course participants


classes offered

Harvard Grant Map

UniversityCourseStudents Enrolled
HarvardSpring 2013Philanthropy and Public Problem-SolvingDepartments: Kennedy School - Management, Leadership, and Decision MakingChristine W. Letts, Jim Bildner28 students
HarvardSpring 2014Philanthropy and Public Problem-SolvingDepartments: Kennedy School - Management, Leadership, and Decision MakingChristine W. Letts, Jim Bildner58 students
HarvardSpring 2015Philanthropy and Public Problem-SolvingDepartments: Kennedy School - Management, Leadership, and Decision MakingChristine W. Letts, Jim Bildner36 students
HarvardFall 2016Philanthropy and Nonprofit OrganizationsDepartments: SociologyShai M. Dromi16 students
HarvardSpring 2017Philanthropy and Social InnovationDepartments: Harvard Kennedy School - Social Innovation and Public PolicyChris Marquis50 students
HarvardSpring 2017Re-Imagining Health Care: Effective Altruism and BeyondDepartments: TH Chan School of Public HealthNir Eyal8 students
HarvardFall 2017Philanthropy and Nonprofit OrganizationsDepartments: SociologyShai M. Dromi25 students
HarvardFall 2018Philanthropy and Nonprofit OrganizationsDepartments: SociologyShai M. Dromi25 students
HarvardFall 2019Philanthropy and Nonprofit OrganizationsDepartments: SociologyShai M. Dromi41 students
HarvardFall 2021Philanthropy and Nonprofit OrganizationsDepartments: Sociology Shai Dromi26 students
Harvard UniversityFall 2016Philanthropy & the Public GoodDepartments: SociologyShai Dromi19 students
HarvardSpring 2023Philanthropy and Nonprofit OrganizationsDepartments: Sociology Shai Dromi30 students

Philanthropy and Nonprofit Organizations
Taught by Shai M. Dromi
Department of Sociology

Shai Dromi is a cultural and comparative-historical sociologist with research on international humanitarian organizations and movements, transnational advocacy, and political culture. His research looks at the role of cultural beliefs about morality in creating civil society organizations and movements and in shaping the production of social knowledge. He is the author of Above the Fray: The Red Cross and the Construction of the Humanitarian Relief Sector (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2020) and Moral Minefields: How Sociologists Debate Good Science (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2023, co-authored with Samuel Stabler), and co-editor of the Handbook of the Sociology of Morality, vol. 2. Shai’s work has appeared in journals like Sociological Theory and Theory & Society, and received the Altruism, Morality, and Social Solidarity Outstanding Published Article Award, the Global and Transnational Sociology Best Graduate Student Paper Award, an honorable mention for the Theda Skocpol Best Dissertation Award from the American Sociological Association, and the Marvin B. Sussman Prize from Yale University. 

Tony Shu – Harvard Philanthropy Lab Student Fall 2018, Harvard Ambassador 2019

Named to Forbes 30 Under 30 in Social Impact

“Connor Schoen and Tony Shu, who met as undergraduates at Harvard, cofounded Breaktime with a mission to end young adult homelessness. Through purposeful transitional employment, Breaktime empowers young adults experiencing homelessness to build sustainability in their lives while building resilience in their communities. During the first 8 months of the pandemic, Breaktime employed 25 young adults experiencing homelessness who led the preparation and delivery of over 500,000 meals to people experiencing food insecurity in Boston–all while earning a living wage and developing career-launching job skills. Breaktime is backed by the City of Boston, Liberty Mutual, BlackRock, and hundreds of other partners.”

See full article HERE

Class takes a field trip to Widener Library on campus

  • The Library was a gift from the Widener family to Harvard, first opened in 1915
  • Widener family remained unusually controlling of the library & shaped the way the library worked. Students examine documents and discuss them in class, and then visit specific areas of the library that demonstrate the continuing influence of the Widener family on the Library
  • Great demonstration of donor preference/influence

Class takes a field trip to Harvard Art Museum

  • Guided tour
  • Discuss “How donor relations affect the art world”
  • Hear from Director of Major Gifts & Strategic Initiatives, and the Curator of European Art

Class takes a field trip to Harvard Athletics

  • Meet with Assistant Director of Athletics for Alumni Relations and Stewardship

Guest speaker from Harvard College Fund

Students write a final research paper (~15 pages) on a topic of interest to them relating to philanthropy and/or nonprofit organizations

Analytical questions assignment

  • Each student must formulate 5 paragraph length analytical questions about reading assignments throughout the semester

Students must complete questionnaire on first day of class during “shopping week” to secure their place in the course

Lots of group assignments throughout the course – amounting to 1/3 of the final grade

  • Each group creates and signs a “group contract”
  • Each group creates a mission statement – “a memo describing group’s giving goals and philosophy, and its theory of change relating to their subject area”
  • Groups submit memos about how they finalized their decisions

Two hours scheduled outside of class w/ student alumni working in NPOs

Through a partnership with the Lemann Program on Creativity and Entrepreneurship (LPCE), student groups will develop their own nonprofit ventures to address the social impact of COVID-19. Student ventures will receive startup seed funding and, upon successful completion of the course, will compete over additional seed money. The course will include a series of guest lectures and workshops on entrepreneurship to support student venture development.


Latest News

February 16, 2021

Philanthropy Lab Ambassador Named to “Forbes 30 Under 30”

September 9, 2020

Students to Distribute $100K in Grants Through New Philanthropy Course

Student Testimonials

I’ve learned the importance of giving strategically—understanding the needs and constraints first and also supporting leaders who are able to connect the brain to the heart.

Rosie ZhangHarvard University

I think the biggest thing my course taught me about the practice of philanthropy is to be aware of the dynamics of giving and receiving, particularly who has power in giving relationships. I have learned to think carefully about the implicit and explicit strings attached to philanthropy and how they affect nonprofit work and influence in society.

Larry Dang

My experience in the course I took on Nonprofits and Philanthropy emphasized the importance of understanding the unspoken social aspects of giving. I learned about the sociology of giving and how the way nonprofits frame the act of giving to donors can completely change the target demographic for prospective donors' and their likelihood to contribute to the organization's cause. It can be crucial to the operation of a philanthropic organization to consider the ways in which societal norms surrounding acts of giving influence organizations' missions. This concept of philanthropic framing has stuck with me and continues to shape the way I understand acts of philanthropy.

Ethan Tran

This course taught me on a much deeper level that not all giving is truly good giving and smart giving is something anyone who gives should make a genuine commitment to.

Chukwudi Ilozue