Editorial: LEND should focus on volunteers, not money donations

Northwestern students working through Lending for Evanston and Northwestern Development launched a two-week campaign yesterday working to raise funds for small businesses in Evanston. LEND intends to provide business training and microloans to potential local entrepreneurs. While admirable in its goal of helping the Evanston community, LEND is not an effective use of student donations. Instead, LEND should focus on the educational benefits the NU community can bring to Evanston entrepreneurs.

Praised for the catalytic effect a small amount of American dollars can provide for individuals in developing countries, the last decade has seen an increase in microfinancing as a method of philanthropy. The necessity of such funding in the generally affluent community of Evanston is questionable, especially given its proximity to considerably less affluent communities in Chicago. Students already provide economic support for Evanston businesses through patronage. The scarcity of low-interest loans, while regrettable, is a burden that should not be shouldered by student donations. Considering the average NU students’ limited disposable income, it is not students’ financial responsibility nor obligation to further support these entrepreneurs. With existing institutional supports like the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Evanston, the city need not look to undergraduates for financial support.

LEND should instead work to promote active volunteering. Kellogg students and undergraduates alike can work with entrepreneurs on their business plans. As part of a key consumer base, students have an intimate understanding of what is attractive to the more than 15,000-member NU student community. A collaborative relationship rather than one based solely on monetary donations will do more to foster a sense of community.