I wasn’t fair to the young man who called tonight.
This year, the young man who called is a communication major, just like I was. When he asked me what my favorite course had been, and I told him, he said that it had been an important course to him, too.
And then, having established connection, he worked through the well-crafted fund-raising script that starts with a big ask, cuts it in half, and then goes for at least a participation gift. It appeals to the school motto, thanks me as a student who has benefited, gives great factual and emotional appeals.
I let him ask, knowing from the outset that I would not give. I resent, perhaps immaturely, being run through a script. It isn’t fair to this college student, my silence on the phone, my allowing him to work all the way through every section of the script.
But here’s my frustration. The college that gave me three memorable professors, an excitement about rhetoric (of all things), a couple of significant spiritual moments should be smarter in approaching me.
You know, for example, that I have three degrees in communication, focusing on persuasion. You know that I worked in higher education, that for part of that time I was involved in development. You know that I had high test scores coming into college but that my grades never reflected them but that my GRE’s were great. You know that I never lived on campus, that I graduated early, that I came back to pick up classes from a different major, one that took me into higher education for 15 years. You know that I haven’t ever come to homecoming.
You ought to know that I will be somewhat cynical, aware of how fund-raising works, and that I would be susceptible to an appeal that said, “Maybe you didn’t exactly fit at Wheaton, but there are some misfit commuters here who don’t fit the mold but will, like you, go on to be moderately successful and help some people. Would you be interested in talking with them? No strings attached.”
I’m sorry, young man who called tonight. I made you work too hard and didn’t give you anything. When the envelope comes that you will probably send, I may consider giving something.
But Wheaton, dear old Wheaton, live forever. And while you do, think about using the tons of data you have on me, and people like me, to build appeals that see us as individuals.
And other people who use scripts to raise funds or build relationships or seek converts, please learn from this incident. You have enough information on us to see us as people rather than pockets.