Dartmouth Cares: A Philanthropic Failure

On the Saturday of Sophomore Family Weekend, Chi Delta—a local sorority— hosted a “rally against family separation” called “Dartmouth Cares” on Gold Coast Lawn. The event was sponsored by the Greek Leadership Council and had participation in the form of fundraising booths from numerous Greek Houses and Non-Greek Organizations. The individuals running Dartmouth Cares wanted to stress that the event was not meant to be explicitly political and was merely designed to raise money for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called RAICES— The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.

The booth for the Dartmouth Democrats at the "non-political" Dartmouth Cares event

The booth for the Dartmouth Democrats at the “non-political” Dartmouth Cares event

It is at this point that The Review would like to make a few things abundantly clear. First, we would like to go on record publicly condemning family separation. Conservative values are family values, and we believe that no child should be separated from their parents unless the child’s safety is threatened by those parents. Second, we believe that private donations to causes that individuals wish to support is undoubtedly important. Philanthropy and charity are essential actions for helping society. Everyone should be free to use their money how they wish and be encouraged to use some of it to make a real difference. Finally, while one can put partisanship aside to solve a humanitarian crisis, it is absurd to consider something inextricably tied to policy a “non-political issue.”

Dartmouth Cares had fine intentions. But intentions do not always translate to practice. There are a few main categories of problems associated with the event. First, there were budgetary problems in allocating funds for the event and unrealistic planning about how much the event would earn. Second, there were logistics related concerns such as a lack of communication about the purpose of the event and poor outreach to campus. Third, for a “non-political” event, Dartmouth Cares was most certainly political. None of these problems undermine the money that Dartmouth Cares raised for the event. But all of these problems speak to a bigger dilemma about on-campus activism.

Dealing with money is hard. Estimating how much money you expect to earn is also hard. In the first meeting for Dartmouth Cares, organizations were asked to state how much they expected to raise. This is normally a good technique for estimating income and determining a budget that you can use to help fund certain booths. One organization declared that they would raise $800. They only managed to earn just shy of $400. Another organization declared that they would raise $250 and only managed to raise approximately $50. For this latter organization, the amount raised was estimated based on a small mason jar filled with tickets representing $1.

Both of these organizations should be proud to have raised the money that they did. However, Dartmouth Cares should have been realistic about the number of individuals that they expected to attend the event and the amount of money each of those people were going to donate.

The grave overestimation on how much money each booth was expected to raise caused separate budgetary problems for the Greek Leadership Council. Because running these booths would prove to be a budgetary strain for certain Greek organizations, the Greek Leadership Council offered funding for groups to build the booths. The organization that raised approximately $50 was allocated $125 to build the booth. Thankfully, the organization only used around a third of that money. There are numerous problems here. Although the entire sum of approximately $50 likely did go to RAICES, it is absurd that the booth was allocated $125.

The Greek Leadership Council receives its funding from the Undergraduate Finance Council— an organization that funds numerous other organizations such as the Council on Student Organizations, the Dartmouth Outing Club, and the Special Programs Events Council. Each organization is given a budget at for the entire year that begins during the Summer term and ends in the Spring term. Funding is allocated based on the previous year’s budget and expenditure and a presentation to the students who serve on the Undergraduate Finance Council. By allocating an unnecessary number of funds to Dartmouth Cares, the Greek Leadership Council can potentially use this event to boost their budget for the next year.

Even if this does not occur, it was most certainly a ridiculous allocation of funds as no booth at a college philanthropy activity costs $125 to make. Especially when that booth only ends up making $50. It is very likely the case that the rest of the $125 went back to the Greek Leadership Council for them to use for a different charitable event or Greek-related activity. But either way— allocating $125 to begin with was a somewhat ridiculous mistake. Especially when it could have been avoided by having the organization present a budget to them ahead of time. This is a common practice for organizations presenting to the Council on Student Organizations and the Special Programs Events Council. It is most certainly not a common practice for funding organizations to give a group money that they do not need.

At the entrance to the event, the organizers for Dartmouth Cares collected money in the form of cash or DASH (a reloadable balance for students) and exchanged the money for an equivalent amount in tickets. These tickets were color coded, but many people working the booths did not have a clear idea on how much money each ticket represented as there was no public sign or e-mail sent out to the volunteers telling them what the color-coded system meant. Because the organizers were selling tickets at the entrance to the event, it is likely the case that they know the exact amount that all of the booths raised combined. But it is unclear whether anyone knows the breakdown of what each booth raised. This proposal was substantiated with numbers from another booth that estimates that it raised around $60, but does not know the exact amount as the organizers never released official numbers. Obviously, this lack of transparency is extraordinarily troubling.

