"It was very great experience for me to work in the class together with the American and international students. Moreover, I liked the idea that we as students had the opportunity to help people in need by giving the grants. It was my first class with the practical purposes, where I could improve my professional skills. In the class I received good experiences which will bring me benefits in my future professional life. Our panel was very international; in our panel there were one Russian, one Norwegian and two American students. It was very interesting to learn, which differences the nonprofit organizations in our countries have. Before I came to SUNY Cortland, I didn’t know which courses I should take. I received an email from my American student adviser about the Philanthropy and Civic Engagement course. At the beginning, I couldn’t believe that we will value the real applications of the American non-profit organizations and give them grants. It sounded very interesting and I registered for the class.
In my class I learned about the history of philanthropy and charity in the United States. The text of DeTocqueville about his trip to the United States in the 1830 was especially important for me. I was surprised that after more than one hundred years, civic association is still very important for the American society. I have never seen in the universities of other countries so many clubs and organizations. Even I, an exchange student was involved in SUNY Cortland in two of the university clubs. I find it is important that people cooperate with each other if they have common interests and want to solve a problem together. While taking a course I also got an idea what I can do, when I move back to Germany. I want to create a club for the international students in cooperation with German students, where we could organize events together, share our experiences and ideas, how we can make our life in Germany better. Moreover these experiences will be very useful for me. Next year I have to start an internship and I want to do it in a non-profit organization specializing on children’s education in the poor countries.
In the course I learned about the process of selection of the applications, so I could improve my critical and analytical skills. Moreover, we had a big responsibility, because we had to decide about real money. I found it very important that we always discussed about all points and questions in our class; the opinion of each group’s member was very important in decision making. It was really great to know that we are a small grant awarding foundation, but even though we have a very big responsibility. It was difficult to choose which organizations will receive the grants, because all applications were written professionally and all organizations wanted to do something good for people. I also liked the structure of the course. First, we had to value the applications individually. When we finished, we compared the results in our panels. At the end, we discussed in the class which organizations should receive the grants, thus we made the fairest decision.
The course helped me to understand the world of philanthropy and why it is very important to help others. I always thought that there are organizations and government who care about people in need. However, by taking the course I saw that the ordinary people also make big changes. Our engagement can really improve life of ordinary people. We can change the life of people in need, such as young people that don’t have the opportunity to pay tuition for the study, children from poor families who cannot invest money in sport and other activities for their children, people with disabilities who cannot lead a normal life without assistance etc.
The participation in the class changed my view about the non-profit organizations. Before I came to the United States, I didn’t know that there are a lot of charitable and non-profit organizations in the country. I liked that we had the presentations in our class, where the students presented the non-profit. Also, the presentations from the international students about the non-profit organizations in their countries were very informative, so we could see the variety of the non-profit organizations. Furthermore, our two guest speakers introduced to us the world of philanthropy. Their speeches inspired me to help people in need. I always wanted to connect my life with helping other people, because I travel a lot and I can see that in some countries people even don’t have the access to fresh water and food. I always read about the work of the international organizations that have their projects in the poor countries. I think that all people should have equal opportunities, independence where they live. I want to join one of these international projects and educate children, so they could have equal opportunities to study and improve their life. I already engage in one student organization in the city Fulda where I study. I with other students help the refugees in Fulda with their integration and we organize different activities and free language courses for them. While reading the applications, I got some ideas about the new activities, which we can organize in Fulda. Also, our organization could start to apply for the German and international grants.
I think that the Learning by Giving Foundation has the great purposes. On the one side it teaches young people philanthropy and on the other side it helps people in need. I am very glad that SUNY Cortland offers this class. Moreover, in the class the international students have the opportunity to learn about the non-profit organizations in the United States and moreover they could be involved in this process.
"Ever since the founding of our country, there has been a separation of social classes. In the days of our founding fathers Madison titled it the haves, and the have nots. This distinction has made it difficult for the have nots to keep up with the ones that are fortunate enough to have enough. Help comes in the form of 501(c)3 groups, which provide options for parents who need to working two jobs. This is a great service for these types of parents because it allows them to provide for a family even if they are not making a substantial amount.Our task proved to be a challenging, but rewarding one, I truly valued the opportunity I was given.
