Defender Forever: A new way to stay connected

Lauren Hoekstra—Staff Writer

Upon Dordt University’s founding in 1955, then President B.J. Haan asked the residents of Sioux Center if they could commit to giving $25 every year for the university’s “rainy day fund.” To this day, Dordt still receives checks for $25 in little envelopes marked from “Special Subscribers.” Some of these people give tens of thousands of dollars a year now, but they still make the specific donation for the Special Subscribers.

In testament to both consistent investing and compound interest, the Special Subscribers fund sits at just over $10 million as of June 30, 2021. Dordt has used just over $1 million of the funds over the past seven years or so. 

“The concept is that we have it as a ‘rainy day fund’ and keep growing it over the course of the years,” Stephanie Baccam, vice president for finance and risk management, said. “But we’ll spend a bit of it when we need to do so for unanticipated or one-time expenses.”

Funds have been used for remodeling and upgrading the Commons, replacing and upgrading the audio system in the B.J. Haan, revamping the Dordt website, purchasing strategic real estate adjacent to the current campus, and funding signage and other expenses related to moving from Dordt College to Dordt University.

The Special Subscribers program had “marketing juice,” as John Baas, the vice president for advancement called it, but it has aged out of the public eye.

Thus, the marketing and advancement departments began working together to find a way in which Dordt can appeal to the 25 to 45-year-old demographic. Out of many meetings and discussions, the Defender Forever  program was born.

The purpose of the program is to model the original program of Special Subscribers in the aspect of it being unrestricted, but more relevant to recent graduates. 

“As it grows, if there’s a special need where the income from it or proceeds of it could be directed towards a special need,” Baas said. “That’s where it’s going to go.”  

By making a $100 gift online, anyone will automatically be enrolled into being a Defender Forever. New donators will receive a welcome box with exclusive merchandise, not found anywhere else (not even the Dordt Bookstore). Each year, with the recurring gift of $100, program membership will be renewed, including a new source of quarterly Dordt news, greatest hits, and more, which will be revealed as time progresses.

After the soft launch of the program last year, Defender Forever was publicly launched mid-September. In the first 24 hours, 30 people signed up and committed to donating to Dordt.

“I’d love to see [Defender Forever] be something that everybody knows about,” Baas said. “When you go to a Dordt alumni event in whatever community you live in, people are going to be wearing their Defender Forever baseball cap or whatever. It’s kind of fun to wonder what it’s going to be.”

The logo of the Defender Forever program was primarily designed by Jamin Ver Velde, Dordt’s creative director.

“The style mirrors the Dordt University logo design with the double lines and the combination of partial circles and straight vectors,” Ver Velde said. “The letters ‘D’ and ‘F’ are built into the icon which imitates the infinity sign.”

By the end of the academic year, Baas hopes to have 300 members who commit to the Defender Forever program, reflecting the initial enthusiasm held by the Special Subscribers.

“I love our Special Subscribers,” Baas said. “To think about what faithful giving of $25 a year can do, to get those checks in from those people, we don’t have events for them or anything. They bought in at the beginning and they’re still in and still proud to support it.”

Jordan Harmelink, digital content strategist, is excited to see how Dordt’s Defender Nation will get behind an initiative like Defender Forever. 

“It’s a fresh, new way to give to Dordt,” Harmelink said. “And it gives alumni and friends of Dordt a unique way to both stay connected and support future Defenders.”

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