Monday, December 12, 2011

Student Philanthropists

How's this for a homework assignment: Find a way to give away $100,000.  If you were a student at University of Pennsylvania, it's not too outlandish of a proposal.

According to a report on, UPenn students who took a course covering the economics of the nonprofit sector in Philadelphia were given quite a shock when they were asked to distribute $100,000 given to the class by an anonymous donor.  And this was only 10 days before the class even started. 

Here's how it worked: The 30 students in the class were split into groups of five, each given $20,000.  They students then had to create a mission statement, seek out local organizations that fit with the mission, and vet them as potential recipients.  One organization that was considered by some of the students was Play On! Philly, an after-school music program.  They were rejected by one of the student groups because they didn't think the organization had sufficient community engagement.  On the other hand, one of the other groups gave them the money because they felt the nonprofit proved it had educational influence beyond music.

The decisions the students had to make highlight the challenges that nonprofits face raising money, especially during the Great Recession.  NewsWorks notes that Greg Goldman, who has taught nonprofit economics at UPenn for 14 years, said that the recent economic downturn has affected nonprofits like no other recession has before.  That doesn't mean it's impossible--especially when it comes to capital campaigns--but people do have to be more careful with money these days.  And UPenn students learned that first hand during their philanthropic exercise.

Make sure to read the full article over on NewsWorks and let us know your reactions to it.

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