For those who must work multiple jobs, with children, in the Cortland community there are options. Daycare is a common need for hard working parents, for others, activities that will keep the children busy over the summer. While these types of services level the playing field of society, they still need to be funded. Groups like the YMCA, of course, have revenue from membership fees, but when that is not enough, they need to search out alternative means. That is where we came in, this class was, to say the least, eye opening to the intricacies of grant giving. The purpose of the class was to distribute 10,000 to local 501 (c)3, at this point saying this might be a cliche, but, I really do wish there was more funds to give out. That being said, I am happy to report that even with the funds provided, we were able to give over what one group wanted. I definitely feel as if this course not only opened my eyes as to the grant giving process, but has given me life skills that I will continue to benefit from. For example, because the class was broken up in to peer panels, naturally, there was bound to be differences of opinion. Instead of just ignoring the other side, I was able to reason and debate why my group chose the way it did. We did not win every debate, however this was a lesson in itself, being able to truly respect the decisions of others. If I were to make a list of the life skills I got by taking this course, needless to say, it would be extensive.
The part of the course which was my favorite was the part where we divided into peer panels, and decided how we were to distribute the money. This was my favorite part of the process because I enjoy research very much, and in order to efficiently distribute money, research needed to be done on each of the applicants. After research was done I had to present my findings to my group, the research entailed statistics like: finances, how successful the 501 (c)3 groups have been in the past, sustainability, enrollment rate for the last 2 years, and other stats crucial for decision making. My peers were very appreciative of the research that was done, not only by me, but of others in my group. They felt as if it improved the decision making process.
Overall I believe that this course was a vital part of my education process. The fact that we were dealing with real money, definitely put our mission in perspective very quickly. I don’t think that this course would have been taken as seriously if we were dealing with hypothetical money. I feel very proud of our choices as a class, and feel that the 501(c)3 foundations that we gave money to were the best. So in the struggle to balance out the have and the have nots, the non-for-profits utilize their facilities to help out. Like everything else in the world, nothing is free, this is especially true in the Cortland community. With families not making enough non for profits facilitate monetarily, but in doing so require additional funding. I am happy to report that during the course of this semester I, along with my classmates, were able to aid the Cortland community. We didn’t just give hand outs, our choices had one very important feature, sustainability. I believe that the groups which we chose will be able to sustain themselves for years to come.
"During my time in POL 129 I’ve learned a lot more than I thought I was going to about philanthropy. When the class first started I didn’t realize that as a class we had an actual $10,000 and were going to be working with real organizations. After realizing though that we were dealing with real money and actual organizations that were in need of the money the class seemed much more interesting to me.
The class seemed more interesting to me not only because we were working with real money but because I knew that we could really make a difference for people of the community. Once all of the grants were sent in to us and we started looking them over I was nervous and excited. I started off really nervous looking over the grants because I didn’t want to find a reason not to give them money because I knew that they were in need of the money. Thinking about it realistically though some groups had a written proposal that were better than others and we only had $10,000.
While working in panel I realized a lot about myself and about my group. As a person I’ve realized that I should start volunteering more in my community because looks can be deceiving sometimes and even though an organization may look like they are doing alright, they could really use some help from people who live in the area. As a group I’ve learned that it is okay to say what you are thinking about of a certain organization and my group isn’t going to judge me for having my own opinion.
My panel group consisted of myself and three other gentleman who were in my class. One happened to be from the Cortland area, another from the city area, one from South Korea and for myself, I am from Albany. I think that since we are all from different areas it made working together even better because we all had our own opinions and experiences working with different organizations. Working with all boys I think also helped as well because we had different ways of interpreting what an organization meant through out their proposal.
Something that I learned from this class that I will remember in the future is that you can always do more to help your community. It can be volunteering your time to an organization or donating money to a certain organization. I believe that some people think they don’t have enough time to volunteer somewhere and realistically that may be the case for some people depending on what they do for a living. If that is the case though you can do volunteer work right outside your home, if you see trash while you’re going to school or work you can pick it up and throw it away, something even that small can have a huge impact because someone could see you picking up trash and then decide that they are going to do the same thing and it starts a domino effect.
I personally believe that I am going to take what I learned in this class about volunteering and philanthropy and try to change the world. Recently there has been a lot of negativity going on around the world and I think that people needed to realize how much they truly have and how much they have to be grateful for. I want to use what I have learned and start something in my own community to make it look more beautiful because where I am from there are a lot of spots that could use some cleaning up and it would make the people who live there more happy as well knowing that their community cares about them.
"The class of POL 129 unexpectedly improved my outlook in life and myself as an individual. Since high school, I have volunteered aboard to Costa Rica, Peru, and El Salvador. This course helped me develop a deeper understanding of the different NGO’s that I had volunteered with and the differences between them. This depth of knowledge made me appreciate the organizations because as a volunteer, I had always been interested in the hidden work but never had the opportunity to ask. The amount of work that NGO’s have to do yearly such as finding funding, filling out the Form 990, or creating programs is really admirable. A lot of this work is really done behind closed doors but without people who strive to continue organizations are people, society should be celebrated and recognized.
