Kyra DeKoning hadn’t been a UNC graduate for more than a few months when the calls started coming.
“Immediately, I felt like I kept getting calls seeing if I wanted to donate (to the University) and emails about wanting to donate,” said DeKoning, who attended UNC as an out-of-state undergraduate student. “I was like, ‘I just got out of here. I paid like $50,000 a year to be here. And you’re already asking me for money?’”
DeKoning was likely getting calls from UNC Phonathon, which directs fundraising calls to UNC alumni, including recent graduates. But, although no longer an undergrad, DeKoning was still a student at UNC. Headed immediately into a master’s program in the School of Medicine, DeKoning didn’t feel like an alum. And she wasn’t in the financial position to donate. She recalls on one phone call being asked to consider a “generous” donation of $250.
“To propose that, just coming out of school — that’s like half a month’s rent,” she said.
To DeKoning, the requests seemed excessive and unnecessary for someone in her stage of life and financial position.
“For me, even giving $20 right now would be a big deal.” she said. “Next time they call I need to be prepared to say no.”
It’s not unusual for UNC to target very recent grads, or even current students, with fundraising initiatives meant to encourage the habit of donating to their alma mater. But for some, the requests can have a counterproductive effect.
“I just think the strategy is very off-putting.” DeKoning said.
On Oct. 8, the Heelraisers Student Giving Council sent an email to members of the junior, sophomore and first-year classes challenging underclassmen to donate more than their senior counterparts leading up to University Day.
The campaign, which ended on Oct. 11, had 30 donors and raised $363 dollars.
UNC junior and Heelraisers Student Giving Council chairperson Mike Weaver said students aren’t expected to donate large sums of money.
“I think the reason the school emphasizes student giving so much is to try and get people in the habit of giving early on,” Weaver wrote in a statement to The Daily Tar Heel. “Most students only give $5 or so, and for the school it doesn’t amount to much, but I think they are hoping down the road those students will keep UNC in mind when they have a little more money.”
But the requests can still be perceived as insensitive to students like Neha Korrapati, a senior computer science major. Korrapati said she was especially taken aback since the email came in the wake of the computer science department tacking on a new $300 departmental fee that she’ll be required to pay in addition to her tuition.
“I’m a senior. I don’t have money,” Korrapati said. “Come back to me in maybe 10, 15 years.”
Korrapati said the requests are even more bothersome considering the majority of her on-campus activities — including club sports and student theater — suffer from evident financial shortcomings that she says have yet to be addressed by the University.
“There are things that could be fixed that just aren’t getting fixed,” Korrapati said.
Donating can be a way to give back to a University that many students already hold dear to their hearts: Elizabeth Flake, a 2011 UNC graduate, began giving to UNC as a student.
“At the end of my senior year I gave more than usual, as I was already nostalgic about leaving UNC and wanted to make a contribution on behalf of my graduating class,” Flake wrote in a statement. “It was important to me to give back to a place that gave me so much during my time here.”
Flake has since halted her general donations to UNC following the University’s continued protection of the Silent Sam monument, although she continues to directly support some campus organizations.
DeKoning, who works as a nanny to help pay her tuition and other bills, said she can see herself donating further on in her life, when she has achieved more financial security. But at this point in her career, she has to be careful with her spending — and UNC doesn’t quite make the cut.
“I have very high regard for UNC. Obviously, I came back — I really do love it here,” DeKoning said. “UNC just doesn’t come to the top of my list when I’m like, ‘These are the causes that need money right now.’”