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Annual Fund is more than icing on the cake

Facilites like the Mac Lab, offering state of the art technology for graphic design and music composition, are made possible with Annual Fund revenue

Facilites like the Mac Lab, offering state of the art technology for graphic design and music composition, are made possible with Annual Fund revenue

Without the Dordt College Annual Fund, scholarships would be less abundant, faculty development funds more scarce, off-campus program slots fewer, computer resources less plentiful, and tuition costs higher.

Lyle Gritters, vice president for college advancement, likes to talk about annual fund revenue as the resource that allows Dordt College to maintain a margin of excellence. It's not just icing on the cake; it makes the difference between a high quality, attractive program and a bare-bones education.

"Realistically, we need to be competitive with our tuition rates," Gritters says. He is very conscious of the fact that higher education demands significant financial commitment and sacrifice by students and their families. And pockets are only so deep.

Students and their parents, as well as members of society in general, expect access to opportunities such as those listed above. And professors and administrators agree that they are vital to a strong educational program. But tuition covers only eighty-five percent of the cost of this kind of education.

"That percentage is similar to what other institutions try to raise," says Wes Fopma, the director of the annual fund. This year that fifteen percent added up to $1 million. Raising a million dollars from thousands of people requires many individual visits and phone calls. Four full-time and four part-time development representatives travel around the country. And Fopma's student callers staff the phones every weeknight during most of the school year.

As a result tuition is more affordable and students have access to the latest technology and more options for off-campus study. The annual fund also helps maintain salary levels that will attract qualified and capable Reformed professors. And it funds grants and scholarships for needy, deserving students, many of whom would not be able to attend without financial aid.

"The Annual Fund also serves as a living endowment," says Gritters. Older, wealthier institutions depend on interest from their endowment to provide regular income to fund programs. Dordt College, as a young institution with a small endowment, must depend on the regular support of friends and alumni to help provide the financial resources needed.

As Dordt's alumni base has grown, so have the number of donors to the annual fund. The US News and World Report ranks Dordt College high for the percentage of alumni who contribute to the college. Nevertheless gift support has not kept up with increases in costs. Students bear more of the cost of their education today than they did in the past.

Dordt College is in a somewhat unique situation, says Gritters. Partly due to its age and partly due to the fact that most graduates in the early years entered lower-paying service professions, Dordt does not receive as many large contributions as many colleges. It does receive smaller amounts from literally thousands of people. That is a blessing. It has a strong core of people who support through prayer as well as with money. But it also makes raising the funds needed annually more challenging.

Dordt College graduates give broadly. They support Christian schools, churches, and mission and ministry organizations. Many institutions have donors who give only, or at least primarily, to their alma mater.

"The needs of the kingdom continue to escalate," says Gritters, who knows that Dordt College could accomplish more with more funding, just as other organizations could. He maintains enthusiasm for the work, however, because he's convinced that it is for something very valuable.

Both Fopma and Gritters acknowledge that raising money for the annual fund is hard work but also rewarding. Gritters says he's been humbled and inspired by the commitment and sacrifice of old and new donors. Fopma says visiting with alums, parents, and friends who express appreciation for the education Dordt College provides makes the work enjoyable. And working with the nearly thirty students in the evenings keeps him in touch with what's going on-and keeps him young.