Can Crowd Funding Save Mt. Vernon Academy from Closing?


(Spectrumbot) #1

Pastor Patrick Graham is director of the Allegheny East Conference Department of Youth Ministries, and he might have a fix for Mt. Vernon Academy's financial woes. Might. The solution depends less on Graham himself, and more on the generosity of the Adventist public and their belief in Mt. Vernon's value and viability as a school.

As I reported on January 11, the Ohio Conference of Seventh-day Adventists voted to require Mt. Vernon, the oldest Adventist boarding academy still in operation, to raise $3 million by March 10, or begin taking steps to cease operations. The conference's decision followed a long period of insolvency and mismanagement that saw the school go far into debt without the ability to make payroll. $3 million is the cost of one year of operation at Mt. Vernon.

The day after the story broke, Pastor Graham posted a Facebook comment on the article with a link to a crowdfunding site called Faith Partners. The website is a crowdfunding site similar to Kickstarter or GoFundMe that provides funding for specific causes, helping young Adventists pay for Adventist schooling, for instance. Pastor Graham founded Faith Partners with his wife in 2014. The startup's "About Us" page describes Faith Partners as "a full suite of self-service crowdfunding solutions for non-profits, reward, and completely custom crowdfunding solutions. Our mission is to empower people to easily and affordably create and manage their own crowdfunding projects."

I exchanged messages with Graham to find out more about Faith Partners and the role it might play reviving Mt. Vernon Academy.

Faith Partners distinguished itself from other crowdfunding sites by specifically targeting the faith-based community, Graham told me. "We utilize social networking as an integral part of our marketing to attract potential donors to the campaigns of individuals or organizations wishing to raise funds for various faith-based endeavors and projects." The site came into being when its creators saw a need for a unique funding site that would centralize faith-based giving and provide easy access to donors looking for faith-based projects.

"We were also looking for a way to support Christian education, particularly for the developmentally- and learning-disabled, and we intend to donate a portion of the proceeds towards this cause," Graham said.

I asked Graham how Faith Partners corresponds with the work he does as Youth Director in Allegheny East. "As part of my ministry, I do my best to provide financial support for our youth in Christian Education," he said. That happens through fundraising, scholarships, summer jobs and internships. "I am receiving an increasing number of requests for financial help in this area and have also received overwhelming support from the Christian community when I ask for donations for scholarships."

Graham noted that he has always had projects outside of his hired position that he enjoys, "and while FaithPartners is a separate entity from my hired position, its also difficult to be in ministry and see a need and not try to do something about it," he said.

I asked Graham what he would hope to see happen in the case of Mt. Vernon Academy. "I am not privy to the details of Mt. Vernon Academy’s current financial standing," he began, "but when I was made aware that yet another Adventist School and one of the few remaining Adventist boarding schools could potentially close and was in desperate need of funding, then I knew that Faith Partners was a perfect medium to spread the word and see what we could do to provide funding."

Oftentimes, schools are thought of as buildings and administration, Graham added, but taking into account the future of the students attending the school is the more significant consideration. "I do hope that the administration would use the funding to ensure that the school is back on a firm footing and able to continue operating," Graham said.

Faith Partners takes 5% of proceeds as a usage fee, as is common for crowdfunding sites. In the case of Mt. Vernon Academy, Graham says that Faith Partners will use the customary 5% to provide tuition assistance for Pine Forge Academy, an Adventist boarding academy in the Allegheny East Conference. That means 100% of the money raised would benefit Seventh-day Adventist secondary education. Graham reiterated that outside of this campaign, Faith Partners donates to developmentally- and learning-disabled students within Christian Education.

"I am a firm believer in Christian Education within our Adventist Church," Graham said. "I teach the Triangle--Church, Home, and School. There are no guarantees that our youth will stay in the fold because of the triangle, but it sure sets the probability higher. Our schools are closing for many reasons… I have my gripe with many of our processes concerning education. Those gripes, however, will never supersede the principle."

So can the Faith Partners crowdfunding campaign save Mt. Vernon Academy from closing? As of the publication of this article, two donors have pledged $425, with 57 days remaining in the campaign. Even if the campaign goes viral and generates tremendous buzz and support, saving Mt. Vernon seems a long shot right now. Then again, saving the academy from closing is as feasible as the Adventist community decides it will be. The resources exist; the question is whether the will to prop up the school exists in equal measure.

Those who would like to give to the Faith Partners campaign to raise $3 million for Mt. Vernon Academy can do so here.

Jared Wright is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6564

(Rheticus) #2

This unplanned “squeaky wheel” approach to financing reinforces my impression that the SdA are unable to organize a picnic.

Causes should be prioritized based on real benefit, not how good their fundraisers are.

Any money they raise this way will be taken from some other cause, probably more worth but less well advertised.


(Elaine Nelson) #3

It is becoming futile to continue or restore failing academies. If only Adventists could recognize that Christianity is not confined to Adventism. Interest in saving Christians are best served by utilizing and sending their students to the fine Christian schools in most area… Those students would not only get a better, well-rounded education but get a chance to mingle with like-minded Christians. The insulation and exclusivity of Adventists needs to be changed. By the time such students have complete academy and college they have slight chances of meeting other Christian young people who also have high ideals. Their entire network of friends is largely forever limited to friendships made in academies and college

It’s already broken in many conferences, and how much better to utilize the fine Christian high schools than eventually send those students to the public schools?


(k_Lutz) #4

So much for avoiding the appearance of evil! It is not the responsibility of the lay Adventist to cover the debts of institutional misadventures. Is that not the purpose of Risk Management?

Come out of her My people that you be not partakers in her sin.

