Donor Relations FAIL: Northeastern, what are you Doing?

According to Gawker, many Northeastern University alumni were texted a message that offered them a chance to win $1,000 off their debt if they donated to the university.

Northeastern Alumni Fundraising FAIL

On the outside, from a marketing perspective, this probably sounds like a good thing, right? Like a coupon? Hey, get some money off this thing you bought!

On the inside though, it reads like a tone deaf cry for help for alumni giving.

Is this for real?

Apparently, yes. Northeastern spokesman Matthew McDonald confirmed the MobileCause campaign in an email:

“A Northeastern donor’s innovative idea and support led to a text message campaign for recent graduates. The campaign intended to fulfill two of the donor’s goals: to raise support for the university and to lend a hand to alumni with student loans—an issue that Northeastern University takes seriously.”

The phrase, “You’re so funny. I’m dying of laughter.” comes to mind.

you're so funny I'm dying of laughter

Student debt is in the TRILLIONS in the US. And people are not paying back their debts. Why? Because they can’t find a job. Or if they do find a job, it barely pays enough to buy them food and clothing. Proof? 40% of American households use credit cards to pay for basic living expenses. According to the New York Times, “. . . the typical former student earns only $22,400 a year 10 years after entering college.”

And people wonder why millenials aren’t buying houses or cars.

If you wonder why the economy is in the toilet, it’s consumer and school debt and lack of well paying jobs or a minimum basic income.

One in every seven Americans is being pursued by a debt collector.

Northeastern charges $23,000+ each year just for tuition. Add that up and you get a student debt of $100,000 for a 4 year degree.

According to Forbes, student debt is a big sink on our economy. Most of the students graduating from Northeastern won’t be able to pay their debt off for YEARS. And that debt cannot be discharged, not even in bankruptcy.

What are students doing about unreasonable debt payments?

Well, they’re choosing to stop paying student debt. The consequences are not as severe as you would think.

NPR reported on single mom activists who decided to stop paying their student loans. The Rolling Jubilee is helping people get out of their debts.

From the Rolling Jubilee website: How Does Rolling Jubilee Work?

“Banks sell debt for pennies on the dollar on a shadowy speculative market of debt buyers who then turn around and try to collect the full amount from debtors. The Rolling Jubilee intervenes by buying debt, keeping it out of the hands of collectors, and then abolishing it. We’re going into this market not to make a profit but to help each other out and highlight how the predatory debt system affects our families and communities. Think of it as a bailout of the 99% by the 99%.”

7 ways Northeastern could dig itself out of this PR hole with Alumni

What could Northeastern do instead to increase alumni giving after this faux pas?

  1. Forgive student debt and show how you are forgiving it. Portland State University is working to keep older working students in school by forgiving debts when they might drop out.
  2. Offer to buy student debt.
  3. Become a hero to student borrowers.
  4. Show alumni you actually care that they are in debt, and want to help.
  5. Ask alumni to pay into a scholarship fund to help one student graduate debt-free.
  6. Actively work to lower tuition and show alumni that you need their help to do that.
  7. Show alumni that their tuition isn’t being spent on bloated administrative salaries. This may be hard to prove as “Department of Education data that show the number of administrative positions at colleges grew 60 percent from 1993 to 2009. According to the New York Times, “The explosion in administrative personnel is, at least in theory, defensible. On the other hand, there are no valid arguments to support the recent trend toward seven-figure salaries for high-ranking university administrators and coaches.”

However, this recent 2015 Demos research shows that the reason college tuition has risen so much is because state tax subsidies have fallen away.

So advocate for more state money, spend more on advocacy, get more state money, and be like Portland State University, and lower tuition.

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