I recently received a letter from a Biola alumnus reflecting on his Biola experience, prompted by a letter that he had received from us that encouraged support for the class-giving campaign. This alumnus attended the downtown campus and his letter recalled life-changing Bible teaching and career preparation throughout his time at Biola. “We had to move fast,” he remembered, “but it was rich and rewarding.” He also remembered former Bible department chair J. Vernon McGee serving as pastor of the Church of the Open Door and ministering through the Thru the Bible radio broadcast.
He referenced Saturday nights in Pershing Square and trips to Hollywood to hand out Bible tracts and “testify to those who would listen.” All these experiences happened while he was enrolled at the Bible Institute more than 50 years ago, and while many of the names have changed, the experiences sound similar to those of students enrolled today. It’s nice to know that Biola has remained true to our mission for 103 years!
But then he retold a story about how as a student he was asked to go out in the community to raise funds for the relocation of Biola to La Mirada and how this had really troubled him. He struggled with asking people outside of the Biola community, to whom he had been witnessing, to participate in fundraising for the new La Mirada campus. This alumnus really had a problem with Biola asking for money then, and still has a problem with Biola asking for money now. His philosophy of fundraising was and is to not ask, but wait upon the Lord for his provision. He shared of his longtime partnership with a group of Christians who believe the same thing and share the same philosophy.
I value this alumnus’ opinion and find this an interesting perspective that perhaps reflects what some of you are thinking or believe. But I also find passages like 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul talks about the importance of supporting those in Christian service. (And I believe that Biola is on the front lines of preparing men and women for ministry.) Then I observe how Nehemiah laid his requests out for King Artaxerxes, explaining what he needed and why (Nehemiah 2). I love this great fundraising book!
So, what should Biola do? I think there is a biblical model for how to raise funds. I think we should continue to lay our requests out for you, explaining what we need and why. We won’t be manipulative. We won’t threaten closure or panic. But we will tell you about the wonderful work of God in the lives of our students, faculty and staff. Then we will wait upon the Lord to provide in amazing ways, in his way, in his timing.
As alumni director, I’m aware that our alumni giving percentages are lower than some schools of our size, and while many of our alumni are in ministry and unable to give big gifts, there are still many alumni who just don’t give. If these alumni were to give, they would not only support Biola students directly; they would also increase Biola’s ability to receive donations from external groups. That’s because many organizations and foundations that support education consider alumni giving to be a litmus test of a good school and valuable education.
Were you blessed and prepared by your experience at Biola? I was! That’s why I give back … and our students need your help now more than ever.
Thanks to this alumnus for the great letter. I’d love to hear your opinion!