Professor’s perspective: A philanthropic journey
Kyle Gammenthaler, May 5th, 2017
Everybody’s journey is different. For some, the journey through life takes unimaginable twists and turns, while for others, the journey is pretty straightforward; turn here, turn there, and stop at this point. The common theme in everyone’s journey though is there is a beginning point and ending point. These two distinct places are what bracket the excitement and thrill of the moments in between. There is comfort in knowing where you are and having an idea of where you are going. What happens in the middle is the part that makes all the difference as to whether you make it to your destination or not.
Mays Business School embarked on a journey over the past year to “advance the world’s prosperity.” This “end point” is admittedly bold and requires a significant amount of work and intentional decision making to accomplish. Like many journeys, though, I strongly believe this one begins locally. There are issues that surround the physical Texas A&M community, for which some could argue, we are bound by duty to help address. We are lucky to have a vibrant nonprofit environment that embraces the Texas A&M community with open arms. Advancing the world’s prosperity will take a mix of strategy and innovative approaches, and this semester’s Strategic Philanthropy class embraced this desire for impact and went on a journey of their own in an effort to “do good.”
Courtesy of the generous support from the Once Upon a Time Foundation and the VanLoh Family, 25 Mays Business School undergraduates were challenged with giving away $100,000 to nonprofit organizations. Each student assumed the role of a board member while essentially running a private foundation for a semester. Every piece of learning was oriented toward the goal of not only distributing the $100,000, but doing it in a way that elevates and empowers nonprofits to accomplish their missions.
Molly Legband ’19, sophomore business honors student, best described this course experience when she said, “the journey I will take is so much better than any journey I can plan for myself.” We began the semester by laying the foundation of philanthropic ideals and values, examining historical trends, and confronting various issues in the philanthropic environment. These theoretical underpinnings were certainly used as guiding points throughout the semester. However, as students interacted with local and international nonprofit leaders, heard from experts in the field, and observed the work being done on site visits, the journey took twists and turns. When reality confronts theory, we are forced to reconcile the differences for ourselves. We were continually amazed at the level of passion and dedication that these nonprofit leaders exhibited.
At the end of the day, these twists and turns are what make this class unique. On one hand, we are learning about how to strategically and effectively run a private foundation and grant-making operation. On the other hand, we are entering into the unknown of philanthropy and realizing that social issues are complicated, complex, and nuanced.
There is no recipe or guidebook to how to specifically solve poverty or homelessness or any other prevalent social issue. The journey is equal part exciting and equal part terrifying. Our class started with a desire to “do good” and ended with giving away $100,000, but what happened in between is what made the journey so special.
by Kyle Gammenthaler M.S. ’11, lecturer and Coordinator for Social Impact Initiatives
If you would like to learn more about our nonprofit partners, please visit their websites to see how you can get involved.
Children’s Relief International
Children’s Miracle Network
Still Creek Ranch
Arts Council of the Brazos Valley
Down Syndrome Association of the Brazos Valley