UNCC students practice philanthropy

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Students in the master’s program in social work at UNC-Charlotte are getting hands-on training in giving and fundraising.

With $15,000 contributed by the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, a donor-advised fund that is one of the largest public charities in the U.S., the students will be making grants to local charities and raising money to replenish the fund.

The goal is to help the students learn how to identify and address community problems, develop a budget, request and evaluate grant proposals, make grants and raise money, says Dennis Long, a professor at UNCC who chairs its department of social work.

“In social work, to support human services, you really do need to know about fundraising and grantmaking,” he says.

In addition to learning about those topics through traditional classes, he says, the students also will learn by doing.

“They’re now a grantmaker and a fundraiser,” he says. “When they’re writing grants, they’ll understand what it’s like to be at the other end of the table, and the decisions that are being made.”

UNCC is one of 10 schools throughout the U.S. that each will receive $15,000 from Fidelity in a program it jointly administers with Campus Compact, a coalition of over 1,100 college and university presidents working to build civic engagement into campus and academic life.

Known as Students4Giving and launched a year ago on a pilot basis with five schools, including UNC-Chapel Hill, the program will include regular conference calls among the 10 participating schools.

Roughly 80 of the 100 students in the two-year master’s of social work program at UNCC will participate this year, Long says.

This fall, first-year students will identify community-based needs in a research class taught by Suzanne Boyd, an associate professor, and Susan McCarter, an assistant professor.

And next spring, building on what they learn in the class this fall, students in Long’s practice class on organizations and communities will design a request for proposals for local agencies.

The students also will design an “evaluation matrix” to evaluate grant proposals that agencies submit in response to the request for proposals.

Based on their evaluations, the students in partnership with Long will make decisions on grants totaling roughly $9,000, with Fidelity actually distributing the funds.

While they will be organized into smaller groups to handle separate tasks, the classes as a whole will make decisions on grants.

Students also will have access to philanthropy experts at Fidelity and Campus Connect, and to the community.

The students also will be working to raise additional money to replenish the fund.

They will be soliciting the community advisory board that advises the Department of Social Work at UNCC, for example, as well as faculty, staff and social workers who are alumni of the school, and will be submitting a fundraising article for the annual report published by the university’s College of Health and Human Services.

And a graduate student who took the practice class last year is working with students and faculty members participating in the Students4Giving program to develop a website that can be used to handle grant requests and donations.

Long says he and his wife, Joan, a social worker, plan to contribute to the fund, which he says offers a triple benefit for donors.

“They give a gift to the fund, and it’s tax-deductible, and will be donated to a local agency,” he says, “And they see the educational benefit going to the students.”

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