On Black Holes and Everything Else

Posted more than a year ago.

black hole

a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape.

a place where people or things, especially money, disappear without trace. 

If you’ve been watching the Thrive menu closely, then you know that late last week a new item elusively popped up at the bottom of the list: The Ever-Important “Off-Menu.”

“What on earth is that?” you’re thinking. “I thought the point of Thrive was to focus on clear and concrete projects…not on big, amorphous pots of cash…”

“This looks squishy.”

“I don’t like black hole fundraising.” you’re adding now, as you consider the matter further. “If OC’s going to be upfront about where Thrive dollars go, then be upfront, Will Blanchard!”

Wow. Great points and you’re spot on, as usual. I don’t like black hole fundraising, either. You know, the kind of fundraising where every dollar given is mysteriously sucked into one ambiguous pit? Yuck. That’s old school campaigning. And Thrive is 100% new school.

Sure, black hole communication makes updating you much simpler, but it also has an air of shadiness to it and that makes my stomach hurt. No, Thrive truly is all about the clear and the concrete. I stand by that.

So then what’s the deal with this “Off-Menu” thing?

Here’s the deal. In a typical year, the OC family supports more than 200 unique projects on campus—special and powerful efforts across departments, extracurricular programs, athletics, scholarship endowments, facilities, and more.  Just to give you a taste, here are a handful of projects supported by our family last year:

The list could go on and on and on, because our OC family is amazing and our donors have very diverse interests. (If you’d like to see more of the options, check out our new “off-menu” giving form.)

It probably goes without saying that we want to count this medley of generosity in Thrive, and for two big reasons:

    1. We want to be perfectly frank with you about every dollar we raise, not just the on-menu bits.
    2. We want to give credit where credit is due for our sacrificial families who choose to invest off-menu.

So, for us, including work on these other 200+ projects in our Thrive updates is an absolute “go.” But where do we count it all?

We can’t package these gifts with existing projects on the Year One menu; that’s not what our donors intended. And we can’t grow the Thrive menu to 212 projects. At that point Thrive would start to confuse all of us with details, and the sheer noise of everything would become worse than the black hole we’re trying so hard to avoid. Plus, there’s a clear philosophy behind every official menu item. Adding each project on campus to the menu would water down the strategic value and purpose of Thrive.

But we need a menu item. As you’ve seen on Thrive’s homepage, without a slot on the menu, there’s no other place for us to share good news like this with you.

Since June 1, we’ve had plenty of good news on this front, too. More than 440 people have given $683,951 to off-menu projects! That’s some astounding kindness at work. Of course, up until late last week we hadn’t told you about any of it…

And that’s not cool.

When we’re touting transparency, hiding away nearly $700k in gifts simply because we don’t have a designation that’s easy to reference is silly. And it was that realization that brought us to last week, when we created a somewhat ironic menu item, the “Off-Menu.”

The Off-Menu is where we’ll count gifts made to everything else at OC.

This is not where we’ll count general or unrestricted gifts (those go to the General Scholarship Fund). And we won’t count undesignated Thrive gifts here, either (you’ll see those in Investments Assured/Projects TBD). However, this is where you’ll see restricted gifts to a variety of OC projects that aren’t quite comprehensive enough to make the main Thrive Menu. Make sense?

So if you’re interested in making a gift to baseball or the history department or to a family scholarship today, do it! Your gift will show up right here and every dollar you give will count in Thrive. And if you ever have a question about the details inside the Off-Menu, ask away.

No black hole here.