Zero Bound: Student Loan Repayment Through Volunteer Work

Zero Bound is an independent startup that aims to repay student loans with volunteer hours. Can this ambitious idea take a bite out of the staggering one trillion dollars of total student loan debt?

Here’s how it works: Students and alumni sign up and create Zero Bound profiles, and then spread the word through social media about their participation. You build up an image for yourself of one who wishes to help the community. Donors are then encouraged to visit profiles and issue financial support of a member’s volunteer efforts. Members then volunteer in the community, log their hours, and then record their efforts with written testimonials and photographs. Finally, Zero Bound then confirms the volunteer work and submits payment directly to your student loan company, drawing from the pool of donations available.

The idea is beautiful. You better your community and pay down your student loan debt in one grand effort. In the process, you develop a myriad of skills, meet people, and engage in the kind of networking every graduate is encouraged to pursue in order to form a professional life.

I’m really tempted to ask, what’s the catch here? And that is why I’m planning to reach out to the startup’s founder, Sabrina Norrie to learn more about her idea. (Sabrina, if you are reading this, email me at Can this company develop a strong enough following to inspire legions of community volunteers and more importantly, the donors who will support them financially? At the moment, Zero Bound has an IndieGogo page with 44 days left in the campaign, aiming to raise a little over $82,000 before they launch.

The biggest challenge I see Zero Bound encountering is the process of securing donations. You’ve probably seen this before on your Facebook feed: a friend asking you to sponsor him or her in running a marathon in honor of breast cancer awareness or some other cause. If you’re feeling charitable, you throw in a few bucks and feel pretty good. But, be honest with yourself. You tend to ignore most of those requests, don’t you? If Zero Bound’s IndieGogo fundraiser is successful, you may start to see students and alumni on your Facebook wall asking you to visit their member profile. But can it get popular enough to inspire donors? Can Zero Bound become a national phenomenon and solution to student loan debt?

I know several people who have developed a strong passion for volunteerism and outreach and have invested several hundreds of hours into their community service. These are special, rare people, ones who exude a sense of genuine quality and spirit. The large majority of us—and I include myself here—aren’t the “giving back” type. If you look at it bluntly, it all comes down to a matter of incentive. Why do the majority of people perform work? So that they can receive compensation for their efforts. And that is why Zero Bound is so attractive and has so much potential. If you incentivize community service by promising to take a chunk out of that five- to six-figure number hanging over your head after you graduate, then you suddenly inspire a spirit of volunteerism. That seems like a cause worth supporting.

Here, have another link to the IndieGogo fundraising page, and support Zero Bound. I did.