"If you had $10,000, how would you use it to change the world?"
David Campbell's philanthropy classes, students gain real-world public-service experience vetting local nonprofit organizations and deciding which will receive thousands of dollars in grant funding. It's a task they take very seriously, says Campbell, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Public Administration.
Campbell established the Philanthropy Incubator years ago to teach undergraduate and graduate students about the role nonprofit organizations play in building vibrant communities. The incubator also serves to encourage philanthropy and prepare students for engaged citizenship and public service as they decide how to distribute the grant funding to area nonprofits.
"If you had $10,000, how would you use it to change the world?" Campbell asks the students. "The fact that they have real money to distribute changes the gravity of the situation. They feel accountable. They know they can make a difference."
Students in the incubator's Philanthropy and Civil Society course this past spring decided youth development, health and wellness, and education were the areas they wanted to focus on, Campbell says. After careful consideration, they awarded $5,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Binghamton, $4,000 to the UHS Foundation's school-based health clinics and $1,000 to the Oasis After School Program.
"The class in and of itself is fascinating, but I was totally impressed with how thoughtful the students were in their review and investigation of each request," UHS Foundation Executive Director Betsy Pietriyk says in a thank-you letter to Campbell. "They put a lot of head and heart into making their grant decisions. The money will contribute greatly to the program's capacity to accomplish its mission."
In total, Southern Tier nonprofit organizations have received more than $57,000 from the incubator since 2009, the first year it provided funding.
The Learning by Giving Foundation funded this year's round of giving. The incubator also has received support from student and alumni fundraising, as well as from other foundations and charitable gift funds.
The Binghamton University Foundation has been a strong partner, identifying alumni to talk to the students about their own philanthropic activities and motivations for giving, Campbell notes.
For Lauren Colantonio '13, the philanthropy course this past spring took her career plans in a new direction.
"I saw firsthand how charitable giving can change lives," says Colantonio, who's double-majoring in political science and Italian and minoring in French.
She now wants to pursue work in corporate philanthropy. She had intended on working in government at an embassy or consulate, assisting Americans who need help in other countries.
"I took this class and I really fell in love with the giving process and grant making. Now, I'm thinking about getting an MPA," says Colantonio, of Stony Point, N.Y. "I've never gotten this feeling from anything I've ever done before."
Kristen Voorhees '13, a political science major, says she's always been interested in the nonprofit sector as a career path. The course only reinforced her passion for work in this field.
"It's one thing to learn about philanthropy from lecture slides," says Voorhees, of Westchester County, N.Y. "It's a completely different experience to use real money to make real change happen in the community around you."