Skip to content

Your homework? Give money to charity

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and the Learning by Giving Foun­da­tion have launched the world’s first mas­sive online open course on phil­an­thropy and informed civic engagement.

Over the next four weeks, some 10,000 stu­dents from more than 70 coun­tries will eval­uate scores of non­profit orga­ni­za­tions and then use the foundation’s money to award grants to the most deserving groups.

Founded by the sister of bil­lion­aire busi­ness mag­nate Warren Buf­fett, the Learning By Giving Foun­da­tion pro­motes phil­an­thropy at the under­grad­uate level with the hope of inspiring stu­dents to become leaders in their communities.

The course will be taught by Rebecca Riccio, founding pro­gram director of North­eastern Students4Giving and a member of the foundation’s aca­d­emic advi­sory com­mittee. NS4G receives $10,000 per year from the foun­da­tion to make grants to non­profit orga­ni­za­tions that address social and eco­nomic chal­lenges such as youth vio­lence, home­less­ness, and com­mu­nity development.

“This online ver­sion of the course is a col­lab­o­ra­tive project for the public good,” Riccio explained, noting that stu­dents and alumni of NS4G will serve as teaching assis­tants. “It is at once fun, intel­lec­tu­ally engaging, and socially beneficial.”

The MOOC, called “Giving With Pur­pose,” has been fea­tured in hun­dreds of pub­li­ca­tions around the world, ranging from The Chron­icle of Phil­an­thropy to the Wall Street Journal. Designed using Google’s Course Builder, it com­prises six 30-​​minute lec­tures and includes inter­views with well-​​known national phil­an­thropists such as Warren Buffet, base­ball legend Cal Ripken Jr., and news anchor Soledad O’Brien.

“We only invited phil­an­thropists who have given a lot of thought to how and why they give, so their per­sonal lessons learned can apply to anyone,” Riccio explained. “Their prac­tical advice will rein­force what I’m teaching in theory.”

The course, which is non-​​accredited, fea­tures two edu­ca­tional tracks. “Givers” nom­i­nate one non­profit orga­ni­za­tion in their com­mu­nity to receive a grant and then apply Riccio’s assess­ment tool to their orga­ni­za­tion and others in the region. “Learners” com­plete course­work and receive a cer­tifi­cate upon com­ple­tion. The non­profit in each region that receives the best eval­u­a­tions will receive a grant.

“I want to teach stu­dents how to give with their heads and their hearts,” Riccio said. “We want the stu­dents to feel pas­sionate about where they are giving while investing in orga­ni­za­tions that can use the money effectively.”

— By Jason Kornwitz

More Stories

Photo of the Capitol Building at night

High stakes for politics, SCOTUS in 2018

Photo of the crashed truck that was used in the October 31st attack in Manhattan.

Weaponizing Language: How the meaning of “allahu akbar” has been distorted

Northeastern logo

Why I love studying Spanish