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Money: Paying Down Student Loan Debt by Volunteering

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A small nonprofit called SponsorChange has found a way to help college graduates battle student loan debt while volunteering.

SponsorChange empowers volunteers by creating a new pathway to meaningful skill-based project opportunities at various organizations, while at the same time helping volunteers raise the funds they desperately need to pay down their student loan debt without the need for debt consolidation solutions.

It’s a well-known fact that most graduates now owe piles of debt, in fact, researchers at ProjectOnStudentDebt.org say that seven out of every ten college students who graduated in 2013 owed money on a student loan – for an average of nearly $30,000 in debt each! If you owe money, or would love to help others knock down their debts, keep reading to learn more about SponsorChange.

The question that prompted the creation of SponsorChange was simple: how to increase volunteerism in the social sector?

To answer that they needed to understand why people volunteer at nonprofits and, even more importantly, why many people don’t volunteer. After tons of research, reading, and survey analysis they concluded that the ability to volunteer is a privilege that not everyone has the time and resources to afford.  What was needed was not just another website listing volunteering opportunities, but instead they crafted a new approach that enables more people to reap the benefits of volunteering and contribute to their local communities.

SponsorChange effectively “rewards” volunteer service because, as they say on their website: “good work deserves to be rewarded, and everyone deserves the opportunity to meaningfully contribute.” With a bold and different approach, SponsorChange went out and raised funding from citizen philanthropists.

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They then started rewarding volunteers who completed skill-based projects at area nonprofits with direct student loan payments. They’ve continued to help volunteers who give their time to their local social change makers by paying back their student loans.

Organizations in need of volunteers list their projects on the website and, in turn, receive the talent they need. Volunteers can easily find projects, build their skills, and gain experience by signing up for various volunteer opportunities. And the sponsors – or what SponsorChange calls “Philanthroteers” (Philanthropist + Volunteer) – are investing in human capital that directly fuels the social sector. It’s a win-win-win for all involved.

Some states offer other unusual programs that also help college students with school costs while meeting the needs of the community. For example, The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York offers help with community college tuition in exchange for one or more years of volunteer firefighter duty.

There is always, of course, the option of simply slogging through years of monthly payments and paying loads of interest on top of the actual loan. But for the volunteers, “Philanthroteers”, and other local organizations in need of man- and woman-power, SponsorChange understands that making impacts in the local community is an easy and meaningful way to give and get lasting debt help.

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