Trust God.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #5

The present condition in Ohio is due to a lack of confidence in the institution and/or mismanagement. AN INFUSION will only delay the inevitable. Let the dead pass bury their dead. Tom Z


(Steve Mga) #6

Any institution of learning whether it be a “day care”, Kindergarten, Elementary School, Middle School, Junior High, Senior High, College, University has to have a reason for its existence.
It needs to have a written instrument stating WHY it needs to open, or WHY it needs to continue open.
It needs to include the costs of operation, who and how many it will serve, and is there enough interest in its “community”, for there to be adequate numbers of community members to attend.
If there isnt enough interest perhaps the Plan needs to be thrown away, maybe a new Plan, or maybe NO Plan at all.
We do have to recognize the SDA church membership is a greying church membership, the percentage of members who have children of school age has drastically reduced from that of the 30’s, 40’s,50’s.
The Organized Church has done a very poor job of promoting the NEED for schools like Mt Vernon [using it as an example only]. And as been reported, parents want to keep their kids at home, and see no harm in sending them to Public or Private schools in their home town, and then attend sabbath school and church on Sabbath for their Christian Education. [Most churches I know have no planned Christian Education Program in their Sabbath Schools.]
I forsee many more Academies closing for lack of interest, and for the Church having no PR program to excite interest in the Constituency for keeping it open by sending their children there.
We have been at an Educational Crossroads in the Adventist Church for a VERY LONG time. No one has cared, and so we have put our finger into the Wind, and are ambling way past the CrossRoad unconcerned. We decided to take the “scenic route” and this is where we are.


(Elaine Nelson) #7

The church is trying to sell a product where there are insufficient customers. Not a good business plan.


#8

At first I shared the concern of many that a historic SDA boarding academy faced eminent closure. But the story line went on to include information that Mt Vernon Academy has a total of 85 students, of which only 36 are from the Ohio Conference. It would be far more cost effective for the Ohio Conference to pay the full tuition for these 36 constituent students to attend the boarding school of their choice outside the conference. At $3 million annual operating cost, that is nearly $100,000 per constituent student. Each of these 85 students will still have access to an SDA boarding school education following the closure of MVA. It just won’t be at MVA. Contrary to those who are declaring the end of Adventist boarding schools, that is not going to happen. Let’s focus on the schools that are succeeding and promote that model.


(Dean Waterman) #9

You can raise the $3M needed by March 15th, but if you don’t fix the underlying problems, then next March 15th another $3M will be needed to operate. This is the proverbial “kicking the can down the road” approach, if the solutions are not found first.


(Carolyn Wesner) #10

Absolutely - just throwing good money after bad…


(David P R) #11

Elaine,

[quote=“ageis7, post:3, topic:7584”]
Interest in saving Christians are best served by utilizing and sending their students to the fine Christian schools in most area…[/quote]
So says you that they are “fine Christian schools.” First, the average Adventist school is completely away from the original plan - first and foremost, THIS IS WHY THEY ARE FAILING.

[quote=“ageis7, post:3, topic:7584”]
Those students would not only get a better, well-rounded education but get a chance to mingle with like-minded Christians.[/quote]
If my daughter believes that the dead are resting in their graves and not in heaven, that helfire doesn’t burn without ending, that the 7th day is the Sabbath and not Sunday, that there is an investigative judgment taking place and that the Ten Commandments are the standard in that judgment, the Papacy is the Antichrist and Sunday is their mark, that 666 is the number of his name, etc… (I could go on and on) - how is my daughter attending a Christian school with “like-minded” people?

How would it be a better education that true education?

Have you ever read about the Madison school that Ellen White has spoken about? An absolute model of a school, if there ever was one. The way the school operated was second to none. No one was ever turned down, and no student left that school with tuition to pay as debt. Not only did they get a true education but learned industry as well. And on top of that the school made a tremendous profit even when the economy was down and other schools (non-Adventist) were either closing or hurting bad.

[quote=“ageis7, post:3, topic:7584”]
The insulation and exclusivity of Adventists needs to be changed.[/quote]
I keep asking myself why you even care and are worried about it at this point. Haven’t you left the church completely?

[quote=“ageis7, post:3, topic:7584”]
By the time such students have complete academy and college they have slight chances of meeting other Christian young people who also have high ideals.[/quote]
And this is the point - to keep the student focused on God and the mission. Meeting these others you mention would, in many/most cases distract them.

Do you feel this way about Moses when he chose to exclusively be with Israel? Wasn’t he “ruining” his “well-rounded” education by his new choice of exclusivity?

[quote=“ageis7, post:3, topic:7584”]
how much better to utilize the fine Christian high schools than eventually send those students to the public schools?[/quote]
I would never send my daughters to public schools - never! But should I send them to. maybe. a local Roman Catholic High School? Would that be better than homeschooling? or even Adventist schools today?

David R.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #12

David R. you are totally clueless about what goes on at any SDA Boarding School Dorm. keep your children at home and have them educated in the classroom not the dorm. Tom Z


(Elaine Nelson) #13

It is simple and easy to determine when someone has nothing to offer and depends on ad hominem’s to support those positions.


(David P R) #14

well Tom, While my children don’t go to them, I am not clueless on what goes on at some of colleges and schools. I know enough to keep my kids away.

David R.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #15

you could have fooled me and did – With you very critical retort to Elaine Nelson. If boarding secondary schools are going to survive, They will have to be supported by the University within the Union as feeder schools. That means a serious up grade of faculty and counseling, as well as better monitoring of housing.
The best would be to have satellite campuses joined at the hip with the Universty. They would be expanded normal schools. Church schools might be expanded to include the ninth grade.

in any case, the stand alone Boarding secondary school is dead,some not buried… Tom Z