When I had started this course, I was also on the board of directors for NYPIRG. During the summer, I had heard about budgets for different programs endlessly but this course truly took me step by step of the stress the organization was going through. It was informative to learn about the Quality Circle when Amy came in to teach us. To have an understanding of what funders are looking for when they are reading an application also enlighten an understanding that those in NYPIRG that are asking for funding yearly have to find ways to state their organization is important to society. I thought about how difficult it most be to make such a statement yearly and if the statement is not made to make an organization stand out they are they are always in danger of not continuing. Although NYPIRG works so hard and I believe New York should always have a organization that focuses on the main issues of New York they are extremely dependent on funders.
There is some specific knowledge that I had gathered from this course that had made me a better person as a whole. Not only did I become better as an individual but I surprised myself with certain situations because this course challenged me to think deeper and as the result I made decisions that the younger me would not have made. I became better because this course taught me empathy and patience because it emphasized in the need to work with others and to think about others. We are in a society that encourages individualism, which encourages selfishness and egocentrism. To learn empathy and patience makes philanthropy easy because in essence you are removing yourself from your individual self and trying to understand either what the community needs or the goals of an organization. I learned how to read in between the lines of an organization through the concept of good proposal bad idea vs bad idea vs. good proposal. This concept was interesting because it can be used to anything you do but I noticed that the class had different perspectives of what a good idea was and what a good proposal was. Professor Steck would tell us about an incident when a student would not look at an application due to the grammar mistakes. However, if idea and proposal was good, does the grammar really matter? Someone who is reading a proposal defiantly have to decided what are the key elements and what is completely unacceptable. I am more realistic with how I view budget because I realize that money does not grow out the air. To look at a budget is difficult because if the idea is good but he budget is unrealistic it can be upsetting to not be able to give money. I learned this when we had extra money and there was an idea to split the money fairly. I loved the idea but when someone stated that to split would not be beneficial because if you give only 50 dollars, an organization may not be able to do anything with it but if you give all the money to one organization it may create another opportunity to create another program to the Cortland Community.
In the future, I would love to work for an NGO and start my own NGO. This course was extremely encouraging to start that work because I feel that I have my foot in the door of that area of the world with the knowledge I gathered. What Learning by Giving is doing is the best thing for this world. There are truly so many people that do not know how to be giving and it is a shame. To implement it in colleges is wonderful because it gives students a chance to reevaluate their goals in life and what it means to be a human in the world. I hope to create a better world. De Tocqueville stated in his Democracy in America, that working together, working cooperatively “enlarges the heart and develops the mind.” I truly believe this to be true because through my experience of traveling and being in clubs on campus I have seen the power when people work together and the friendships that are built. I have friends from all the countries I have been through and my heart has truly enlarged for these individuals and their communities. My heart has grown thus my mind has a wider world perspective and there is hope for a better world for me.
Sylva Hann Berman
"As an international student coming to SUNY Cortland I found the learning by giving foundation class was very interesting and that I learn a lot. I have never been in a class where we hand out real money. It was also interesting by how Americans wants recognition for something they do or say with money. The applications were good and the money was handed out. The class discussion took a long time, and figuring out who is getting what was not easy, but we got thru it eventually.
It was odd for me how some organizations applied for and grant to give out a grant. In my opinion this defeats the purpose of you giving out a grant. Getting a grant is important so that you can further your results or rise up from a hard time. Taking the leadership change agent class last semester was a good conversion into this class. In that class there was talk about becoming a change agent that contributes to the community. Even though I didn’t spend much time in the community helping out I still got to help it out in another way. Even thou we helped out a lot of communities the gain I got from learning is greater.
It was a good learning experience about how to delegate money but also how to how to raises money. We learn how the college does it, but it is however hard for me to set my self into the motion of giving money to the college or university that you have gone to, because in my country school is free and tuition is free. In Norway the common thing to give money to is the activity you did when you where younger or to you kids activities. Giving money away straight out of college is not common. It is also more common to give to human rights groups and the to the people in need.
In my opinion it is hard for me to se how this continues. I feel like this is begging, I am thought to not to ask for money. When I was going to the world games in lacrosse the team decide to make a fundraising grant for getting the cost of traveling down. We sent out hand made letters whit an account number where we got in enough money for our jerseys and team equipment. When I showed this to my mother she told me who to send it to and that she had to tell them about the letter before. She thought it was strange and not common, and a kind of begging. This means that it is a different culture that we live in and that it is acceptable to ask more for economical help in the US.
