Practice Community Philanthropy: Gifts to the Office of Civic Engagement Launch an Innovative Program Training Leaders in Philanthropy

April 19, 2018

Kelsey Arbuckle and Caroline McCullough Celebrate Grant to Tracy City Elementary

Up on the second floor of the Bishop’s Common, several students are thinking hard about just what philanthropy is and how it works best. “Muhammad Yunus [founder of Grameen Bank and a Nobel laureate] says you should give a hand up and not a hand out. What do you think of that?” asks Nicky Hamilton, senior associate director of Civic Engagement and the sponsor for the group. Madeleine Hoffman, C’21, has a surprising answer: “I don’t like either of those,” she says. “Either way, the focus is on the person with power. If they give a hand up or a hand out,  then the attention is on the giver, not the person receiving. I think it should be more reciprocal than that.” Madeleine is one of eight students, who are involved in the Philanthropy Internship Program. They are learning not just theory of philanthropy but its practical and legitimate operation in society. 

As part of their semester-long training in theory, the interns are also shadowing the grantmaking process of the South Cumberland Community Fund (SCCF), an important partner. SCCF has two grant rounds, one funded by the many donors to the Community Fund (with grant decisions made by a panel comprised largely by local residents), and a second grant round in the fall where students take the lead in evaluating proposals, discussing the projects with their community partners, and advocating with the SCCF on making the grants.  “The program has a big impact on the community as well as the students,” says Hamilton. 

The source of funds for that second round is a bridge grant from a generous family that is helping Sewanee build a powerful new multifaceted program in Civic Engagement. The bridge grant is also a challenge grant, and the family has asked Sewanee to raise an endowment of about $5 million to sustain the programs after the grant period. 

Over the last four months, three donors have stepped forward to seed the Fund for Community Philanthropy’s endowment, at a total of a bit more than $300,000. 

“We are enormously grateful to Joanne and Bob Clark, P’80, P’82, P’85, GP’08, GP’21; Antoinette and Ben Brewster, C’70; and Lisa and Charlie Brock, C’87, P’14, P’16, for their generosity in helping us establish the Fund for Community Philanthropy,” says Jim Peterman, director of the Office of Civic Engagement. 

With a $300,000 endowment, philanthropy interns will be able to make grants in the community of around $15,000 per year, compared to the $28,000 that was awarded in the first year of the program. The University has set an eventual goal of $1 million to support Community Philanthropy.

An Articulated Approach

The Community Philanthropy Internship program is just one facet of the newly energized Office of Civic Engagement. The OCE, as it is known, has its sights set on becoming a full-fledged Center for Civic Engagement, charged with developing curriculum, sponsoring a highly successful VISTA corps, working with other groups on campus to improve civil communication, and building new civic leaders.  So far, the University has raised just over $1.5 million in new endowment for the center, with a $5 million goal.  Gifts can be made to any of four  broad areas:

1. Fund for Center for Civic Engagement supports the operations of the center, including personnel and program development over time.  (Goal is $2 million; progress is $389,000).

2. Canale Fund for Civic Engagement Internship Program  provides support for students who are engaged in off-campus internships, which are a key part of students’ education. (Goal is $1.6 million; progress is $1 million).

3. Fund for Scholarships provides financial aid and work scholarship for students in the service leadership corps.  (Need is indeterminate but large; provisional goal is $1 million, and no funds have so far been committed to this pillar of the program.)

4. Fund for Community Philanthropy (Ideal program is funded at $300,000 to $1 million.)