Philanthropy Class Gives $100,000 to Worthy Nonprofits

Philanthropy Class Gives $100,000 to Worthy Nonprofits

philanthropy class

To “learn by doing,” students in SESP’s new Learning Philanthropy course had the unique opportunity to donate a sum of money to nonprofit organizations that benefit children and adults. Students in the class learned about the history and practice of philanthropic giving and then actually gave away $100,000 to Chicago nonprofit organizations.

Student task forces investigated organizations in four key areas: education, health/wellness, poverty, and child/youth development. Each work group was allotted $25,000 to give to one or more nonprofits. During the decision making process, students confronted many of the policies, politics and practices that influence giving decisions.

At a June 10 reception with the selected nonprofits, student work groups announced the recipients:

  • The child/youth development work group decided to donate $25,000 to BUILD, an organization that has worked for 44 years in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods to provide youth an alternative to violence. “We loved the ‘BUILD family’ that they created,” the students reported.
  • The poverty team chose to give $25,000 to Inspiration Corporation, which assists more than 3,000 individuals and families affected by homelessness and poverty each year. “We recognized that the organization had a comprehensive approach to alleviating and ending poverty,” the group noted.
  • The health and wellness group elected to give $25,000 to Chicago Women’s Health Center, a non-profit that offers health services to women and trans people on a sliding pay scale. “The organization stood out from others with its passion for underserved communities, impressive plans for expansion, and honest testimonies by both employees and clients,” the students commented.
  • The education team chose to donate $15,000 to Kidz Express, an organization that provides after-school programs for low-income youth, and $10,000 to Youth Guidance, an organization that develops school-based programs to help at-risk children succeed in school and life.  The students were impressed by Kidz Express’s “powerful community presence and focus on long-lasting relationships” and Youth Guidance’s impact on the community and potential for outstanding growth.

The course
Learning Philanthropy: Engaging in the Study and Practice of Giving was taught spring quarter by SESP dean Penelope Peterson and Lauren Young, director emerita of the Spencer Foundation. Students in the class learned about the role of philanthropy in the United States, including its history, social and cultural meanings, motivations and effects. They also explored their own concepts and values about philanthropic purposes and outcomes.

The laboratory component of the course was made possible by the Once Upon a Time Foundation of Fort Worth, Texas. To enhance students’ understanding of and commitment to philanthropy, the foundation entrusted the class with a sum of $100,000. Once Upon a Time maintains that courses in philanthropy are beneficial for young people to understand the importance and process of charitable giving, as well as the challenges of making choices among worthwhile organizations. 

At the reception, Peterson explained the evolution of the course, starting with a phone call from Once Upon a Time and an application process for the students to enroll in the class. “We’ve all learned a lot. The students did a great job of researching organizations. Four groups worked very diligently, reduced the number of organizations to four or five and then did site visits,” she explained. At the end, individuals had to advocate for organizations and challenge their colleagues.

“This truly has been a wonderful experience on a number of levels,” Young said. “It’s been great to be part of a group of students thinking about their own values.”

Student reactions
Students commented on the uniqueness of the experience they had in the course. SESP sophomore Karen Wilber described the course as opening her eyes to philanthropy. “It’s such a cool experience, whether you want to give away money or work for a nonprofit,” she said, pointing out that students in the course confronted the challenge of how to measure the impact of various organizations with similar goals.

Nicole Bronnimann, a Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences student, said, “It gets kids thinking about philanthropy, the philosophy of why and how you give. It was incredibly valuable.” SESP freshman Connor Regan said, “A lot of us have been in organizations doing work but never had much knowledge of where the money comes from.”

On an interpersonal level, Dylan Cruz said he found out from working in his group about the “challenge of how to get people on the same page. … The more you can spell out shared goals, the better you can get people to go along in the process,” he noted.

Samantha Yi commented that she learned about the “larger process of how nonprofits compete for money.” She was also pleased to experience teamwork. “It’s the way people work in the real world,” she noted.

Students in the child/youth development group were Becca Abara, Alayna Held, Tania Murillo, Lena Peck, Karin Scott, Emmalee Windle and Arianna Wise. The poverty group included Andrew Green, Emily Hittner, Mark Silberg, Molly Crane, Chris Gilligan, Nick Kazvini-Gore and Kaitlin Hansen. Health and wellness students were Michael Graf, Arshia Sethi,Roshni Bhatnagar, Ishan Daya, Kristina Nolte,Alyssa Lloyd, Emily Drewry and Arjun Kothari. Students in the education group were Nicole Bronnimann, Dylan Cruz, Carlos Martinez, Claire Melvin, Connor Regan, Victor Shao, Karen Wilber and Samantha Yi.

Caption: Students in the education work group with representatives from Kidz Express, which will receive $15,000.

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 7/9/13