Raymar Hampshire ’05
Encourages Civic Responsibility With A Twist
Although Raymar Hampshire quickly found a job in the wealth management department at Merrill Lynch after graduation, he increasingly found himself feeling that something important was missing in his life. “I wasn’t giving back to my community enough,” he says.
That feeling led him to think about why so many of his generation were not volunteering. He soon discovered that one reason in particular loomed large: Recent graduates of four-year colleges are burdened with an average of $20,000 in student loan debt. Driving across Tennessee to a family reunion, Hampshire and his brother Robert began mulling over this conundrum and wondered ‘What if people could get a loan, but instead of paying it back with interest, they would pay it forward with service to the community?’ It was a vision in the making, and in August 2008, the two brothers launched SponsorChange.org, a Webbased organization that combines the principles of civic responsibility with philanthropy and leadership development.
Through SponsorChange.org, young professionals become Fellows who volunteer for local non-profits. In exchange, they receive student loan stipends to help pay off their school debt while exploring social issues in-depth through civic education. Fellows share their experiences with each other online and report on the impact of their projects. Hampshire believes that these experiences will foster a long-term commitment to service even after they have served their term as a SponsorChange Fellow. He also plans to bring in speakers so Fellows hear different perspectives on a range of social issues.
With support from its partner Pittsburgh Cares, a local non-profit, and the acclaim of members of the local community, SponsorChange.org is on the road to success. The next step is to make the process entirely Web-based, similar to such micro-lending sites as Kiva.org and DonorsChoose.org.
“SponsorChange is a perfect blend of creative thinking, civic spirit and economic good sense,” Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd says. Others are also taking note of this innovative twist on giving back, including Business Week, which interviewed Hampshire last fall. Hampshire welcomes the national attention as he and his brother look to expand the program beyond Pittsburgh.
“We think that knowledge and understanding lead to greater volunteer retention in the future because individuals better understand why they are doing what they are doing.”