" When I was making my schedule for Spring 2015 and selected the class, POL 129 Philanthropy and Civic Engagement, I did not expect it to have the impact it had on me. Professor Steck went above and beyond to teach us all that he knew about philanthropy by using the Learning By Giving Foundation. In addition to using a real life grant giving foundation, Steck arranged for two speakers, who specialized in philanthropy, to come and talk to the class. When Ms. Jennifer James and Ms. Amy Anderson- Harr came to speak to the class, I felt as if I gained a tremendous amount of insight on what working in the philanthropy field entails. With the help of professor Steck and the two speakers, I felt that the class and I were properly prepared to be given the ten thousand dollars, that was supplied to us by the Learning By Giving Foundation, and distribute it to nonprofit organizations in the Cortland Community.
After being told the rules and regulations that each applicant must follow, we were given the applications to review. Reviewing the applications took a lot of time and consideration. We were each given an opportunity to review the eight applications individually. After, we met with our group panel to discuss and share our thoughts and ratings on each of the applications. By doing this I was able to learn how other people viewed certain proposals. During this process, I realized it was important to keep an open mind on what my fellow classmates opinions were.
After combining our scores and rankings for each non-profit organization, within our panel, it was time to converse with our fellow classmates. I remember being surprised as to what the other panels thought of each NPO based off of the quality of their proposal. I noticed that certain panels were extra critical on certain factors in proposals, such as grammar and organization. I found that discussing and listening to the other opinions of the class was a great learning experience within itself.
I noticed that certain classmates had a bias to certain NPO’s for their personal beliefs. For example, some catholic students in the class were eager to give to catholic charities because they are apart of their own catholic organization at home. Another example was an education major that works with kids and felt that Prebel deserved more than certain other NPO’s. However, the class discussions amongst the panels allowed us to hear all sorts of different pros and cons for the eight non-profits and we were able to distribute the money fairly.
It was not until the ceremony when I realized how much we, the class, made a difference in these people’s lives. As we handed out the checks, representatives from each organization seemed overwhelmed. The acceptors displayed so much internal gratitude and excitement to begin using the money for their projects.
Overall, the class really impacted the way I see NPO’s. It was rewarding to the see the joy in the representative’s eyes, of each NPO, when they claimed their checks. All of the eight NPO’s deserved grants, and as much as I wish we were able to give money to everyone, we were only given a select amount to give out. I really believe that as a class we gave out the money as fair and sensible as we saw it. We tried our best during the process and were able to narrow down the eight applications to the top four that we thought displayed an excellent proposal and would use the money efficiently.
"It was absolutely life changing to take a class in Philanthropy. The Learning By Giving Foundation is an excellent foundation. This class has given me experience in the grant making process that I will have with me for the rest of my life. Even though I do not plan on having a career in the philanthropic field, I learned a myriad of important skills.
Coming into the class, I thought that it was going to be mostly readings out of the textbook, and not so much hands on work. I was completely mistaken. While we did read some of the textbook and complete various assignments on the handouts, most of the time was used hands on in our peer panels. It was excellent to be able to work with my classmates in a philanthropic setting. Being handed $10,000 and having to read all the applications of each group that applied really made reality set in. These were real people, with real needs that we could help with our decisions. This made the decision making process so difficult. We met twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes each time, and it took us ultimately more than a week to decide who to award money to. Every group that applied really had needs that needed to be addressed. It is a shame that we could not award every group that applied money, but we did the best that we could do and we had to make serious choices.
It was also heartwarming to be able to award money to the people of Cortland county. It really touched home since I go to school at SUNY Cortland. The idea of helping people that live in the county was great, especially since this county really needs help. My resident assistant held a program all about Cortland county, and I found out something shocking. SUNY Cortland is responsible for 44 percent of the county's revenue and economy. That is almost half! I knew that SUNY's help to revitalize a county or area, but I did not know that it was responsible for almost half of its economy. Then, I pondered another question for a moment...What happens to Cortland County in the summertime, when school is not in session? (Yes, there are summer classes, but majority of people leave for the summer) The economy and situation driven by college students must deteriorate dramatically. Being able to help people, even if we only gave each group around $3000, was a fabulous experience. These people need all the help that they can get, and they really do need it.
