A Mensch's Guide to Campus Activism


So, we are poor college students

By Lauren Levy, Lauren Mangurten, and Adam Palmer

The interns, Lauren, Lauren and Adam sit in Lauren’s cubicle. There are no windows, but the interns are as chummy as ever.

LM: So Lauren, I like the completely plain and normal polo shirt you’re wearing. Where is it from?

LL: It’s one of my favorite shirts, actually. I really like the crocodile in the left hand corner. I have a different color for each day of the week.

AP: Hey, isn’t that one of those Lacoste shirts? My roommate has one. Doesn’t that cost like $75?

LL: I mean I wear it. I get a lot of use out of it. Also, the blue one, the pink one, the red one and the white one. But everyone spends a lot of money on things they don’t really need. Why are we picking on me? What about Lauren! Hasn’t she spent hundreds of dollars on books and DVDs?

LM: I enjoy them. I was an English major for the first year of college, after all. I take an interest.

LL: And the DVDs?

LM: Yeah… Well, Adam spent $200 on his unicycle. I mean come on, honestly. This isn’t the circus.
AP: I use that unicycle to ride to class, and it’s fun. You guys are just envious because you don’t know how to ride a unicycle.

Maybe you don’t spend that much money on indulgences. But maybe you’ve spent $30 on a Family Guy DVD. So why is it so hard for college students to give the same $30 to charity?


Many students rationalize that they don’t earn their own money and they’ll donate later when they have the resources. What some students fail to recognize, is that it is important to get into the habit of giving. If you give now, you will definitely give later. And it doesn’t matter that you’re giving your parents’ money to charity; it still makes the same amount of difference, even if it’s only a small donation.
 For example, let’s say your parents pay for your tuition and books and give you $250 per semester as spending money. You don’t have much money to squander away. But if you give just $5 to JUF, you can provide one of the following:

  • Two hot meals at a soup kitchen for a poor senior in Russia.
  • Art supplies to engage a poor Israeli child
  • Hot lunch for an Israeli preschooler
  • A ride to the grocery store, dentist or other errand for a local senior

The same $5 you might dish out for a café grande white chocolate mocha from can go a long way.


Giving time to help others is important, but you have to remember that every charity needs both volunteers and financial support. Think about the resources you use when you volunteer at a food program like JUF’s Uptown Café, for example. A donor helped buy the food you serve, the facility you use and any utensils. Without that donor, the food program would not be able to operate.
 Imagine how much more meaningful your volunteering experience would be if you help fund the facility.


Giving money to charity might mean giving up seeing a movie with your friends or buying a cup of coffee.  We hope that all of your basic needs are already met. If so, imagine what giving up an hour and a half of entertainment at a movie can do for a starving child. Try setting aside 10 percent of your budget for charity. It won’t be difficult to stick to your budget if you factor this in ahead of time. Once you get in the habit of giving, you won’t have to think twice about it, but your actions will make a world of difference for someone in need.


Choose a cause you are passionate about.

Consider contacting a foundation to ask what their fundraising expenses are. You want to know how much of every dollar you give is going to help run the charity versus how much is going to the charity itself. For example, at a highly efficient charity like JUF only about 7 percent of every dollar donated supports the fundraising campaign. Look for an umbrella foundation that supports both well known and lesser-known causes.

Posted: 10/18/2007 05:30:47 AM

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