Undergraduate students enrolled in the Leading and Investing in Social Change: Redefining and Experimenting with Philanthropy iGive course had the opportunity to develop and run a grantmaking process this semester. Students in the class were given the opportunity to not only study the art of philanthropy but also provide an actual $7,500 grant to a local organization of their choosing. On December 15, the class hosted a ceremony at the Do Good Accelerator to award the grant to its chosen nonprofit organization.
At the start of the grant ceremony, Patricia Bory, iGive director, said, “It’s so great to be here with students, campus partners and this year’s grantee. Throughout the semester, I was so impressed with the commitment and passion you all showed. You should be proud of the work you’ve done and that you’ve chosen such a wonderful organization to support.” She added her gratitude to the Do Good Institute for its support of the course, which enables the students to give the $7,500 grant.
During the semester, students researched and studied the history and practice of philanthropy. They were challenged to come up with a cause to support and a specific organization to benefit from the grant. Students learned about the specific needs of Prince George’s County during the course, and performed research on topics ranging from mental health, racial inequality, and gun violence. They eventually narrowed their focus to Prince George’s County based organizations that support mental health awareness and provide mental health services to those in need because the county has long been described as a “healthcare desert,” lacking sufficient health resources to meet the needs of its large indigent and immigrant populations. In the area of mental health, only two organizations advertise that they offer mental health services to uninsured children in a community of nearly 1 million.
As a class, students created a request for proposals, read applications, interviewed applicants, conducted site visits and held discussions before choosing their final grant awardee. The class received more than 20 proposals from local nonprofits, and in the end chose Family Services, Inc.
Family Services promotes the resilience, recovery and independence of Prince George’s County individuals and families across the life span through integrated mental and physical health, social service, and education programs, thereby strengthening communities. The organization provides more than 30 programs in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, community support, early childhood, school-based services, and domestic violence.
During the ceremony, students reflected on what they learned during the semester and the impact the course has made on their lives. Many noted that they learned more about the nonprofit sector, social issues affecting our communities, and ways to get involved. Laura Boyajian, one of the students said, “having the opportunity to apply the knowledge we have gained from class in a real world context reinforced class lessons and inspired us to pursue future philanthropic opportunities.” She went on to say, “this course has helped us become more aware of issues facing our society and has encouraged us to take action and invoke change beyond just this grant. And, for me personally, it has motivated me to continue engaging in philanthropy and ultimately focus my career around advocacy.”
Larry Epp, director of School-Based Mental Health Services, Family Services, Inc. closed out the program, and he said, “Thank you all so much – I can’t tell you how truly touched we are that you chose our organization for this grant. Whether you realize it or not, you exemplify what we stand for at Family Services. I am so proud of your generation has opportunities like this to dedicate time to search for the best way to help your community. I thank you for believing in what we do.”