I come from a county where people are mostly doing well for themselves. They are mostly middle class or upper middle class. When I first came to Cortland, I was in awe at the conditions in some places when I drove by. I thought to myself, I wish I could help somehow. Now, flash forward to the spring semester in POL 129, my colleagues and I are actually helping the county. It is a great feeling to be able to say that I helped Cortland county. It was not a game, it was for real. This was tangible money, helping real individuals. I learned time management, money management, and people skills. I had to work with a peer panel of people I had not previously known, had to adhere to deadlines for application decisions, and had to manage the foundation's money to distribute to these organizations.
This class also taught me professional skills, working with classmates to achieve a common goal of helping others. There were constant disagreements, but we all handled them in mature ways, and each provided our point of view. We had to divide our funding so that we could fund a few groups with a decent amount of money, rather than pour all of our money into one or two groups. I also really enjoyed looking up our own SEFA groups and making presentations on them. I found the MCLEF and immediately knew that I should pick that group. Having family that are veterans and law enforcement greatly impacted my decision to pick the group. I didn't know a group like it existed. It was great to see people present on so many different types of groups. It really broadened my horizon to see many different types of foundations and many different groups of people that also had real needs.
Alexis DeTocqueville believes that civic associations are important in American society and democracy. Working together, he says, enlarges the heart and develops the mind. This could not be any more accurate. Working with all my colleagues to achieve a greater good really did enlarge my heart and develop my mind. I honed skills that I never really knew about, and opened my eyes and heart to the big picture, that these people needed help and we could do something about it. I don't have any recommendations on how to improve the class, it really was a phenomenal experience I will never forget. I am very excited for Thursday to see how the award ceremony will go as well! I am sure that it is going to be an unforgettable experience. Meeting the heads of each organization, and presenting them with the big check signifying they were selected were funding is going to be remarkable. I can't wait to see how each group reacts to it. I know they will be very excited. Taking this class really was outstanding, and I would recommend it to anyone. It teaches people skills, money management skills, time management skills, and reading skills. I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to take the class. I will never forget the people I worked with, or the skills I developed to help people in Cortland county.
"The opportunity to give grants to non-profit organizations in Cortland has provided with a great insight into the philanthropic world. I have learned so much and I am thankful that the Learning by Giving Foundation has given SUNY Cortland students the chance to give back to a community that is in need. I hope that other students take this opportunity and gain the knowledge that I was able to receive through this course. I didn’t understand the importance of philanthropy or civic engagement until I was able to engage in this course with my peers and Dr. Steck.
I entered the philanthropy and civic engagement class late and I was not sure what to expect. I knew about charity and volunteering but I didn’t quite understand what philanthropy was. It wasn’t until I was in the course that I learned that philanthropy wasn’t just about donating money but also giving people the tools to help their own lives. Through the course I also learned the role of philanthropy in our country’s history. Once we read the work of Carnegie and Alexis de Tocqueville, I began to understand that giving back to those in need plays a very strong role in the functionality of our government. De Tocqueville’s idea that working cooperatively “enlarges the heart and develops the mind” makes a lot more sense after taking this course. Working with my peer panel, we were able to think critically about the grant proposals that we received from non-profits in Cortland. We had to critically understand that our decisions as a group would impact the lives of people in the Cortland community and inevitably impact the SUNY Cortland campus and the world. Though it seemed at times that were just deciding what organization would get the money, it did occur to me sometimes that the money would help a woman or child in the community reach their full potential.
I plan to use the knowledge that I’ve gained from this course in the future. Eventually I would like to become a public administrator or a director for a large non-profit organization like UNICEF. I believe that the tools that I’ve learned from Dr. Steck, Amy Har-Henderson and Jennifer Janes will be very instrumental in my future education and career. I now understand how to cooperate with colleagues and in a quality review circle and I’ve never had another class that has taught me how to do that. The ceremony when we gave out the grants has especially helped me and encouraged me to continue philanthropic and charitable work. It was very touching to see the organizations be thankful for the grants that they were awarded and I saw that our decisions really impacted someone’s life.
The Learning by Giving Foundation has helped me to realize the potential that I have to work for a non-profit organization or in the field of philanthropy. Through their financial means and the guidance of Dr. Steck I have been able to gain the experience that sets my undergraduate years apart from other students. Being able to work with other dedicated peers had taught me patience and cooperativeness that is necessary in any group deliberation. For the future students that may take the course, I think that is ideal for them to have the site visits to the organizations that submitted grants. Unfortunately our class was not able to do the site visits but I think they are important for the grant process. As it’s been said, “real money, real people, real needs” and I think it’s important for the students to see the real people that they are deciding to give the money to. I also think that the site visits are important because the needs can be seen more clearly. This course is a very memorable one for me and I’m glad that I chose to take it.
