Purdue, Others to Help With Micro Debt

Purdue University is one of 11 schools that formed the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) in 2014. As reported recently by Fast Company, the UIA members are planning to tackle a challenge that is preventing many students from completing their degree.

Bridget Burns, the executive director of the coalition, says that most of UIA’s school presidents realized they were doing an awful job at keeping students enrolled, particularly those who from low-income households, first generation, or students of color. “It seems like a bunch of institutions … repeating the same experiments (to fix things) over and over and in many cases making the same mistakes.”

One alarming trend: Despite receiving financial aid, roughly 4,000 seniors who have good grades may quit school because of small outstanding scholastic debt. The sums are often less than $1,000 – but in many cases, such balances make them unable to register for their next batch of classes.

UIA and its partners will spend $4 million on micro-debt forgiveness, which will be managed by in-network academic advisors to use at their discretion over the course of the next five semesters. Half of the money is coming primarily from the Gates Foundation and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates but the other half is a school match. Because every project that UIA does is carefully vetted beforehand, all institutions agree to double whatever philanthropic amount is directed toward their campuses.

The estimated award per student is projected to be about $900, but students can’t apply; administrators, who are adhering to an internal formula designed to spot the best candidates, will identify candidates and offer the one-time surprise infusion. “We know there’s variation across the 11 (schools) but we want to find the students who are low income, on track to graduate within a year – so they’ve already got a lot of effort behind them and it’s not too far ahead – but they have some unexpected costs,” Burns says.

Those costs might be anything that could disrupt an already tight budget, from a parking ticket that went unpaid and snowballed, to car repair, or an unexpected rent or medical issue that affected someone’s prioritization for what must be repaid. For low-income students already on loans, that’s generally a dream killer.

“If we don’t help them through to the finish line, that could waste all their effort.”

The concept of micro-debt relief has already proven effective at Georgia State University, a UIA affiliate that started its own retention granting program in 2011 to try to support the 1,000 or so students that it was losing each semester of extremely small tuition balances. Georgia State’s program is open to all students, not just seniors. Historically, it has 75% of those with more than a year to go are still enrolled 12 months later, while 60% of senior recipients go on to graduate within the same year that they receive assistance.

Burns expects UIA disbursements to cover only about half of the coalition’s students in need. That’s partly because of limited funding but also necessary because it’s a wide-scale experiment. Not aiding everyone creates a sad but necessary control group, allowing future funders to better compare the power of small, emergency cash allowances for those who received them versus those who didn’t.

More broadly, however, she hopes that UIA’s investment encourages other schools to act similarly. “This signaled where they should be focusing their attention,” she says. “These are many of the most innovative universities, who are saying, ‘These are things that are worth your limited time energy and money.’ ”

Engage Indiana: Event Shines Light on Using Business for Good

logo-400Our BizVoice magazine has highlighted corporate social responsibility throughout 2016. Here are some of those articles to date:

Prominent speakers will also be on hand Nov. 18 in Indianapolis at the Engage Indiana event to discuss the benefits of effective community engagement and advocacy strategy on the bottom line. Find out more information and register online.

Starting a Movement: Healthy Businesses Fuel Healthy Communities

Healthy Businesses Fuel Healthy Communities logo

Building on the successful Health Means Business event earlier this year is an upcoming program supported by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Wellness Council of Indiana.

Healthy Businesses Fuel Healthy Communities is the focus on July 13 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) as the Indiana business and philanthropic sectors come together to explore how corporate engagement in community service can improve health for employees and all Hoosiers.

Take this opportunity to connect, learn from and collaborate with like-minded organizations and discuss ways you can work together to address health needs in your community.

Additional objectives include the following:

  • Learn about Indiana’s critical health needs and the social and economic factors contributing to them
  • Understand how corporate community service and wellness programs benefit both companies and communities
  • Understand how to leverage your internal resources to support wellness inside and outside your organization

Who should attend?

