May 28, 2014
Q. What motivated you to take the Philanthropy and Social Enterprise course with Dr. Blaine Parrish?
I was motivated to take the philanthropy and social entrepreneurship course with Dr. Parrish because I am interested professionally with corporate social responsibility (CSR). To me, I have always been interested in where private enterprise intersects with philanthropy and how the corporate world can shape charitable giving. I have seen corporations throw money at causes to no avail, and yet have also seen targeted and message driven campaigns by other corporations that make major impact. This made me want to learn more about how this process happens.
Q. How was it similar and distinct from other academic courses available to you in your program?
My Master’s degree is in public health, concentrating in epidemiology (the study of disease across populations). Believe it or not, this course complimented my coursework in a big way. Through my program in epidemiology, my colleagues and I learn about the biggest health problems both here in the US and abroad. This course, in many ways, put that knowledge into action. This course taught me how to ask the best questions in order to understand how to make the most informed charitable gift.
Q. What surprised you most about the course?
I was most surprised about the giving experience. Initially, our class put out a request for proposals (RFP) to about 8 HIV-related nonprofits. However, these were all major players in HIV in the Washington, D.C. area, and I think they saw our $10,000 grant as a small opportunity. Thus, we really had to think outside the box about how to market our gift to other groups. In the world of philanthropy, donations like ours may be small, but I was surprised to see the amount of innovation we were able to find with the DC Center for the LGBT Community for our gift.
Q.Tell us your understanding of how philanthropy and social enterprise connect.
Philanthropy and social enterprise and constantly evolving. There has been a generational shift over the past several decades from philanthropy that focuses on just a cause (for example, focusing on a specific disease) to a focus on innovation and impact (really getting at “HOW” we can make change).
To me, philanthropy 2.0 (as we call it) could not exist without social enterprise and vice versa. Both of these concepts in the modern day feed off of each other. This is clear when we look at the current environment for philanthropy and social enterprises. Groups like Kickstarter and Indigogo are based on the idea that philanthropists really want to feel connected to their causes.
Q. What were some key takeaways from your experience with the course?
I had several takeaways from this course. They included a better understanding of how philanthropy has evolved over time, how to adequately make grant funding and philanthropic donations, and finally, how corporate giving can be made to give back to communities while also promoting enterprise.
Q. Give us an anecdote or story about the course–an “aha moment” or some compelling moment.
During our check presentation to the DC Center, my classmate and I got to present a large check (physically, it was about 5 feet long!) to the board of directors at the organizations headquarters. During the presentation, I had a overwhelming feeling of joy as we did press and photos with the organization. The individuals at this nonprofit, a very small group compared to some of the HIV players in DC, were very grateful for our gift and it was an amazing opportunity to give back to a good cause that promotes innovation.
Q. How does this experience contribute to your professional goals?
I am someone who is a big fan of interdisciplinary research and learning. This course enhanced this as the course was truly service-learning in multiple disciplines at its finest. The course had elements of research within public health while also focusing on policy and project management. I believe that this course will allow me to better understand my giving philosophy when I started a full time career.
Q. If a fellow GW student were on the fence about taking this course, what would you say to them?
This is the only time in my six years at GW that I have been given $10,000 to spend as I wish. This will be an opportunity that you may not have for many years! Take this course because you will get first-hand, real life experience in the world of philanthropy and understand how major gifts are made!