December 10, 2011; Source: NewsWorksAs part of an annual urban studies class at the University of Pennsylvania this semester, students not only got the chance to assume the role of philanthropists but they also got $100,000 to back up their choices. According to NewsWorks, this was the first year that an anonymous donor made a gift to the university in support of the program, which, along with many other smaller gifts, included $20,000 for a neighborhood-based nonprofit with an operating budget of $160,000. 

NewsWorks notes that course instructors Doug Bauer, an administrator at the New York City-based Clark Foundation, and Greg Goldman, a fund raiser at the Philadelphia Zoo, teach the class on nonprofits with an emphasis on Philadelphia. Bauer told NewsWorks that because of his own foundation connection, he emphasizes “alignment” between a nonprofit and a funding entity. The lingering financial uncertainty has left Goldman with a decidedly cautious outlook for the sector. As he told NewsWorks, “It’s more unclear what it’s going to look like, particularly for people who care for the poor and look after arts and culture.”

Earlier this semester Bauer and Goldman divided their class of thirty students into five groups and instructed them to design mission statements that would inform their giving strategies. According to NewsWorks “most of the student groups gave portions of their allotted money—between $2,000 and $7,000—to a handful of nonprofits.” The story notes that all awardee organizations have budgets under $3 million but doesn’t include a list.

One group gave their entire $20,000 to the East Park Revitalization Alliance, a neighborhood-based organization focusing on environmental education and health promotion. Student Nikka Landau described the process she and other group members used, telling NewsWorks, “There were three [organizations] that were amazing and lined up with our mission, but then we were blown away by the possibility of what $20,000 could do for one organization.” Calling the impact of the gift “huge,” director Suku John added that the students seemed interested in the breath of the organization’s partnerships. As added perspective on the next generation of philanthropists, reporting on the recent NextGen: Charity conference in New York City for the Washington Business Journal (subscription required), Alice Lutz, CEO of Raleigh-based Triangle Family Services, says that technology, sound-bite communication and volunteering opportunities are all additional tools that organizations can use to engage young donors. What do you think?—Anne Eigeman