Students find giving away money not as easy as one might think

College students, many of whom spend the little extra cash they have on pizza and laundry, don’t fit the typical profile of a wealthy benefactor. But in a growing national movement, students enrolled in newly created philanthropy courses are steering thousands of dollars to local charities.

In the classes, students draw up mission statements for makeshift foundations, research nonprofits in their communities, and decide how to allocate the pot of money. The goal, say professors and donors, is to build upon surging interest in social responsibility among college students and make philanthropy part of the mainstream curriculum.

“Some of these kids will become very wealthy in the future,’’ said Paul Schervish, a sociology professor and director of the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, who will soon begin teaching experiential philanthropy classes. “The professors see that this is a way to teach financial morality in the realm of philanthropy.’’

But teaching students how to give away money responsibly is more complicated than one would think. At Tufts, where classes have disbursed $30,000 in the past three years, students learn to be grant writers and discerning grant makers.

“The hands-on experience of writing a grant, evaluating a grant, and then giving real money away made the whole class feel like it had a tangible purpose,’’ said Laura McNulty, 22. “It made students feel more accountable for the work they were doing.’’

Her grant-writing experience and knowledge of what foundations look for when making funding decisions was invaluable in helping her secure a $10,000 grant to start her own nonprofit.


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