  • Business owners and leaders
  • Executives and program officers at corporate foundation
  • Individuals involved with corporate giving, cause marketing and corporate social responsibility programs (program managers, execs, marketing, sales or HR)
  • Individuals involved with corporate wellness initiatives (program managers, executives, marketing, sales or HR)

Learn more and register online. Contact Marie Beason at the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance at mbeason(at)inphilanthropy(dot)org or (317) 630-5200, ext. 115 with questions.

Tyson Foods Continues Hunger Relief Efforts with Gleaners

It’s always a pleasure to see our members giving back to their communities. As we’ve documented here before, Tyson Foods makes it a point to aid those in need of food. Here is information on the company’s latest effort in partnership with Gleaners Food Bank:

Tyson Foods, Inc. donated a truckload of food to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana today as part of an effort to feed people in need and promote public awareness of hunger in America. 

“There are millions of hard-working adults, children and seniors who simply cannot make ends meet and are faced with the realities of hunger and malnourishment,” said John Tyson, chairman of Tyson Foods. “We’re trying to make a difference in their lives by providing nutrient-rich protein and by increasing understanding of hunger in our country.”

To date, Gleaners has distributed over 300 million pounds of food and critical grocery products. In the last fiscal year, the food bank distributed nearly 21 million pounds of food, or 16 million meals.

“We are thrilled to receive this very generous donation from Tyson Foods,” said Cindy Hubert, president and CEO of Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. “It is a fantastic effort that will help to exceed the National FFA’s goal of feeding 1 million people.”

Last year Tyson launched the “KNOW Hunger” campaign to raise hunger awareness. As part of the campaign, the company released the results of a survey which found that one in four Americans is worried about having enough money to put food on the table and that many Americans are unaware of how serious hunger is in their own communities. Raising awareness that hunger exists in every community in the country reinforces the campaign’s imperative that “We should all KNOW Hunger.”

Since 2000, Tyson Foods has fought hunger in the U.S by donating nearly 90 million pounds of protein. The company partners with Food Research and Action Center, Feeding America, Share Our Strength, Lift Up America and the League of United Latin American Citizens to raise awareness and help feed the hungry across the nation. 

Meat and poultry are excellent sources of heme iron, which is especially important for women, children and adolescent girls, who are often deficient in iron. For more information on the nutritional value of meat and poultry, go to: http://www.meatpoultrynutrition.org/ht/d/sp/i/26062/pid/26062

For more information on Tyson’s hunger relief efforts, go to: http://www.TysonHungerRelief.com/

Cause Marketing: Make $ and Help Somebody

One of the most exciting developments in American commerce that I’ve seen recently (although it’s been prevalent for years) is the emergence of cause marketing. To me, it truly reflects the greatest potential of our economic system and illustrates a heightened level of corporate responsibility, as well. It’s amazing what can be done when free enterprise and benevolence meet. Mickie Kennedy of Causewire explains that companies will spend about $1.61 billion on cause marketing this year — up over 6% from last year — and how it could help your business:

Associate your brand with a positive cause

Consumers respect cause-related marketing. It helps to humanize your company, showing your customers that you aren’t just concerned with turning the highest profit possible, but that you also want to help make a difference in the world. This breeds credibility, and it puts your company in a positive light with customers.

Associating your brand with a positive cause can also be useful for separating it from the competition. It’s a powerful differentiator that can actually motivate customers to do business with your company rather than one of your competitors.

Even your employees could become more loyal when you associate your brand with a positive cause. It allows them to feel like they’re doing more than just a job…that they’re actually working to make a difference.

Connect with consumers on a deeper level

Supporting causes your customers care about gives you something to bond with them over. It’s like you and the customer are working together to help make the world a better place. This allows you to create a much deeper relationship with the customer than you would just by being the typical company that interacts with them on standard purchases.

This new, deeper connection can be helpful in creating more loyal customers. It can also increase your visibility, allowing you to connect with customers who may not have even known you existed until you tied your brand to a cause they cared about.

Give your brand more stories to tell

Charitable contributions and cause-related marketing make for great press release topics. These press releases cut through the clutter of boring, self-indulgent press releases that reporters receive all day long. Everybody loves a feel-good story, and by helping raise awareness for a cause, you can generate more media coverage and positive publicity for your company and the cause you support. It’s a win-win.