The bottom line on the money issue is that Dartmouth Cares did raise a fair amount of money for RAICES. By our estimates, a conservative estimate for how much the event raised was at least $800. Perhaps that money will even go towards helping separated families rather than overhead costs for an expanding legal organization. But by no means is on-campus activism defined solely by the money made. Advocacy of any sort must be backed up by grit and good intentions. Oftentimes these intentions are illustrated with a statement of purpose or at least widely communicated to the general public. Unfortunately, the second main category of problems with Dartmouth Cares was that it had very poor communication.

The first type of communication problem that occurred with Dartmouth Cares was in the naming of the event. There is already an organization on campus called Dartmouth Cares— it’s a component of the Counseling Center committed to mental health awareness, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention. Once the organizers found this out, they did not bother to change their name or issue a retraction as is customary for student organizations that have poorly named their events. Furthermore, this caused a name recognition and marketing issue for the event. If someone were to search “Dartmouth Cares” on the Internet or in their e-mail, the Counseling Center’s website or e-mails come up.

Another dilemma with this name was that it misrepresents the event— by no means was this a Dartmouth sponsored event. It was an event created by a single sorority with individual booths from other Greek and non-Greek organizations. Multiple Greek houses were not even represented by the event. To declare that this is “Dartmouth Cares” rather than “Chi Delta Cares” or “Most of Dartmouth Cares” co-opts the institution of Dartmouth for the purpose of adding prestige to the event.

The second communication problem that occurred was likely more of a broad, logistics related difficulty. There was confusion regarding how the booths would work, whether or not booths would be approved, and which organizations were actually participating in the event. By the final organizational meeting on July 26th, the organizers still had not fully figured out how the ticket system would work.

In an official e-mail sent out to the people running the booths, the different activities that each booth had were listed to prevent overlap. One booth was listed as having water pong and face painting as dual activities. This booth was seen with a pong table at the beginning of the event. By the end of the event, there was no pong being played and there were rumors that the water pong was not allowed at the event. It did not appear as though this was communicated to the booth leaders prior to the event even though all of the booth ideas had to be approved by the event organizers. Another booth closed down almost an hour and a half prior to the end of the event.

Within two weeks of the event, at least three organizations pulled out of the event because of issues such as unclear communication and understanding about the nature of both the event and RAICES.

The third communication problem that occurred with Dartmouth Cares is a very basic one. There were only a few posters around campus— most of them were on the columns in the Library by Novack. There were no posters in the student center and barely any posters scattered around campus in academic buildings or in dorms. Or, if there were, no members of the Reviewsaw them. The organizers did have the event put on the official calendar for Sophomore Year Family Weekend, but it is not clear how many people that attracted as there were eight other events on the calendar that overlapped with the time slot for Dartmouth Cares.

There were only two e-mails sent out to campus on the Campus Events listserv. One of them was sent on July 17th, 2018 at 2:43pm and barely contained any information at all about the event. This is what it said:

“Hello 18Xers!!!!

This Parents Weekend, on July 28th, Chi Delta, with the support of student organizations across campus, will be hosting a fundraiser/rally against family separation on gold coast lawn. There will be state senators, professors, etc. speaking at this event!

BUT…….We need VOLUNTEERS!!!

if you are not already volunteering through a greek house or student organization, please sign up here!

Additionally, if you are interested in speaking on the crisis at the event please blitz [NAME REDACTED] ([E-MAIL REDACTED)”

There was a link for people to sign up, but there was no detailed information saying how the event would run, where the money that was raised would be going to, or an official graphic or poster. The sign-up was also confusing as some members of Greek organizations emailed the organizers asking whether they would be able to volunteer and were sent the sign up sheet for non-Greek and non-Student Organization participants. The sign-up sheet itself was also incredibly unclear. The first tab where volunteers were to sign-up was labeled “Roster.” The second tab on the sheet was labeled “Schedule” and contained information completely unrelated to the event. It looked almost like a partial schedule for a sports team from 2016. Here’s a screenshot of the second tab of the sign-up sheet:

demz2

We would have also included the first tab of the sign-up sheet as well, but it contained the first and last names, phone numbers, and e-mails of five Dartmouth Students. This private information should not have been made easily available to anyone who had access to the campus-events listserv—something all of Dartmouth’s thousands of students are immediately subscribed to upon getting a Dartmouth e-mail address. It would have been wise for the organizers to keep privacy in mind and instead send out the link to a Google Form that only a select number of people could access.

