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Students Award $31,000 to Local, Global Nonprofits

April 26, 2010 – A new sociology course, Philanthropy and Social Change, lived up to its name this spring when its students decided to distribute $31,000 to nonprofit organizations.

The course came about after Kathy Kretman, director of Georgetown’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, received a call from the Sunshine Lady Foundation, a private family foundation established by Warren Buffett’s sister, Doris.

The foundation asked if Kretman would be interested in applying for a $10,000 Learning by Giving grant to teach undergraduate students how to act as philanthropists in their local communities.

“How do you say no to that?” says Kretman, who received an additional $5,000 from the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation for the project.

Kretman is co-teaching the course with Luisa Boyarski, the center’s associate director.

“We want to help students bridge the gap between their academic learning at the university and their practical experience volunteering at nonprofits,” says Boyarski. “The hands-on grant-writing and grant-making opportunities provided in the class are key components of this.”

Students in the course were charged with examining the history and future of philanthropy and learned how to make strategic funding decisions. Over the course of the semester they wrote grant proposals for local nonprofits, acted as foundations by reviewing the grant proposals, and ultimately awarded $15,000 to local nonprofits.

Boyarski and Kretman recruited the help of local nonprofit organizations to guide the students through the process of writing a grant proposal. Each student paired up with a nonprofit organization and wrote a grant proposal on the organization’s behalf.

“Not only did I learn from and about the process in and of itself, but I also learned about my philosophy of philanthropy and about issues currently affecting residents of the District of Columbia,” says student Kaley Ervin (C’10).

The students’ final assignment is to act as individual philanthropists in awarding $1,000 each to organizations of their choice on GlobalGiving.com. This project is made possible by a grant from the GlobalGiving Foundation. Georgetown is one of its first four university partners in the initiative aimed at encouraging philanthropy among young people.

The culmination of the course will take place on April 27, 2010, when the students will present grants to three Washington, D.C., nonprofit organizations. They will award $7,500 to Young Playwrights’ Theater; $6,450 to Critical Exposure, an organization that teaches youth to use photography and their own voices to become effective advocates for school reform and social change; and $1,050 to the Center for Inspired Teaching.

“What better way to educate our students about philanthropy’s impact on society, and their own efficacy as social change agents, than by this real time, ‘learning by giving’ experience?” Kretman says. “As a professor, it doesn’t get better than this. It is a privilege to teach students so committed to improving the lives of others.”

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