"My name is Yuka Okuzumi and I am a student at State University New York at Cortalnd. I am Japanese, and I was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan. Since I was in Japan, I always love helping and want to work for international development. That is the reason why I decided to study English and international development in the United States. It has been four and a half year since I came here, but the learning by giving program is the best program that I ever had and I really appreciate this opportunity. I learned what are philanthropy, leadership, critical thinking, group work, professional speaking, and differences in United States and Japan.
Before I took this class, I never heard the word “philanthropy’, and I even did not know what is the differences between philanthropy and charities. Learning about NPOs and philanthropy makes me understand more about American culture because the Japanese NPOs where I used to work as volunteer are much smaller and not well organized as here. When Professor Steck asked me how NPOs in Japan, I only could answer that they are much smaller. Since the day, I started searched about Japanese organization and found out we only have 17 years history of NPOs and trying to reach the standard level in the United States. The structure, funds, tax system, culture, and government systems are different in Japan and the United States, but I would love to bring back this knowledge and experience that I had in the program and work for developing Japanese NPOs system when I have a chance.
I also learned how it is difficult the all processes. I did not expect that we spend for a month to figure out which organization we are going to give a fund. At beginning of the semester, I was a student who just goes to class and learn about the material from the professor. However, it changed through the application process. I became a person who is going to judge and decide which organization we should fund. While I was reading applications, I know that I cannot be just a student. I have to be more responsible. And all process makes me think more about Cortland community and how I can help.
The hardest time for this program was a making final decision. Every one has different opinions and different believes. I learned how to talk, how to discuss, how to approach, and how to listen. These times were tough but it gave me professional skills once I get out from college. I also learned how important to be prepared. One day when my class was having discussion, I wanted to approach how this group’s program sounds wonderful and I believe we should fund. Yet I did not have a details and I could not do effective approach about their strength for the organization. That was a great lesson for my life.
The lastly, I really loved how professor Steck had a day for ceremony. It was a wonderful feeling to meet all people from each organization. I was really happy that I involved this program and wish I could take this program one more semester. It was a wonderful day to meet all people who care about their community and it makes me excited when I think about how all this funding money goes toward to community this summer and fall.
I am really fortune that I can take this course in my last semester for college. After I took this program, I started to think about community and what I can do. My future dream job was international development but this program influenced me want to work community development now. Even not working on these fields, I will definitely involve NPOs who are supporting community. And I hope the Learning by Giving program will expand more colleges. The students need real world experience and opportunity to connect local community. Thank you so very much.
"This was one of the most interesting classes I have ever taken here at SUNY Cortland. Not only was this course one of my favorite courses but it is also one that I will never forget. I’ve learned a lot throughout the semester and hopefully I will be able to apply what I have learned out in the real world. I have now have a better understanding of what it means to fundraise money, donating, civic engagement and non-profits in American society. I learned there are so many things to consider when dealing with any of them. I also learned that there is a difference between charity and philanthropy. Having the chance to have a say in where real money is going to go was such an honor. I think that people should take this class and be able to have the opportunity to see what civic engagement is all about. I really liked the fact that in our class we had several international students and we got to see how their perceptions and experiences were different and or similar than ours. It made me realize that not everyone has the same view on certain areas or subjects. I also liked that we were split into peer panels which gave us a chance to really get to meet and know others who were in our group. We all gave in the same amount of effort and I think we all did a good job. I didn’t know either of the other peers in my group and now I know them well enough and can talk to them outside of class. I also really liked that I had the opportunity to be the convener for my peer panel. I had the chance to take on that leadership role.
Having the two guest speakers come into our class was also a good way to see what others have experienced and for them to teach us the ways of philanthropy. Before taking this class I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like. I just knew that I wanted to learn about civic engagement and what it has to offer. I learned a lot more than I was expecting which is a great feeling. For example, I learned important skills for fundraising, how to build a relationship and what donors actually want. I also learned that within a social community or organization comes funds, volunteers, communication, sponsors, publicity etc. Choosing an organization to pretend to fund to and presenting it was also a great opportunity that we had in class. Not only did we get to choose what organization we think we should fund but also we knew what to look for as we researched their website and their I990’s. I didn’t realize how important looking at their I990’s can essentially be. I didn’t even know what an I990 was prior taking this course. I learned that it is beyond difficult to choose what organization should be funded, especially because there are so many different ones out there. The best part of this class was being able to take part in the funding process where the Learning By Giving Foundation has helped the college and we awarded grants to organizations such as J.M McDonald Sports Complex, Preble Children’s Center and Cortland Area Communities That Care, etc. The class as a whole had to come together and choose the amount that each organization had to receive. Although I do not live in Cortland, it is a nice program that they have here to be able to give back to their community. We got to learn a little about Cortland and its population. Overall, it was a very difficult process but I’m sure it is one that I nor my classmates will ever forget. We distributed real money to real people with real needs. It’s such a great feeling knowing that we helped others and I am sure they are beyond very thankful. Because we signed up for Chronicle of Philanthropy Newsletter I still occasionally get the newsletters in my email and read the different articles. Hopefully with what we have learned from the different readings/in class lectures, I be able to apply what I have learned when I do have to deal with my students and their parents having to fundraise someday.
