What would you do if you were handed $100,000 to give to charity? Where would you start? How would you research which organizations were most deserving or would use the money in the best way?
Last semester, students in a signature course called Philanthropy: The Power of Giving had that opportunity thanks to $100,000 from an anonymous foundation that wants to do good simultaneously in two ways: give to charity and help students learn the ways of generosity.
The course, led by sociology professor Pamela Paxton, explores the history and current state of American giving and volunteering, American giving in comparative perspective, the causes and consequences of philanthropy and how to evaluate charitable programs. At the end of the course the students decide, on their own, how best to use the money. Paxton explains that she “focused on how to evaluate charities, and how to evaluate when charities are effective in their programming, because some charities are effective and some are not.”
“I think going forward, they will probably not view charitable giving in the same way,” Paxton says. “I think they may view themselves now as a resource to their friends and their families, that they’re someone who knows about what questions to ask or how to even think about where money should go.”
Paul Woodruff, inaugural dean of the School of Undergraduate Studies, taught a similar class in the spring of 2012. The Art of Giving also centered around giving away $100,000 to the charity or charities that students determined were most deserving.