Will a course inspire student philanthropy?

Photo Credit: Lynn Saville

Eighteen Columbia undergraduates gave away $67,000 in spring 2017 in a new course, “Philanthropy and Social Difference,” funded by a grant from The Philanthropy Lab, a nonprofit seeking to teach college students about charitable giving by providing them with funds to donate.

“Columbia students are so very interested in social justice,” said Rachel Adams, professor of English and comparative literature, who teaches the course with Victoria Rosner, adjunct associate professor of English and comparative literature and dean of academic affairs at the School of General Studies. “This was an opportunity to make a concrete impact."

Deciding how to distribute the $67,000, students identified their giving goals, formed three groups to consider possible recipients, researched them and visited the organizations under consideration in person or via Skype. Each group nominated one organization, and then all the class members decided how to apportion the money.

The largest gift, $33,666, went to the Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty organization in New York that provides funding and management assistance to some 200 philanthropic organizations.

“We were able to put into practice what we were learning about philanthropy,” said Michael Rovner, a senior at the School of General Studies who is majoring in economics. “We spent time thinking about what causes matter to us, how often we want to give, and how much we can—and want—to give.” Learn more.

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