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Are We Donating with a Purpose?

At Deerfield, many students swipe their Greer cards nonchalantly when asked for a donation. Either the Community Service Board or an extracurricular club generally organizes these collections to fundraise for a charity or an event. While students’ generosity supports several worthy causes, some community members question whether or not Deerfield fundraises in an ethical manner.

Rachel Yao

Rachel Yao

The Scroll recently discussed these fundraising practices with several students in Pocumtuck Dormitory, and many girls agreed that they had been “guilted” into donating, or had done so to receive something in return, like a t-shirt or candy.

“It is kind of sad that we need to receive something in order to donate,” acknowledged Ally Edwards ’17.

Some wonder if students truly understand the causes they’re supporting and whether the organizations involved have been properly vetted. Others argue that these issues have risen from a lack of communication between the fundraisers and the donors.

“Fundraisers address the information pretty well, but no one really listens; they just buy or donate for the food,” Yasmine Deswandhy ’16 said. “When people hear Hi-Chew sale, they are primarily buying for the candy, not the cause.”

David Miller, Director of Global Studies, believes that students who fundraise must research and find out exactly what the organization they support does and how it operates, so that the school can ensure the institutions supported are effective and well-managed. “There can be, in schools, an epidemic of thoughtless fundraising,” he said. “People who are raising money need to be more thoughtful about where the money is going and how that money is being spent.”

Despite such concerns, there are many community members who believe that intent is the first priority, and that fundraising at Deerfield is ethical because the community is helping those in greater need.

Bernie Baker, Director of Community Service, explained, “Many student groups fundraise at Deerfield Academy with varying degrees of transparency about how the funds will be used. All groups are supposed to fill out a form from the Dean of Students office if they wish to do a fundraiser. If the intention is to use the funds for an activity or the group itself, the form requires a signature from one of the deans. If the funds are to be charitable donations to external organizations or causes, a signature from the Director of Community Service is required. There is, however, no formal control over the extent to which a group publicizes its intentions to the whole school.”

“Whenever the Community Service Student Board raises funds,” he continued, “Board members make frequent announcements at meals of where the money will go. The most notable example this year—the multiple fundraising efforts for the MLK Day project with Kids Against Hunger—was publicized with announcements, posters and DA Bulletin postings. Similarly, the Student Board’s Color Run in the fall explicitly stated that the money would support the Rosenberg Fund for Children.”

Mr. Baker concluded, “Refining the system to increase the transparency of all fundraising efforts that take place at Deerfield is probably a worthwhile idea.”

Members of the Community Service Board were also willing to address any fundraising concerns. Maddie Nelson ‘15 explained, “Any club or organization wishing to raise money using a troubadour is only able to swipe students’ Greer cards if they are giving something to the students in exchange. This isn’t due to a regulation set in place by the Community Service Board, but a regulation set in place by the administration.

Nelson continued, “To the students who think we are raising unethically, I’d like to point out that in the end the Community Service Board helping people in need.”

Caroline Dye ‘14, head of the Community Service Board, added, “The dilemma is reflective of a culture problem on campus. It is impossible to raise money without selling something. Measures are in place in the preliminary stages of a fundraiser to try to involve students in projects without asking them for money.”

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