"Over the last few months I have been fortunate to be part of what I would consider to be not only a class, but a learning community—Professor Steck’s Philanthropy and Engagement course. Under the guidance of The Learning By Giving Foundation, my classmates and I have had, what I fear may be, a once in a lifetime opportunity; the ability and honor to make significant philanthropic donations to aid our college’s town. The process began with education, was nurtured in debate and ended in universal satisfaction. This write-up is my story of the time I spent as a young American philanthropist.
As part of the Judson H. Taylor Leadership Program, I was required to take one of two courses this spring. When I saw the option for a course in philanthropy, I took a moment to reflect on what I knew about the subject. My thoughts immediately went to a popular role model, Mr. Bill Gates. The media often features stories of the billionaire nonchalantly contributing millions of dollars to non-profit organizations. He receives nothing in return but the satisfaction of helping others. The entire notion seemed to defy the capitalist philosophy that drives America. I felt like I was missing something and in my search for answers I found myself walking into POL 129 on the first day of class.
There are three sectors in America? Private, government AND non-profit? I was learning already. Professor Steck directed our class through the structure of non-profits, navigating us through the complexity of all the paperwork. Learning to decipher tax records was no easy task but with the encouragement of my classmates and help from the Professor it became a routine task. Discovering how non-profits spend money, not only on their cause, but on themselves was perhaps the most important information presented. Understanding that concept allowed us to critically assess the quality of organizations.
The class taught more than simply Philanthropy. Learning of Philanthropy’s great heroes, Carnegie and Rockefeller, served not only as inspiration but as a lesson in history and empathy. One article, Bowling Alone, still stands out as it introduced a new and intriguing idea to me, social capital. Even today, weeks after we stopped discussing the article, I look at our college campus and find myself evaluating our social interactions and the value of the various communities on campus.
The importance and value of the class became apparent with our first guest speaker. Her discussion on Cortland’s alumni fund highlighted the value of philanthropy as we could hear firsthand how it impacts our community. With this information on philanthropy’s impact so close to home, we soon realized that we would have the tremendous responsibility in delegating funds. Fortunately our next presentation covered Quality Circle Reviews, which made us all more confident in our ability to perform our job when it came time.
Following Spring Break we began to receive applications. All the hard-work and discussion had turned our classroom into a community and we were ready, or so we thought. I realized just how tremendous of a task it is to examine two worthy groups, both of which seem to perform irreplaceable work in our community, and rank them against one another. As the convener it was my job to help negotiate rankings and discussion within my group. Before long, I noticed how much personal experience and values play a role in perception of different non-profits. When debate arose over ranking the groups, these personal connections that individuals felt with the groups made negotiation an emotional task. While I’m sure not all biases were removed, I do believe we did our best possible work.
When a final decision was made I took a moment to step back and reflect on our work. We were able to make a real impact on the community and that knowledge was very satisfying. As an individual, I feel like I developed a stronger sense of empathy. Research on a number of worthy causes showed me just how much humanity needs to help one another. And in all, I was so happy with our class, and even the trying processing that led up to it, that I would strongly consider working for a non-profit in the future. Non-profits are a testament to the goodness of human nature.
"In the beginning of the semester, I assumed class pol 129 is not a right class for me. There were several reasons why I had thought of that, but the main reason was because my major had nothing to do with political science. As a biology major, I thought this is just going to be my regular general education class; however, as I seriously took the class, I noticed that I was learning so many things. Afterwards I did my best to follow up the expectation, and I do not regret taking this class.
First of all, I thoroughly learned what philanthropic meant and how meaningful it is. Before I took this class, I had no idea there was a distinction between charity and philanthropic. I had thought that as long as we give money to a non-profit organization, it is fine. I was wrong and now I know that there is a distinction and a proper way to handle the money. The idea of philanthropy also changed my thought drastically. I used to only focus on the result, but now I try to look at the process to find a better solution. It taught me that sometimes cause is more effective and important than a result.
