Graduate students also aspiring philanthropists
Andrew Carnegie once said, “It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than it is to earn it in the first place.” Students enrolled in Philanthropy: Theory and Practice (NLM 550), a masters-level course taught through the School of Community Resources and Development in conjunction with the ASU Lodestar Center for Nonprofit Management and Innovation, learned this lesson first hand this past semester. In a class project that will culminate with a $20,000 check presentation to one Valley nonprofit, students were able to gain hands-on experience and a new insight into the ups and downs of being on a foundation board.
Taught by Roger Hughes, executive director of St. Luke’s Health Initiatives (SLHI), a Phoenix-based public foundation, the course gave students the opportunity to make a $20,000 to grant on behalf of SLHI’s Health in a New Key community development program. Students narrowed down a list of over 20 qualified nonprofits to five finalists. The class then divided into teams that worked with the potential recipients to develop persuasive proposals for support. Following team presentations, the students played the role of foundation board members and selected what they considered to be the “best fit” with the grant requirements.
Hughes explained that SLHI provides the grant in order to give the next generation of leaders in the nonprofit sector valuable experience in the actual business of philanthropy and to introduce them to the principles of strength-based community development.
Acting as both fundraisers and board members, students were forced to see things from several—often conflicting—points of view.
“It was a valuable lesson in what constitutes a strong grant proposal and the reality of the subjective nature of many funding decisions,” said student Genevieve Croker.
Fellow student Bethany Taylor agrees. “As a development officer, I always thought that raising funds was hard, and that giving money away, in comparison, must be easy,” she said. “But by participating in this exercise, I learned just how hard giving money away could be. When you are forced to choose between multiple worthy organizations, it is truly difficult."
In the end, Stepping Stones of Hope, an organization that offers grief and bereavement services to children and their families, was selected to receive the $20,000 grant.
“All the proposals were good,” said student Damon Lemmons. “But this one gave us the greatest sense of community leverage and sustainability."
This is the second year NLM 550 has been offered. Last year’s inaugural group awarded $10,000 to Girls on the Run of Maricopa County, a nonprofit that works to improve the physical and social development of young girls through an innovative running program in schools. Due to the growing interest in the course and the success of the first offering, this year SLHI was able to double its award contribution.
"Our educational curriculum is well known for bridging theory and practice through experiential learning based within the classroom experience. This is especially true in the case of NLM 550. What Dr. Hughes and St. Luke's Health Initiatives has made possible is a stellar philanthropic laboratory which is the envy of nonprofit and philanthropic studies educational programs nationwide," said Dr. Robert F. Ashcraft, director of the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation and professor of nonprofit studies in ASU's School of Community Resources and Development.
“This was an exceptional learning experience,” said student Saso Andonoski, who comes to the Valley from the Republic of Macedonia. “The class showed the ability to go beyond expressive philanthropy and think strategically. I have learned so much from this class. This was one of my best experiences at ASU so far."
The mission of Arizona State University’s Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation (formerly the Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Management) is to help build the capacity of the social sector by enhancing the effectiveness of those who lead, manage, and support nonprofit organizations. As part of the College of Public Programs and in partnership with the School of Community Resources and Development, the Center provides knowledge and tools to build the capacity of nonprofit organizations, professionals, board members, and volunteers by offering research, technical assistance, workshops, conferences, classes, and capacity building programs. For more information, visit: http://nonprofit.asu.edu.