The second e-mail out to campus occurred on Friday, July 27th at 2:39pm— less than 24 hours before the start of the event. It stated “Come for good food, incredible speakers, lawn games and more. Help us help the families separated at the border. All funds will go to RAICES.” Attached to this e-mail was an official poster that contained the name of the event, declared it a “rally against family separation,” the date and time of the event, and the location of the event. As customary for sponsored events, it also contained the fact that the event was sponsored by the Greek Leadership Council.

The organizers of the event urged participating organizations to send out an e-mail to campus advertising the event with a poster. Although the final e-mail sent out to campus contained a poster calling the event a “rally,” the final informational meeting for groups hosting booths on July 26th urged those groups to send e-mails out to campus that used the word “fundraiser” to describe the event. It appears as though the wrong graphic was sent out to campus. At the very least, this is indicative of poor internal communication. This second poster also omitted the fact that the event was sponsored by The Greek Leadership Council for an unknown reason.

It is also worth noting that Saturday, July 28th did not fall on “parent’s weekend” as there is no event at Dartmouth called “parent’s weekend.” The name of the weekend as stated previously was “Sophomore Family Weekend.” This was not a major issue with the event, but it is fairly lazy— especially considering that a second poster was created prior to the event.

Another example of poor internal communication occurred during the final organizational meeting on July 26th. The person running point on the event was approximately 30 to 40 minutes late for their own meeting. Perhaps they had a legitimate conflict or an emergency, but this is undoubtedly unprofessional. None of the other people leading the meeting could answer basic questions about the event or give any detailed information about the event. One might say that this is simply a fluke— of course the organization running the event would have compiled a document of information or have more than one person know about event logistics. With Dartmouth Cares, this may not have been the case.
At the event itself, the person running point on the event was overheard answering the question of “[NAME REDACTED], are you running this event alone or with some group?” with a flippant “It’s just me” before explaining that there was, in fact, an entire sorority and multiple other houses participating in the event. This may have very well have been a joke. But it is most certainly unprofessional.

To go back briefly to the problems of the final organizational meeting— once the meeting got started, the organizers of the event emphasized a list of odd, seemingly irrelevant rules and intentions for the event. The members of Greek houses who would be working the booths for their Greek organizations were told that they were not to wear any clothes with their Greek letters on it or identifying them with their house even though the booths were allowed to be identified by the Greek organization that they belonged to. When asked why, the event organizers stressed that they wanted to be “inclusive” of the non-Greek booths working the event. Volunteers were encouraged to wear the color green or Dartmouth shirts but were explicitly told not to wear a Green Tie-Dye shirt. This would encourage “a nice aesthetic” for the event. After explaining the aesthetic value of required clothing choices, the organizers went on to emphasize that there would be a wonderful playlist for the event so that the music would once again contribute to the aesthetic of the event.

I can hardly believe I even need to write this, but— a fundraiser should care more about making money than having “a nice aesthetic.” Furthermore, telling a group of people to not wear Greek letters because it would make another group feel bad is absurd by itself. It’s downright hypocritical when the volunteers at an unnamed non-Greek organization’s booth at the event were all wearing matching t-shirts very clearly identifying them with their organization.

This t-shirt dilemma— although objectively very unimportant to the event itself— speaks once again towards the lack of clarity about the event. The Statement of Purpose released by Chi Delta to the volunteers for the event read as followed:

“Dartmouth Cares” was born in the chapter room of Chi Delta. During the first sisterhood meeting of the summer, the Chi Delta Class of 2020 brainstormed how we could make the Greek system more impactful. One of our sisters suggested that we organize a Greek-house-wide fundraiser for families separated at the border. Our President, [NAME REDACTED], presented this idea to the Presidents of all the Greek houses, and after receiving positive responses, the inclusivity team of Chi Delta started planning for the event that is now Dartmouth Cares.

Chi Delta is a diverse, inclusive sisterhood that believes firmly in the importance of human rights. The indefinite and sometimes permanent separation of migrant children from their family is a clear violation of these human rights. While we understand that immigration is a heavily politicized issue, Dartmouth Cares is not a partisan event. We are raising money for a nonprofit called RAICES, which provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Texas. RAICES is an incredible and unique organization — in 2017, they closed 51,000 cases at no cost to their clients. Specifically, we will be donating to RAICES’ Families Together Fund, which funds RAICES’ efforts to keep families together as they navigate the U.S. immigration system.

