All In Fundraising Efforts Are Essential for Scholarship Fund

In his most recent Netflix comedy special Kid Gorgeous, John Mulaney recounts the tale of how frequently his alma mater mails him requests for money. He jokes about how abrasive it was to receive a letter demanding money from his college. If you’ve seen the special, you’re familiar with his bit, if not, it goes something like this:

“I just got a letter from my college, which was fun, ’cause mail, you know?” he says. “So I open up the letter and they said, ‘Hey, John, it’s college. You remember?’ I say, ‘Yes, of course.’ And they said… How did they phrase it? They said, ‘Give us some money! As a gift! We want a gift! But only if it’s money.’”

The frustration and discomfort Mulaney jokes about is a sentiment many Oberlin students expressed this week. On Thursday, April 25 Oberlin held its third annual All In For Oberlin event, a fundraising day when current students, families, and alumni are encouraged to donate in a generous matching scheme with Chair of the Board of Trustees, Chris Canavan, OC ’84.

The Development Office spends weeks preparing for the event, which features pop-up attractions like field activities in Wilder Bowl, free lunch and music in the ’Sco, and complimentary Ben and Jerry’s — thanks, Jerry Greenfield, OC ’73. As staff in yellow shirts bounce around campus asking students for money, the climate on campus is tense, to say the least. 

With the school striving to eliminate a structural deficit amid an intense program review, fundraising and donations are a crucial component of Oberlin’s financial model. However, as students examine their tuition statements and ruminate on the weight of their student loans, the prospect of donating their disposable income to an institution to which they already pay living, dining, and learning expenses seems absurd and unfair.

This is not to say that donating is a bad decision; in fact, I have donated to All In For Oberlin each year that I’ve been on campus for it. A dollar here and a dollar there goes to financing our scholarship fund, student resources, and general campus programming. Approximately 87 percent of the money raised on the 25th will go to scholarship funding — something many students, myself included, depend on to attend this college. Every time you donate a spare dollar or three, Canavan matches with $100, up to $100,000. This matching scheme is incredibly special, and Canavan — as well as the other alumni willing to put their personal resources toward making Oberlin a more accessible place — deserve our and future Obies’ gratitude.

When John Mulaney jokes about his college asking him for money, he’s forgetting the value of investing in future generations and the betterment of an institution that provided him with an education and the economic buying power of a college degree. While it may feel awkward and uncomfortable to donate to an institution you’re enrolled in and paying money to attend, it’s important to contextualize why All In is fundraising in the first place, and understand the privilege of having disposable income.