“Whenever you get a group of people to come together for a goal… it’s a point of camaraderie,” he said. “We’re in this together.” Moving forward, Baas hopes to establish a program to keep the idea of the Hope Fund going.
In the early years of Dordt, the first president Reverend B.J. Haan asked every family involved at Dordt to give what they could to support the new buildings going up. In addition, he requested an extra $25 to go to a fund for when Dordt had “a rainy day.” That fund continues today as the Special Subscribers Society and is worth $7.3 million. To this day Dordt still receives checks from people Reverend Haan asked to donate $25 all those years ago.
“I hope it helps current students realize that when something bad happens, we can step up and make a dent in the problem”
Baas hopes to establish something similar for future young alumni from Dordt: Defenders Forever. Although the program is still in development, Baas hopes that having a program like the Special Subscribers Society can help recent graduates see the impact that they can have on current students.
Hoekstra felt blown away by the compassion of both donors and students.
“I hope it helps current students realize that when something bad happens, we can step up and make a dent in the problem,” Hoekstra said. “We can make it better and we did that.”