As a sisterhood, Chi Delta deeply thanks the Greek houses who are supporting this event for expanding its potential far past what we could accomplish alone. We also owe great thanks to the GLC for their sponsorship and organizational help. As a community, Dartmouth Care will help us recognize the Greek system’s enormous capacity to make amazing, impactful change in the lives of the vulnerable. “

Briefly ignoring the number of grammatical errors in this statement of purpose— not all of the statement is relevant to this particular point about the lack of clarity of the event, but interwoven throughout are comments that specifically mention the Greek community. This event’s stated purpose was to make the “Greek system more impactful,” and in the implementation of the event Greek organizations were told that they were not to wear letters identifying their membership. At the very least, this is a mixed message about the purpose and intention of the event.

This statement of purpose also offers good evidence for the final category of problems with Dartmouth Cares— it attempted to market itself as an event that was not explicitly political.

The definition of political is “relating to the government or the public affairs of a country.” It is true that not all issues should be politicized. But it is utterly impossible and blatantly ignorant to try and make a political issue not political. Immigration issues are political. Child separation is political. Money going to RAICES to help pay for legal fees in a criminal justice system governed by the laws of the United States is most certainly political. Dartmouth Cares was, by definition, political.

Political does not mean partisan. Dartmouth Cares did not have to be partisan. But it was.

One unnamed Greek organization proposed having a booth where individuals could write letters to their representatives to express their personal opinions about the crisis. Their booth was not approved as the organizers were trying not to make the event explicitly political.

In response to an e-mail from a Greek House that pulled out of the event that stated that they were uncomfortable participating in the event because they were not “fully aware of the extent to which the event and the receiving charity are politicized,” the organizers of the event essentially changed their marketing. Changing the marketing for the event— declaring that it is not explicitly political and changing the word “rally” to “fundraiser” on a poster— does not change the event itself.

At the event itself, there was a table devoted to Democrats. There was a full-sized poster draping the entire front of the table with a Democratic donkey on it. There were posters and pamphlets detailing Democrats to vote for in upcoming elections and volunteers at the booth were seen handing them to people at the event telling them that the pamphlets were there to “tell [them] who to vote for in November!” The organizers for the event saw this happening and their only move was to give the booth a jar to collect tickets for the booth to sell buttons that had the Statue of Liberty on it and a small child.

Although somewhat shocking, I will give the Democrats credit. They were overheard having a conversation in which they called the event political and at one point during the conversation asked whether the Dartmouth College Republicans had considered having a booth.

A booth is one thing— people can choose whether or not to give their money to it or even whether to interact with it. However, on top of this blatantly political booth, there were also blatantly political speeches given by politicians.

To give just one example— Martha Hennessey, a Democratic New Hampshire State Senator, spoke at the event. She opened up her speech by framing the issue of how Democrats and Republicans consider the issue of immigration. She declared that Republicans approach the issue from an un-emotional and fact driven perspective while Democrats view the issue from a more humanitarian and emotional perspective. While that by itself is still partisan but fine, she then went on to snidely proclaim that she didn’t see how Republicans could not be emotional about the issue. Immediately following this, she stated that she was a Democrat. Furthermore, she ended her speech by first claiming she was no expert on immigration policy and then immediately proposing a list of policy changes she would advocate for in the New Hampshire Senate. Here’s a short list of problems with this speech:

  1. She literally just said that she wasn’t an expert on immigration policy before proposing a number of policysolutions.
  2. The New Hampshire State Senate has absolutely no control over national immigration policy or anything regarding family separation.
  3. This end of her speech very much seemed like a campaign speech… at a “non-political, non-partisan” event.
  4. Declaring that there are differences between the way Democrats and Republicans approach an issue imposes partisanship into the speech and the event.
  5. The organizers for Dartmouth Cares clapped and cheered at the end of the speech— seemingly not recognizing any problem with the event.

Other speakers also advocated for blatantly political actions like defunding the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security. The method advocated for this was, shockingly, calling up United States Democratic Senator for New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen— the lead Democrat of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee— to tell her to vote to defund both of these agencies. Apart from actually defunding the Department of Homeland Security being a horrifically idiotic idea, this is another example of the event being very much political.

Dartmouth Cares had the gall to market an event with what were essentially multiple rallies for Democrats as a non-political event. The audacity here is appalling and unacceptable. Regardless of the logistics related offenses of the event that could be written off as inexperienced college students planning a philanthropic event for the first time, the decision to market the event hypocritically cannot be written off as an ignorant one— Dartmouth students ought to be and are definitely smarter than that.

To the organizers of the event— I applaud you for attempting to create an event to support a humanitarian crisis that you all obviously care about. I applaud you for the money and awareness that you raised. But I implore you to reflect on your event in a critical manner. You ought not be immune from criticism simply because your event had good intentions. There’s a reason why effective philanthropy is studied and an even better reason why philanthropic events ought to be marketed as what they are rather than what you wish them to be.