April, 2016 | Strategic Philanthropy Blog

Passion was very present throughout our final board meeting. Several board members spoke up boldly while others processed more internally. By voting, we ensured all voices were heard to a certain extent. Ultimately we can’t all walk away 100 percent satisfied. However, we can all walk away 100% confident we are going to have a positive and sustainable impact on the Brazos Valley.

We will witness the fruits of some of this impact when we return in a year to follow-up with the organizations. However, these funds will have a multitude of effects we may never see. While we can’t measure the full extent of the impact, we know in our hearts we made our decision with pure intentions and thorough determination.

We can find comfort and joy in knowing this is only the beginning. I am confident we are only the first of many Mays Strategic Philanthropy Board’s to serve at Texas A&M University. Future courses will expand on strategies we found successful, and learn from our mistakes. If I had one piece of advice to pass on to future classes it would be this: Throughout this course it’s easy to slip into the mindset that this is our money to give away. Remember this opportunity is a gift in and of itself. Giving, by nature, isn’t even really about us anyway.

I believe we are better philanthropists and stronger individuals because of this process. We have challenged ourselves and expanded our view on philanthropy and the world at-large. We have changed our minds on certain issues a dozen times. We have experienced excitement and we have experienced frustration. We have grown in community and we have grown individually. We have listened to the hearts of one another, and we have been heard by each other. Our mission statement may read “We empower Brazos Valley nonprofits…” but over the past few months these nonprofits have empowered us.

by Ashley Adair ’17

Categories: Uncategorized

Through the process of evaluating nonprofits in the Brazos Valley and hearing about their missions, I have discovered much about the needs in my community, especially about the complexities surrounding the situations of those who are trapped in poverty. What makes many of the organizations in the Brazos Valley special is that their focus is greater than simply handing out resources to temporarily make the problems subside. Their goal is to address the root causes of the problems and to truly empower people in their community to make positive changes in their lives.

In particular, one organization has a program that provides educational opportunities and resources for single mothers in crisis situations. They want to partner with these women who go through their program by subsidizing the cost of housing, because they know that for mothers who support their family on a single income the task of covering all the costs of living can seem insurmountable. If a mother has this incentive, she will be able to better provide for herself and her children, possibly become less dependent on the system, and have more hope that she can work to attain a bright future for her family.

Another organization we spoke with provides healthcare for those who do not have insurance. This organization told us that because many of the low-income residents in the Brazos Valley do not have insurance, they feel like they have to put off going to the doctor for as long as possible because of the high costs – but often the problem will continue to intensify until they have to go to the hospital. This only further exacerbates both the medical and financial struggles they are facing. For this reason, the nonprofit hopes to provide a service where lower-income residents in the community can be treated with respect and excellent care without having to incur costly hospital bills or have to postpone treatment until a more serious problem exists.

Because of this class and the conversations I have been able to have with those who are actively engaging in the efforts to help our neighbors in the Brazos Valley, I have a much better understanding of how many different factors contribute to a cycle of poverty, and I feel that I am much better equipped to use my resources to truly help others and address root problems in my community.

by Mallory Smith ’19

Categories: Uncategorized

The other day we spent time reflecting on the course of the semester during one of our class sessions. When asked how our view of philanthropy Rachel Welchhad changed over the course of the semester, I immediately thought about a somewhat life-changing decision I had made.

A couple of weeks ago I made the decision to drop finance as a major. Along with this, I have also decided that I want to go to law school. I think taking this class and participating in all the discussions played a crucial role in my decision. There was one class in particular where we watched a TED Talk where the question was posed, “Is it more valuable to be an aid worker or – if you have the skills – employ five other aid workers?” I spent quite a bit of time discussing this question with friends outside of class and reflecting on my answer. My thoughts centered on the idea of maximizing impact versus finding a career that makes me happy. There is definitely a continuous spectrum on which we all fall.

As a finance major I would most likely end up in a field helping people understand how and where to invest their money. This would definitely be a high-profile career that could help me earn enough money to probably employee more than five aid workers, but that did not motivate or excite me about the future. Every time I went to my finance classes I felt more and more selfish and less and less like myself. I am not saying that a career in finance is a selfish career – it is definitely necessary and a noble calling to manage money well – but for me I could not come to terms with spending my life telling people or companies how to make more money.

So, came the question: If I am so unhappy, why am I choosing to invest my time in this? I was dreading going to class, and even opening my textbook. For someone who has always loved school and studying, it was a foreign concept. I needed to find that spark again.

I sat down with a local attorney in late February. He talked about doing something new every day, getting to teach and educate people, and most of all being a servant to his clients. He was the voice for so many, and loved every minute of it. For me it was the perfect combination of all that I had been searching for in a career. The passion and joy that he expressed was overflowing and contagious. I knew after meeting with him what I needed to do.

That next week I met with my advisor, and then dropped financ
e, picked up an LSAT course, and began my journey to becoming a lawyer. At the beginning of the semester if I had been asked how I would give back after college, you would have probably heard an answer about tithing 10 percent and maybe serving on a board. This answer views giving as tangible actions. This answer also misses the passion I now have.

I now believe giving should not be a single, separate element of our life. It is not simply a checklist. It should be something we get to practice every day, in any capacity. For me, this means one day serving one client at a time to the best of my ability. I do not need to hire five people to serve as aid workers when I have the passion and drive to make a change myself. Everyone has different skills and talents, but we must align them with what we are passionate about.

The argument that Peter Singer gave in the TED Talk leaves out the key factor in success: passion. You cannot be motivated without it. Although I could have been successful in a financial field, I lacked the passion to motivate me to accomplish it. Finding and pursuing our passions is what makes giving not a single action, but rather a lifestyle.

by Rachel Welch ’17

Categories: Uncategorized