Guest Column: It’s time to rethink collegiate fundraising

Kara Rodby, Guest Columnist

In the campus discussion surrounding Kappa Kappa Gamma and Zeta Beta Tau’s “Jail N’ Bail” event, some argue the groups’ roleplaying as convicts is ironic and insensitive, while others defend the groups’ intentions and claim those who oppose their efforts are only hurting the children who would benefit from the money. Northwestern and universities all over the country should reconsider our culture of fundraising and how we go about collecting money.

First, we should reflect on the unique culture that exists in American universities. There are a multitude of causes for fundraising, whether it is groups raising money for their events or the most popular collegiate purpose: philanthropy. Facebook profiles are constantly plastered with advertisements for fundraising events. Every group asks for money all the time for any and every cause imaginable. But what is the motivation behind these widespread efforts?  I argue that this is more or less a trend; everyone is doing it, so I should too. Rather than pool these efforts to make a significant difference in one cause, it is often cooler to be different than the other groups and find your own cause or the next big cause that will make you look revolutionary.

Furthermore, with every campus flooded with fundraising pleas, people have become desensitized to philanthropic opportunities. We see all of these causes and do not know what to choose, or we are too preoccupied with those going on in our own clubs to even have the time to consider any of the others. So what is the effect of this saturation of causes? It means the money that is raised for a group often ends up just coming from the friends and family of its own members, who they are able to extort because of their personal connections. For example, with the “Jail N’ Bail” event, who was going to come and put money into a random Kappa’s bail cup? The money was only going to come from their friends. Thus, is our time and effort that is used planning these elaborate, creative events used wisely when at the end of the day we just end up giving the money ourselves, through our parents or our friends (who we will likely end up giving our money to in the near future in return for their help now)?

I am not saying plenty of people are not raising money with genuine intentions, or even that such selfish intentions are necessarily bad. Rather, I argue we should all think about what our goals are and what the actual best way to make a difference would be. We should be more honest about what our efforts are really producing and use this to rethink the way in which we go about raising money to make it a more resourceful and impactful process.

Kara Rodby is a Weinberg sophomore and can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a letter to the editor to [email protected].