Philanthropy courses in the master’s of public administration program teach students to understand the importance of philanthropic giving for both the donors and for the receiving organizations. PAFF 552: Issue in Nonprofit Administration, a course with a Community-Engaged Learning Designation, is part of the Philanthropy Incubator* at Binghamton University.
‘Effective altruism’ (coined by ethicist philosopher Peter Singer) continues to be debated in the philanthropic community. Singer and others argue that we should do the most good with the dollars we donate and if cost-effective was the most important criterion, we should highly consider sending our philanthropic donations abroad, where we can do the most good, namely save lives and foster greater opportunity.
The PAFF 552 curriculum addresses the values related to philanthropy and cost-effectiveness.
This semester, the course integrated a new philanthropic component: In addition to giving funds later to a local nonprofit organization working in the greater Binghamton area, students gave a financial donation to a nonprofit organization working internationally.
The class activity was possible due to funding from CCPA’s Latin American Partnership Fund (LAP Fund)** and facilitated by Professor Susan Appe. The activity allowed students to explore a number of nonprofit organizations working in Latin America. Utilizing the objectives of the LAP Fund and a list of criteria developed by students that represented the class funding priorities and values, the nonprofit organization, Peruvian Hearts, was chosen to receive the $1,000 donation. Peruvian Hearts works to encourage social, economic and political change in Peru through the empowerment and education of young women.
The following outlines the selection process and how the PAFF 552 students used their rationale of philanthropy to choose Peruvian Hearts.
With a class of 25 students, our interests and passions differed immensely. Knowing this, the class started out with 75 organizations, with three organizations per student. Each student presented to the class their three choices and why they selected the nonprofits. We were challenged to choose one organization, with consideration of its mission, the criteria we used to evaluate it, our evaluation of that criteria and our ultimate recommendation to the class. After submitting our assignments, we committed time reading our fellow classmates’ memos to gain a deeper understanding of the narrowed list of 25 nonprofits.
In groups of three to four, we discussed what mattered to us in choosing an organization. Criteria ranged from organizational accountability, transparency, community needs focused, financial health, a financial need, a focus on women, and programs that foster opportunity, among others. Using the various criteria, we then worked together in groups to decide which of the final 25 organizations exemplified the class’ criteria. By the end of class, we had nine final nonprofit organizations working in Latin America that we believed deserved the funds. Of the nine organizations, we spent additional time outside of class researching and documenting which organization we had a passion and interest in.
The next week, we started out with an initial vote. Following the immediate vote, three organizations were knocked out and six remained. Professor Appe placed us in pre-determined groups to discuss the organizations we voted for in the first round. We took time to discuss our choice and how we came to that decision. Ultimately, this led some of us to change our minds and the second round of voting resulted in five finalists: Peruvian Hearts, Love Futbol, Small Change 4 Big Change, Save the Children, and Lit World; all of which are notable organizations working in Latin America.
Up until this point, conversations were civil, while passionate. With only five organizations left, class discussions started heating up. While we recognized that our five finalists were all deserving of the donation, as developing philanthropists we wanted to ensure that the funds were going to a reputable cause. We spent time in groups with those who voted for the same organization to build our arguments in support of our organization. After short presentations, questions arose as to the location and/or program of where our donation would go, community impact of the organization, and overall impact that a $1,000 donation could have on each of the organizations. It was important to class members that our funds would have an impact on the organization and allow for a relationship to develop between the nonprofit and CCPA. After an in-depth debate, we entered into our final round of voting.
The class members of PAFF 552 conclusively decided that Peruvian Hearts demonstrated and portrayed our class values and criteria. While all organizations are worthy, Peruvian Hearts allows CCPA to help foster opportunity for women and girls in Latin America, develop a relationship with a Latin American focused organization, make an impact for the organization, and donate to an organization that was both accountable and transparent to its donors, board members and the people of Peru.
Dual master’s candidate in student affairs administration and public administration, 2016
*The Philanthropy Incubator, started in 2008 by Professor David Campbell, allows students to distribute funds to local nonprofit organizations as part of course work. This hands-on approach helps students learn about philanthropy and the essential role nonprofit organizations play in building vibrant communities.
**The CCPA Latin American Partnership Fund was established in 2014 thanks to the generous donation of Mr. Jerome A. Lyman ’78. The fund has supported student and faculty exchanges and learning opportunities. It seeks strengthen collaborations between Binghamton University and institutions and scholars across Latin America, contribute to the systematically examining and addressing complex social, economic and political challenges in the region, and enhance Binghamton University’s visibility and reputation on a global scale.