Philanthropy Course Awards $10,000 in Grants
A group of Providence College students had an opportunity to put philanthropic theory into practice by awarding grants totaling $10,000 to three Providence non-profit organizations.
The 16 members of the Making a Difference Fund board initiated the grant process as part of PC’s Philanthropy course, offered through the Department of Public and Community Service Studies.
This year, the class donated money from the Learning by Giving Foundation, which was founded by Doris Buffett, sister of famed investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett. That foundation, which supports more than 30 similar classes at colleges and universities across the country, has committed to providing a three-year grant to PC — enough to support two additional classes.
“The goal is to educate and inspire students, and to get them engaged in community problem solving,” said Louise Sawyer, Learning by Giving’s executive director.
Dr. Raymond L. Sickinger ’71, professor of history and of public and community service studies and director of the Feinstein Institute for Public Service, and William Allen, a special instructor and a former United Way of Rhode Island executive vice president, co-taught the course. They spent half the class time in seminar, discussing theoretical aspects of philanthropy, and then adjourned to reconvene as the foundation board around a long table set up in another part of the classroom.
Working together, the students developed criteria for the grant awards and marketed the request for proposals (RFP) to organizations that foster youth development or provide health programming or health education for under-served members of the community near PC. Then, they evaluated the 25 applications and chose the recipients.
“The goal was to demonstrate how the grant will make a meaningful difference in the Providence community,” said Kylie Madden ’13 (Corralitos, Calif.).
The three organizations selected were Young Voices, Children’s Friend, and Clinica Esperanza. Representatives accepted oversized checks at a reception at the end of the semester. Young Voices will use its grant to pay for food, program supplies, and bus tickets for students in its Leadership Training Academy. With its $5,000, Clinica Esperanza will pay rent for its space as well as supplement salaries.
Julie Casimiro ’84, the vice president of advancement at Children’s Friend, which supports children in poverty, said the agency would use the $2,000 grant to purchase classroom materials and outdoor toys, such as jump ropes, for its summer learning program for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds at the nonprofit’s center on Berkshire Street near PC.
“The RFP process was a dream,” Casimiro said. “The students who came to visit us were very engaged with our work.”
The students included a unique factor in this year’s RFP — that the grant recipients work to strengthen their relationship with the PC student body, Madden said. “We are confident the three organizations we have chosen will do this and will live up to what the RFP originally had in mind,” she said.
The Philanthropy course is in its fifth year and its fourth making actual grants. It’s open to students of any major, although taking the introductory public service studies course is preferred.
For public and community service studies majors, Philanthropy also provides valuable professional experience.
“For students interested in working at nonprofits in the future, having the opportunity to understand how grants actually work from the giving side, as opposed to the receiving side, is actually interesting and very good experience,” said Annie Laquidara ’12 (Framingham, Mass.), who took the course last year and enrolled as student leader this year.
At other schools, the courses are offered through a variety of academic departments, including economics, sociology, business, or even history or English, Sawyer said. The only prerequisite is that students make the grant decisions, which she describes as an empowering experience. “They really get to understand needs in the community in ways they never could have imagined,” she said. “And then the reality is, they really are able to make a difference.”
“This kind of class makes them decision makers,” Sawyer said. “It’s not just a classroom experience anymore.”
Students demonstrated that commitment at the reception.
“Philanthropy is more than just giving money away,” Robbie Smith-MacDonald ’12 (Mansfield, Mass.) told the audience. “It’s a lifestyle and it’s a commitment to others in our lives, and it’s one that I can now see is rooted in respect, justice, and compassion.”
— Liz F. Kay
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