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Exploring philanthropy

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By Emily Hulkower and Mark Simmerson

Nine students from the Student Philanthropy Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill endeavored to explore the realm of philanthropy, more specifically the grant-making process, and we discovered that the sector was larger and more complex than we had imagined.

After three months, awe quickly changed to activism as we realized that, though large, the philanthropy sector can and will never be big enough.

The largest problem facing philanthropy is awareness.

When philanthropy first comes to mind, one might think of wealthy individuals from older generations making large donations.

Though this constituency does contribute greatly, we have discovered that the philanthropy workforce is far more extensive.

It reaches far past the monetary input to the volunteer and the assuredly underpaid staff member and to the many hours of labor and passion that these selfless individuals offer.

Whether starting a nonprofit organization, writing dozens of grants, or spending their weekends arranging projects, these dedicated individuals are always working hard.

A major issue that needs to be addressed is general awareness of philanthropy. The public needs to be educated about philanthropy and about what they can do to help.

Money is only one of the infinite resources available to improve our communities through philanthropy.

More specifically, awareness needs to be heightened within our generation, the college-age individuals who at this point in their lives have the whole world ahead of them.

Money is not our greatest resource; it is our mass numbers of willing individuals who, with adequate information, can significantly facilitate and foster the growth and well being of the philanthropy sector.

North Carolina has over 37,000 nonprofit organizations and many vacant positions.

Many of these positions, however, require training and previous philanthropic knowledge and experience.

Starting at the root of the problem, the ever-growing, always-astounding abilities of our generation are ready to bloom.


Emily Hulkower and Mark Simmerson are students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Student Philanthropy Project is a one-hour class funded through a gift from Helen’s Fund of the Fund for Southern Communities and the Carolina Center for Public Service at UNC-CH.

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