By: Elizabeth Smith, Project Coordinator
This summer, Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” became the anthem of so many women across the country. The song empowers women to stand up and fight whatever is going on in their lives and to be strong.
This summer, I had the honor to fight for something – Sweet Briar College. Before the announcement of the school closing I had never even heard of the school; however, I remember where I was standing on March 4, 2015 when I heard that the President was closing the institution. The next day that stands out in my mind is April 28, 2015; the day I was put on the project for Saving Sweet Briar Inc. A few weeks went by, and I went from knowing nothing about the College to being the resource for questions from alumnae. People would ask me what year I graduated and all I could say was, “My boss’s wife was the class of 1992.”
It wasn’t until someone decided that we should do a mailing to 5,000 alumnae that I really understood the sisterhood and sense of community between the Sweet Briar women. We asked a few volunteers in the Atlanta area to come in the office to help us stuff, seal, and stamp envelopes. Eight women showed up ready and willing to help – some came for the full day and some only for an hour or so during their lunch break. The women immediately started telling stories from their college days, and we played a recording of what was to be the “last” commencement address that Teresa Tomlinson gave just a few days before. Throughout the day there were moments of laughter and joy and also feelings of anger and disbelief. I could feel the passion that the women had for their school; that was the moment I understood what they were fighting for.
What do I believe led to the fundraising success of Saving Sweet Briar Inc.? The volunteers for Saving Sweet Briar. Every single volunteer was resilient, determined, and very passionate, which was the winning combination. Each person devoted time, talent, and treasure in the hopes of saving the institution they loved, Sweet Briar College.
- Time: Countless hours of phone calls, emailing, stuffing envelopes, and reaching out to fellow classmates and complete strangers to ask for significant gifts. These women (and a few good men) devoted seven months to eat, sleep and breathe Saving Sweet Briar.
- Talent: Personal artwork and handcrafted jewelry were auctioned off or sold online and the proceeds given to Saving Sweet Briar. Someone designed and maintained the Saving Sweet Briar website. People ranging in age from 6 to 70 stuffed and mailed over 10,000 letters. A cadre of Sweet Briar alumnae who are professional development officers deployed their skills to solicit hundreds of major gifts. Every single person gave the skills they had to support the college.
- Treasure: Each person made a commitment they were proud to stand behind before going out to ask others join them in making a sacrificial gift. To generate additional gifts, women hosted parties and donated percentages from their business sales.
I am honored to have been a part of the project and fight alongside the fearless women of Saving Sweet Briar Inc. For the volunteers it was a summer of fighting, but for me it was a summer of learning.