What I Told USC When They Asked Me for Money

The other day I received, yet again, another fundraising letter from USC, where I earned my masters degree. So instead of a check, I placed a letter in the return envelope explaining why I haven’t donated in the past to USC, and why I won’t be able to donate to USC for the next few decades. I’ve included the letter below in the form of JPGs. You don’t have to read the whole letter. I include it to provide the complete context for my response. Though if you’ve seen one university fundraising letter, you’ve seen them all.

Here’s what I said…

University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-7799

Dear Board of Trustees,

Thank you for your recent letter reminding me about a previous letter that was sent regarding the USC Annual Fund for 2009-2010. As always, the USC fundraising letters are filled with wonderful stories of current talented students who appear to have bright futures ahead of them in some cutting edge field. I too recall my days at USC fondly just as many alumni now do, and as I’m sure current students will.

But I must correct you on one point in that letter. I made no such previous gift in the amount of $192. Nor will I be participating in the USC Annual Fund for 2009-2010. In fact, I can not recall having made gifts in any amount to USC since graduating in 2002.


Because I’m still paying to go to USC. I took out over $30,000 worth of loans to attend USC while earning my Masters degree in Professional Writing. (There is no free money for Wannabe Fiction Writers, something I knew going into the program.) I’ll be done paying off my loans in about 17 years. At that point I should have some extra money I can spare to give USC to “help break down financial barriers” to deserving students.

Or maybe not. Both my children should be in college by then and God knows what a college education is going to cost. So my wife and I will most likely be striving to keep their future college debt to a minimum. Which means they’ll be the deserving students I care about most. Maybe in 21 or 22 years I’ll be able to spare some money.

Until then, I think it is only fair to inform you that a fundraising letter to me is a waste of paper, ink, and postage. Best of luck in all your endeavors.

Richard Hellinga (MPW ‘02)


2 thoughts on “What I Told USC When They Asked Me for Money

  1. I like your reply. I don't get letters from my university anymore. And I used to donate to the alumni association. Maybe they figured out this penny-pinching, coupon-cutting, supporting-her-parents, contributing-to-the-nieces/nephews-college-fund alumni didn't have any spare change.

  2. @scrapper al, thanks. It sounds like you have a few "deserving students" you're supporting. Unfortunately, these days, it seems to take a whole family to send a kid to college. I loved being at USC, but I just have this principle of not donating to a school for which I am still paying off loans. I do donate to the school I went for undergrad (Elmhurst College), but then I paid off my meager loans fairly quickly after graduation. I was fortunate in that way.

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