Baylor philanthropy initiative serves Waco as it teaches students to give
Each semester, students in Baylor’s Philanthropy & the Public Good class distribute more than $50,000 to local non-profits. It’s common for students to enter the course underestimating the demands of the task. After all, how hard can it be to distribute money contributed by donors to worthy causes in the community? After a semester-long crash course in the art of stewardship, however, they find the process can be rigorous — and many discover a lifetime passion for the difference they can make when the resources they share are eventually their own.
The class is part of the Baylor Philanthropy Initiative (BPI), housed in the Honors College and led by Dr. Andy Hogue, MA ’05, PhD ’09, a senior lecturer and director of Baylor’s Philanthropy & Public Service program.
The premise is simple enough: Students serve, essentially, as a foundation board working collaboratively to distribute $50,000 that donors to the program have entrusted to their care. At the conclusion of each semester, BPI students present the grants to the chosen organization at a moving ceremony at McLane Stadium. Since 2014, BPI students have awarded more than $600,000 to nearly 50 non-profit agencies in Central Texas addressing various needs such as homelessness, hunger, health, arts funding, and more.
What’s not so simple, students find, is the process. $50,000 may be a large sum of money, but students often find that the need around them (and the opportunities to give) are even greater. It’s not, Hogue and BPI students say, a binary choice between good and bad. Rather, students make choices from an unending array of good options and come together to determine the best use of resources that seem a lot more finite when compared to the opportunities to give. Along the way, they read about and discuss philosophies of philanthropy, learn how to ask key questions designed to render wise choices with the funds available, and uncover ways they can use their own resources to meet needs long after the class is done.
The goal, according to Hogue, is more than merely distributing money. It’s to help students understand the basics of philanthropy and stewardship, become attuned to the needs (and opportunities to give) around them, recognize the impact they can have, and create in them a lifetime of “strategic, mindful generosity.”
“There are so many underlying layers to the challenges society faces,” says Diana Castillo, BA ’17, a recent Baylor grad and BPI alumna. “To see what nonprofits are already doing was an incredible learning experience … and gave me insight into how to research and understand the complexities of issues like homelessness or poverty. It instilled in me that I can continue to do this now that I’ve graduated.”
Sic ’em, Baylor Philanthropy Initiative!