We’ve taken you through six nonprofit organization visits with one undergraduate class this semester, but they’re not the only ones learning and doing philanthropy.
The course “Learning by Giving,” taught by Dr. Dwight Burlingame, actively encourages students to participate in the grantmaking process. With a $5,000 grant from the Learning by Giving Foundation and a matching grant provided specifically to Lilly Family School of Philanthropy students from the PNC Foundation, students were able to grant $10,000 to one local nonprofit organization.
Jonathon Hawkins, B.A.’19, explained the extensive process that students took to make their decision.
“First, we identified who is doing good and fulfilling a need in our community, which was a wonderful part of the process. It gave us the chance to give out an award that we were really excited about,” he said.
“After we conducted research and presented about specific organizations fulfilling public needs, we identified our foundation mission and values. We kept our mission statement broad so that we didn’t exclude many organizations.
“We focused on ‘equipping our community with resources to increase the opportunity to thrive.’ We drafted a request for proposals together, in what was probably the most democratic process I have seen in a college class setting.”
Next, the class selected the organizations that would receive a site visit, which Hawkins described as a three-week evaluation process: “We debated, discussed, and scored organizations based on details from annual reports, staff, board, and volunteer information, and other information about the organization that we had access to.”
The site visits brought groups of students in contact with those “making a difference on the ground every single day,” Hawkins explained. “It was a different experience for us. Most of us work for or with nonprofits, developing programs and ethics, fundraising, etc. To gain a donor’s perspective was incredibly valuable.”
Classmate Nina Powell experienced the power of PACE, the eventual grantee awardee, during her site visit. PACE assists individuals released from incarceration and continues to work to improve the criminal justice system. The organization provides financial coaching, employment coaching, income supports coaching, mental health coaching, youth employment services, basic adult education classes, and more.
“Imagine someone on his or her worst day, with no resources, no job, and they’re out-of-the-loop. He or she walks into PACE; it’s a beautiful turquoise space with employees who all have smiles on,” Powell said. “There’s a bread rack where you don’t need an explanation, an application, or qualification. You can eat what you need. There are computers for job searches, many programs, and tools and resources so that individuals can stabilize and enhance their lives and reunite with their families so that they can thrive.
“We know that PACE works hard to help these individuals and reduce recidivism.”
The grant proposal from PACE asked for $10,000 to renovate the kitchen, and bridge the gap of food insecurity that many of its clients suffer from. “Not only can they get the care and programming they need, they can also receive a hot meal,” Powell explained.
Through a tough, deliberative process, the class chose PACE, and presented them with a check of $10,000 on May 1. Grateful PACE representatives expressed their thanks, emphasizing that the class understood the important work that the organization does.
In a concluding thought, Natalie Laskowski, B.A.’19, reflected on the long, challenging process to choose an awardee for the grant: “It reflected our class and our passion for the causes in this community that go beyond our lives and our peripheral vision.”