What is Experiential Philanthropy?

Experiential philanthropy (EP) is a teaching methodology that integrates real-dollar grant making into an academic course to illuminate its content and heighten students’ awareness of the practical challenges and ethical implications of investing in social change. The experiential nature of EP courses heightens students’ sense of self-efficacy and social responsibility because their decisions are independent and have meaningful consequences for local communities.

How is EP taught?

EP can be embedded into many types of courses. Many EP courses focus on topics directly related to philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, nonprofit management, and civil society, but others use the grantmaking process as a window into related topics, such as poverty, health, community development, social entrepreneurship, and corporate social responsibility. This flexibility allows for the use of EP in a wide range of disciplines, including business/management, human services, sociology, economics, political science, psychology, anthropology, English literature, art, and history.

 

Best Practices

While EP course content can vary significantly from school to school, several features are common, most significantly, the use of real money and the independence of students’ decision making.  Other common practices include:

    • Articulation of the values and practices students agree to adhere to in the classroom to assure that everyone has a voice in their grantmaking and engages respectfully with the community as learners.
    • Adoption of a mission or funding priority around which students will organize their grantmaking.
    • Development of a rubric or criteria to guide the decision-making process.
    • Site visits to acquaint students with the communities, organizations, and individuals their grants will affect.
    • A competitive grantmaking process that requires students to make difficult choices.
    • A consensus-based or collaborative decision-making process that emphasizes the students’ shared responsibility to steward the funds wisely.
    • An award ceremony to celebrate the students’ and grantees’ accomplishments.

 

Grantmaking Models

While EP course content can vary significantly from school to school, several features are common, most significantly, the use of real money and the independence of students’ decision making.  Other common practices include:

    • Articulation of the values and practices students agree to adhere to in the classroom to assure that everyone has a voice in their grantmaking and engages respectfully with the community as learners.
    • Adoption of a mission or funding priority around which students will organize their grantmaking.
    • Development of a rubric or criteria to guide the decision-making process.
    • Site visits to acquaint students with the communities, organizations, and individuals their grants will affect.
    • A competitive grantmaking process that requires students to make difficult choices.
    • A consensus-based or collaborative decision-making process that emphasizes the students’ shared responsibility to steward the funds wisely.
    • An award ceremony to celebrate the students’ and grantees’ accomplishments.

Grant Size

At Northeastern, students award $10,000 every year. At other universities, student grant making has been successful with as little as a few hundred dollars and as much as $100,000. The amount should be enough for the students to understand that their decision matters, but not so much as to make the decision easy by simply dividing the sum among many organizations.

Funding EP Courses

Universities fund EPE courses in a variety of ways, including foundation grants, individual gifts, and students’ own fundraising. Some universities collaborate with local foundations that designate a pool of funds for students to award. Others have dedicated a portion of their endowment to fund student grant making.

 

EP at Northeastern

The Social Impact Lab is a global proponent of EP education. We:

    • house Northeastern’s EP program, Northeastern Students4Giving
    • expand EP internationally through our Global Philanthropy Initiative.
    • have been instrumental in spreading EP practice across the United States through our relationship with the Buffett family’s Learning by Giving Foundation

Northeastern Students4Giving (NS4G)
NS4G is an example of experiential philanthropy education, a teaching methodology in which students are entrusted with the responsibility of awarding real-dollar grants to nonprofit organizations in their communities.

Teaching by Giving
SIL has worked with the Learning by Giving Foundation to help colleges and universities across the United States develop experiential philanthropy education courses that empower students to award real-dollar grants to local nonprofit organizations.

Giving With Purpose – MOOC
Giving with Purpose, the world’s first massive open online course (MOOC) on effective charitable giving, was created in partnership with the Buffett family’s Learning by Giving Foundation.