Strategic Philanthropy class teaches lesson in power, process of giving

philanthropy-class-400When Assistant Prof. Lora Warner’s brand-new Strategic Philanthropy class set out to coordinate its first gift, students wanted to target environmental quality, or possibly civic engagement.

The project they chose was a stellar example of both.

Using a $5,000 anonymous gift presented under the auspices of the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, Warner’s students facilitated start-up funds for a new community garden at Green Bay West High School. The student-run project is designed to address the issue of a “food desert” — lack of a nearby grocery store — in the school’s near west-side neighborhood, and also get students and the community involved in the garden’s creation and upkeep. Students from numerous Green Bay West clubs and organizations will tend the garden, which will grow an assortment of vegetables to represent the diverse backgrounds of the community.

Strategic Philanthropy class

“I was just so excited to see this proposal,” said student Emily Fischer, speaking during a Dec. 18 check presentation event. “It has the potential to get not just the students, but an entire community involved. We would like to thank the (West) student and faculty for winning our hearts.”

The West group won not just the class’ heart, but also a thorough selection process involving RFPs (requests for proposals), in-person interviews and a carefully chosen set of project criteria. The new course was designed to help students experience the intricacies of the philanthropic giving process firsthand, and to give them a real-life chance to apply their knowledge.

Lora Warner

“These students came in as caring, compassionate people,” Warner said. “Now I think they have the strategic part in mind … and can be much more intentional about where they give.”

The proposals for consideration were carefully chosen based on needs identified in the Leading Indicators for Excellence, or LIFE Study, a broad-based, four-county quality-of-life report that presented its findings in October 2011. Warner led the year-and-a-half long study, in coordination with the St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute.

Students in Warner’s class not only learned about the process of philanthropic giving, but also were motivated look for ways to give back themselves, whether through time or monetary donation, said UW-Green Bay student Michael Hastreiter. The unofficial class mottos became “do something,” a call to action, and “one person can make a difference,” a reminder that big ideas sometimes start small.

Gregg Hetue

Numerous members of Green Bay’s philanthropic community attended the Dec. 18 check presentation event, including United Way CEO Gregg Hetue; Martha Ahrendt, Greater Green Bay Community Foundation VP of programs; and current or emeriti Women’s Fund of Greater Green Bay board members Gail McNutt, Suzy Pfeifer and Lise Lotte Gammeltoft. Representatives of UW-Green Bay included Assistant Chancellor for University Advancement Bev Carmichael and Development Director Jeanne Stangel, Women’s Fund board member emerita and president-elect, respectively; along with Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Scott Furlong and Public and Environmental Affairs Chair John Stoll. Former UW System Regent Judy Crain also was in attendance.

West school social worker Margaret Kubek and two students accepted the check on behalf of their school during the Dec. 18 event, as principal Mark Flaten looked on. They thanked Warner’s class and invited everyone to come visit the garden this spring.

“They know how to make an impact,” Warner said of her students. “And they feel empowered to do it.”