WACO, Texas (Dec. 9, 2014) – Thirty Baylor University students in the university’s first Philanthropy Labcourse spent the fall semester learning more than just the history and philosophy of giving back. They also gained $100,000 worth of real-world experience.
Students in the “Philanthropy and the Public Good” class were given the tangible responsibility of directing $100,000 in actual money to deserving local nonprofit organizations.
After a semester-long evaluation process, the class presented grants to the executive directors and boards of eight nonprofit organizations during a reception and award ceremony Dec. 9 on the Baylor campus. The fall 2014 grant recipients are Waco Habitat for Humanity, Family Health Center, Shepherd’s Heart, Communities in Schools for the Heart of Texas, Talitha Koum Institute, Animal Birth Control Clinic, Compassion Ministries and Act Locally Waco.
“What a meaningful experience this has been,” said Andy Hogue, Ph.D., lecturer in political science and director of Civic Education and Community Service Program, who teaches the philanthropy course. “These students are exceptional. They are sharp minds poised for great things, people of mind and heart, who, true to the Baylor mission, value leadership and service.”
Throughout the fall, the students operated as a foundation board of directors, deciding in “board meetings” how and where to give funds; as foundation program officers, cultivating relationships with nonprofits, assessing their needs and effectiveness and in some cases advocating on their behalf to the larger board of directors; and finally as employees of a nonprofit organization, writing grant applications that were considered by the larger board.
Students initially worked with 60 to 70 interested nonprofits to evaluate community needs in key areas such as education leadership and mentoring; health and wellness and basic human needs; culture, arts and the environment; human services and civil rights; and community development. The class divided into teams and researched 10 to 15 organizations each, then engaged in a process that included comparison studies, site visits, grant-writing and debate as they determined how most effectively to distribute real money in addressing local needs.
“Throughout this process, the students have not just been learning the mechanics or the how of grant-making, but they’ve been exploring and reflecting the why and thinking for themselves about generosity and about stewardship,” Hogue said. “What does this mean for me at 22 years old with limited income, and what will this mean for me at 25 and 35 and 50 and so on? What does it mean to be generous for a lifetime?”
Baylor announced in February that it would enter into a partnership with the Fort Worth-based Once Upon a Time Foundation, which began The Philanthropy Lab program in 2011. Since its founding, The Philanthropy Lab has given more than $3 million to build philanthropy education at select U.S. universities, including Baylor, Harvard, Northwestern, Stanford, TCU, UCLA, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas at Austin, University of Virginia and Yale University. Baylor received $100,000 from the foundation to distribute in fall 2014.
“The Philanthropy Lab program fits at Baylor University because Baylor is a place that already understands the significance of recognizing the needs of our local and even global neighbors, and of thinking about how to thoughtfully serve them,” said Lauren Wolter, program director of The Philanthropy Lab. “Training students how to examine monetary giving decisions is just an extension of the core values of giving and civic engagement that are already ingrained here in the fibers of the university.”
Encouraging Thoughtful Giving
The primary goal of The Philanthropy Lab is to ignite students’ interest and participation in philanthropy, encouraging thoughtful giving by providing funds to university philanthropy courses and enabling students to evaluate nonprofit organizations and award grants.
“I found that the more generous we are, the more loving we are, and the more loving we are, the less hurt there is around us,” said Madison Young, a junior Baylor Business Fellow from North Richland Hills, Texas. “Being given the responsibility to give away $100,000 came with weighty responsibility. I realized through the course that we are stewards of the money we are given and the money that we earn. We have a responsibility, not only to our community, but also to God, to be faithful with what we have.”
Young served on the health, wellness and basic needs team that eventually selected the Family Health Center and Shepherd’s Heart as grant recipients. The Family Health Center grant goes to fund reduced dental care for prenatal patients over the age of 21.
“We believe that providing dental care will not only help the health of the mother, but also improve the life of her child in the future. Medicaid does not cover any dental expenses, so this was an incredible need that could be met specifically,” Young said.
The Shepherd’s Heart grant will help complete the first phase of the organization’s Aquaponics project.
“Aquaponics is an alternative form of farming that produces more and uses less water,” Young said. “The goal with this project, when it is complete, is to provide a sustainable way to fund and maintain the services that Shepherd’s Heart currently provides. We believe this is an innovative project that has potential to help the issue of hunger in Waco.”
Jeanne Arthur, a senior communication studies major from Boerne, Texas, took the Philanthropy Lab course to understand why people and organizations are motivated to give. Her team on community development selected Waco Habitat for Humanity Inc. and Act Locally Waco for grants.
“Giving is a transformational discipline that must be developed,” Arthur said. “Thoughtful giving is a tool that cultivates character and is life changing for both the giver and the receiver. This class challenged and encouraged all of us to give thoughtfully and purposefully.”
Arthur said the semester-long evaluation process for the grants required research, collaboration and honesty among classmates.
“I learned the importance of trusting our classmates when they made recommendations based on their hard work and research. It was also important for the class to be willing to compromise when the allocation process began in order to properly address the needs in our community,” she said.
Executive directors of the organizations worked closely with the students through the process from start to finish.
“The inaugural class for Philanthropy and the Public Good wasn’t just good, it was great,” said Susan Cowley, founder and covenant partner with the Talitha Koum Institute, which received a grant for an innovative brain mapping project – Neurosequential Model of Theraputics (NMT) – for Waco children in deep poverty.
“The student team I encountered engaged in their tasks with enthusiasm and a dedicated concern for the project and for Talitha Koum,” Cowley said. “They listened well, and though our proposed need was for a neurologically complex method of testing, the students described it so that their colleagues could appreciate its usefulness for the children at Talitha Koum. This grant makes possible both a need and a dream that might have remained outside our reach.”
Brenda Shuttlesworth, executive director for Waco Habitat for Humanity Inc., said the students her organization engaged were “intelligent, caring, analytical and excited.”
“Any one of these individuals is prepared to serve in a nonprofit setting,” Shuttlesworth said.
As Hogue praised his students as “leaders in this work of generosity,” he also celebrated the collaboration of “eight extraordinary organizations, who have given much to us at Baylor.”
“Through the generous work of our community partners, our students have learned about nonprofit work, have witnessed professionalism with a stirring dose of compassion and have been inspired by a vision for a world in which courage, imagination and generosity light the way toward a better future,” Hogue said. “This experience, we hope, has been transformative for everyone involved, and we are thrilled that it won’t stop here.”
The “Philanthropy and the Public Good” class has received so much student interest and support from community partners that, with the generous backing of Development and the Provost’s Office, Baylor will offer the class again in the spring. Students taking the class then will have at least $50,000 to give in grants to nonprofit organizations.
For more information about The Philanthropy Lab, visit www.thephilanthropylab. For more information about Baylor’s Philanthropy Lab course “Philanthropy and the Public Good,” contact Andy Hogue, at 254-710-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.
BY LORI FOGLEMAN
December 9, 2014
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