Ohio College Students Discover the Joy of Giving by Trudelle Thomas
College students in Ohio are involved in an exciting project that helps them learn about giving to worthy community groups.
I’m a member of Women’s Perspective and a college professor. In January 2008, I began teaching a course as part of Campus Connects Student Philanthropy Project, a group that helps students learn about philanthropy. Six classes (with six different professors) at Xavier University (Cincinnati) were given $4,000 per class to distribute among various community nonprofit groups.
My course in creative writing was one of the classes chosen to take part. In addition to developing writing skills, my 20 students also learned about personal philanthropy and about various community groups that promote what we dubbed “joyful literacy” — reading and writing for personal enrichment among all kinds of people.
My students researched 20 different literacy groups, developed a set of criteria for evaluating them, and then targeted several for site visits. Their research led to gifts of between $300 and $2,400 to four projects. We chose to support creative writing scholarships for teenage girls, to supply novels and writing materials for creative writers in middle school, and to furnish a “kids’ reading nook” in a local library.
At the end of the semester, my class took part in a large ceremony attended by our donor, students, and the recipients of cash awards — as well as various community friends. About 150 people attended, which gave them all a chance to learn about various nonprofits.
Arnice Smith, a grant recipient, remarked, “Our grant money will be used to transform a cement block room into an inviting reading corner, complete with bean bag chairs, reading lamps, and relaxing music. Low-income children who have little peace at home can come to our library and curl up with a good book!”
For my part, it’s been exciting to guide the students through the decision-making process. They’ve gone from thinking very little about giving, to developing a thoughtful giving budget. Not only have they learned about local groups, they’ve discovered that even a modest amount of money can make a big difference. Throughout the process, I’ve drawn heavily on what I learned from conversations with Rosemary Williams and her book, Women Money and Spiritual Vision.
Our campus philanthropy project is part of a larger effort on the part of Roger Grein, a Cincinnati businessman who became interested in giving at an early age. Over the past five years, he’s donated nearly $100,000 to classes at Xavier University. Students distribute money to projects that reflect the focus of the course, from environmental concerns to children’s dental needs to sports philanthropy.
Grein remarks, “It’s the best money I ever spend. Students learn the decision-making process, I enjoy funding them, and community groups benefit too. I hope to inspire the young people to become grant-writers or donors themselves!”
Since beginning this project five years ago, Roger Grein has expanded the project to 15 college campuses around the United States. He is in the process of developing similar philanthropy projects in high schools. His website explains: “Instilling the spirit of possibility and participation in the next generation is Roger’s passion and he wants to expand this model throughout the country. He is looking for other donors to join him in supporting this exciting work of educating the next generation of philanthropists!”
To learn more about his efforts, consult his website www.rogergrein.com. If you want to learn more about how to integrate giving into a college course, I’m also happy to share my course materials. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.