Why I didn’t give to Seniors for the Penn Fund

And no, the reason isn’t because I’m no longer a senior; if you thought some of my previous posts were a shtickel behind the times, please note that the events described herein go all the way back to May 2010, the second semester of my senior year. I bring it up now because my return to Penn has exposed me to this year’s iteration of the same effort. Here we go.

But before I begin, let me point you toward Emily Rutherford, who makes a persuasive case for not donating to her University’s equivalent fundraising effort as a guest contributor to The Daily Princetonian. I agree with a lot of what she says, and wish I could say my reasons for deciding not to donate to the fund were similarly considered and idealistic, but I’ll be honest: I just didn’t give it that much thought.

For me, it was simple: one, I had another semester at Penn, so I wasn’t technically graduating (and did not imagine that I would still be graduating in 2012). And two, I did not have a job lined up and was planning to just enjoy what looked to be my ‘last summer’, so anything I donated would not really come out of my own pocket.

But then I got a personalized message from a friend and classmate. It was obviously a generic email, but included enough gratuitous spacing between sentences of an individual touch (subject line: ‘(no subject)’) to catch my attention:

Hello, how are you?  How is life?  Are you currently wearing an orange shirt, as you sit here reading my email?

Probably (good guess). The email went on to request a quite reasonable amount of money: any.

I’m writing because I’m on the Penn Fund Committee and we’re trying to get to 1740 donors before the end of the week.  You could give only $1 and we’d be thrilled because all we need is that number of donors to reach our goal AND because Amy Guttman will match our total, a dollar for every donor.

Even accounting for inflation, a dollar in 2010 was not really a big deal – and it would help my class reach an arbitrary number of donors important to a certain number of people. This, I could do. This could thrill people. And who would want to disappoint Amy?? Really, it’s Amy. Careful, she’s really delicate.

But then, I read on:

 The link to donate is below (along with other facts– you may or may not be interested in)  so, if you can, please donate!!

Facts? I am always interested in facts. #fact

So let’s do some fact-learning:

1. A gift of any amount will get us to 1740 because we want to emphasize the importance of participation. So $5, people.

Wait, what? $5? Didn’t yo, like, just say 1? OK, still not a big deal, but I’m pretty sure you just moved the goalpost in the space of a single email. No worries. Simple mistake. Still on board. Now go on:

[…Fun Facts 2-6…]

7. Online giving is quick and easy! http://www.alumni.upenn.edu/pennfund/seniors

Quick and easy? I could do this. So I clicked through the link, and put myself down for the minimum $5 donation:

So far, so good.

But when I clicked through to submit actual payment information, I was greeted by another lovely surprise:

The goalposts had been moved again! Very cute: 20.10 – just like our year – except that it is expressly not the amount I had agreed to contribute just one screen before*.

The experience did not leave me so much angry as disappointed. While I assume the discrepancies were inadvertent, there are few things that impress me less than a system that does not work. So I took some screenshots and closed the screen without finalizing payment. I hope S4TPF got to 1739.

I imagine that one day I will donate to Penn. But I’ll probably do it by check – assuming checks still exist (and that Penn still exists and that I still exist and that money still exists).



*In fact, it is startlingly similar to the amount I paid Penn to send official copies of my undergraduate and graduate transcripts to YLS ($20) earlier this evening.

As the venerable Geoff Kiderman points out:

So let’s just call it even.


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