Philanthropy is a vast and deep topic to cover. Underneath the surface are innumerable questions and an even greater amount of possible answers. We certainly cannot – and do not – expect to answer all of these questions in one semester. However, asking the right questions is a great starting point in the process of discovering answers. Below is a sampling of questions posed by the class through the first few weeks of the semester.

“The question I ask myself is: What am I doing with my time, talents, and treasures? If only I could fully comprehend the gravity of the joyous responsibility I have to use what has been entrusted to me for the betterment of others.” – Kate Rohrbough ‘17

“Alternatively though, philanthropy as an act in and of itself raises questions of its own legitimacy. What is our place to give to these communities? What if we all of a sudden disturb their entire way of life? Do they even wish to have monetary assistance? What happens when that money goes away?” – Chris Haberberger ‘16

I ask myself, “is success measured by immediate impact or is there a deeper layer to uncover as we look to solve the world’s problems?” – Tyler Barnes ‘16

“Would you consider a failure in philanthropy to be effective?” – Kyle Heiner ‘18

“Is it necessary to have strategy, or the “head”, in philanthropy? Isn’t the point of philanthropy to give your own money to causes that you want to?” – Alyssa Brady ‘17

In discussing altruism: “How do you measure someone’s unselfishness?  Who could say that a person’s devotion to others is greater than another’s?” – Abby Behrens ‘16

“Can the value of philanthropic giving boil down to a numbers-based realism that minimizes the worth of some projects over others for the cause of monetary efficiency? Should giving only be measured by what is deemed “effective”; can it rightly view people as units and numbers?” – Sarah Steinman ‘18

“Are you giving? And is the organization to which you are giving benefitting society? Are you doing no harm with your gifts?” – Chandler Clark ‘18

“Could teaching how to give be the best gift of all?”Grace VanLoh ‘19

“Who should/shouldn’t have a say in their giving? Are they really putting their money toward the most important causes? What if we completely disregarded the who, what, when, and where and only looked at the why?” Ashley Adair ‘17

Some of these questions will be addressed this semester, and some will take a lifetime to comprehend. Either way, we are asking big questions in an effort to have a big impact. Challenging? Yes. Rewarding? Absolutely. I look forward to seeing how my own questions and the students’ evolve throughout the semester.

– Kyle Gammenthaler ’11, instructor

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In our society, philanthropy is a topic that is typically reserved for those in the “elite circles.” Every year, millions and billions of dollars are exchanged between foundations and nonprofits to address a variety of local, national and global issues. Given the massive size of these gifts, it is easy to forget that change can happen on a smaller scale and that does not make it any less important. Thanks to a $50,000 gift from The Philanthropy Lab, students in the Strategic Philanthropy course at Mays Business School are certain to turn some heads this semester as they engage in this process firsthand.

As the instructor of the Strategic Philanthropy course, I have the privilege of spending about three hours a week with 20 passionate and committed undergraduate business students. Each one of these students applied and were selected to come together to determine the best way to give out $50,000 to the local community. This is no small task, to say the least! Throughout the semester, students will learn about various facets of philanthropy, hear from philanthropic leaders and experience the grant-making process from a foundation’s perspective. All the while, students will examine their own personal beliefs and convictions about giving and serving. I am confident that the impact from this course will persist long after the course is over – for both the students and local community.

Over the next three and a half months, our class will chronicle our process and expand upon our learning for anyone who is interested. Please follow this blog if you’d like to see the inner workings of a student-run grant-making initiative and get a taste of what Mays Business School and Texas A&M University are all about. I promise the end result will not disappoint, as you will get to revel in the celebration of our check ceremony to local nonprofit organizations.

From here on out, the blog posts will be the students’ words as they document their development and honestly reflect on the experience. With that, I’ll leave you with the following quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

– Kyle Gammenthaler


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