Second thing I was surprised to find was an amazing number of non-profit organization. In my home country Korea, we rarely focus on charity, so I believe there are only few big foundations to help the society. In comparison, U.S. has so many groups that are willing to help the needy people. It really warmed my heart as I learned more in the class and gave me motivation to find the best proposal to give the fund and an additional goal to help others when I get economically successful.
One of the most important thing I learned from this class was the lack of budget and cruelty of choosing the few out of many groups. I really wanted to help all the groups, but all I could do was to choose a better one by just reading a proposal they have made for us. Sometimes I was afraid to make a decision because making a mistake actually has an impact to Cortland County. It taught me the feeling of responsibility and a fear of a choice. Also choosing 4 groups out of 8 groups gave me many mixed feelings. I had to be cool and choose the best, but the class sometimes had a different opinion, so it always shook my confidence on my choice. In short, I feel like the class pol 129 made me more mature.
Lastly, the professor is so caring and understanding. I was amazed at the fact that he taught SUNY students for almost 52 years. Despite my awkward personality, I really wished to understand him better. He is old, but he is wise and took responsibility as a professor, so as a student, I couldn’t let him down after looking at his hard efforts. Despite his slow lecture, I did enjoy his lecture, and I am sad, but also want to congratulate for his retirement.
Overall, the class was so much better than I have thought it to be, and I am glad that I learned so many things from the class. Even some knowledge from the book helped me to become a better guy, so I really recommend this class to fellow students. If there is any other class like this, as long as I am available, I will gladly take the course.
Dennis Euisuk Yoon
"I added political science as my minor this spring semester. I was inspired to do so after I took an Intro to Democracy course with Professor Steck my fall semester of my sophomore year. I added this course not knowing what to expect. Before this class I did not even know the difference between philanthropy and charity work. Now I consider myself an expert in philanthropy work.
As a sophomore in college I was losing motivation to keep on with my education. I felt like I was not doing anything important or substantial with my life. I
was miserable going to each one of my classes until I signed up for this course. This hand on learning experience taught me skills that I will carry with me into my career. The Learning By Giving program gave me an opportunity to work with real money and community organizations that would help numerous of families in the Cortland county. The Learning by Giving program is exactly what this generation needs. I feel that the youth is only focused on becoming wealthy and not helping others. With that kind of attitude the world will become a very selfish place.
I knew this was going to be a difficult course when we had our workshop with Amy Henderson-Harr. I found it extremely challenging to critique an organization that was helping out its community. It was the social justice activist in me that did not allow me to criticize the organizations proposals. Throughout the workshop I started to realize that looking at the weakness of a grant proposal only makes the organization better.
My peer panel and I had intense discussions about each proposal that we looked over. I remember reviewing an organizations budget and realizing that the organization could expand their services by just adjusting their expenses. I was fortunate enough to have a great peer panel that deeply cared about the work that we were doing. We refused to rush through the applications because we felt as like any misstep or miscommunication between each other can cost an organization their grant. I also learned a lot from my classmates. I learned how other countries non-profit organizations function. My favorite part of the class was looking up our own organization that we would fund if we had the money. I found an organization called Women’s Prison Association that I was really moved by. I even made it a goal of mine to volunteer or even work for their organization in the future. I am so grateful to have taken this course because it showed me a whole new world of giving back to people that I would like to be a part of. After taking this course I know that I will continue to do philanthropy work in my future career.
"When initially signing up for this class last semester I didn’t know what to expect or if I would even enjoy the class. However, as the semester continued and we began diving into the material of what it takes to be a philanthropic person I found myself becoming extremely fond of the material. The idea of helping someone else out for his or her good cause towards the world is what really caught my eye. While reading Carnegies’ work it opened my eyes that there is more to life than just making money and using it on your own or those around you. If money is available to your disposal why not make use of it in a more productive way towards the world. I’ve grown immensely through this class personally and socially in the sense that this class as made me realize that there is more to life than your own problems or necessities. The world has a great amount of help its crying out for and every dollar someone gives is one less problem that can ultimately be resolved. It made me grow socially because I have been exposed to many great NGO’s that catch my eye and after this class I want to continue to get exposed to more and hopefully continue to help as many NGO’s as I can as the Pan-American Development Foundation. I’ve enjoyed this class when it came down to evaluating several grantees and choosing which one had the strongest proposal letter and not just that but which group had the strongest message that could positively impact our community. Being connected with the Cortland community and knowing I’m helping out by giving back was something I will keep with me forever, this class was not just a class to take a excel in. this class had a message behind it which I will take with me after the semester finishes. "