Venmo Continues to buttress LOFT donations

Last spring, Pastor Mary Hulst alongside the chaplaincy decided to usher in a new way of donating to the Community Care Fund. Due to the shortage of cash on students, the chaplaincy began to use Venmo — a widespread money transfer app used today in many colleges — as a means of donating to the Community Care Fund. The Community Care Fund is one of the many ways Calvin gives back to the community by using the funds raised to support families who are facing heavy financial burdens.

John Smilde, the director of advancement services at Calvin College, explains how this system was set up and the benefits it has had on the program. According to Smilde, for students to use the app, they needed to first register and fill out all the financial requisites of the application. Next, Smilde and his team used the “Group” function Venmo provides to control the funds provided from LOFT; the “Group” function allows several people to handle the funds which circulate during the entire program.

Further, the development team set up an email — [email protected] — to which all funding details go, and it was connected to the group account Venmo provided. After setting up the email and connecting it to the group, the team gave Calvin’s Financial Services, the chaplaincy and the Gift Processor access to the email account. However, only Calvin’s Financial Services, Ruth Witte to be precise, has access to both the Venmo and email account. The chaplaincy office then managed the email which contains information about the person who donated and how much they had contributed.

At the end of the year, the team will send out a statement to all the people who gave throughout the year with the amount they contributed towards the program. “The purpose of this is to show how much each person has contributed to the Community Care Fund and to allow them to acknowledge how much of a help they have been to these families,” said Smilde.

Though Venmo has ceased allowing group donations, the company still allows Calvin College to utilize this platform to help others in need. Overall, after eight months of using Venmo at LOFT, the Chaplaincy has a seen a reasonable increase in donations and has not encountered any problems thus far.