Last semester, undergraduate students enrolled in the Leading and Investing in Social Change: Redefining and Experimenting with Philanthropy iGive course got a firsthand taste of what it’s like to be a philanthropist. Students in the class were given the opportunity to not only study the art of philanthropy but were also given the chance to provide a $10,000 grant to an organization of their choosing. The class gave the grant to City Year DC.
City Year DC is a local organization that aims to use “near-peer mentors in Washington, DC’s most under-served schools to address specific areas that lead to students dropping out.” The group helps close the gap between what students need to be successful and what the schools can provide. They partner with school districts to place members in the schools to provide one-on-one support to overcome challenges students face both in and out of school. The group also provides support to help the schools as a whole with school-wide events and activities, after-school programming and in-class support for teachers.
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 specific organizations to benefit from the grant. Students created a request for proposals, read applications, interviewed applicants, conducted site visits and worked together to make decisions about the grant awardee.
On December 17, the class hosted an award ceremony to provide City Year DC with the $10,000 grant. During the ceremony, students presented what they learned during the semester. The presentation included a video showing what students were most excited about this semester and what they’re looking forward to in the next semester. This fall they focused on being philanthropic grantmakers and in the spring, they will focus on being social activists.
Before awarding the check, students participated in a panel discussion to talk about their feedback on their experience in the class. During the discussion, students said the class changed their perspective on philanthropy, saying they originally thought philanthropy was just “billionaires giving out money.” Students learned about the specific needs of the DC area during the course, and performed research on topics ranging from environment, mental health, homelessness, education and special needs children. They eventually narrowed their focus to youth education before choosing their final grant awardee. One student described the process by saying “every great journey begins with a single step.”