College of Liberal Arts

Course on Philanthropy Pays Off

Fri, May 15, 2015
The class awarded $15,000 to Mercy Ships, funding approximately 60 life-saving surgeries in Africa.
The class awarded $15,000 to Mercy Ships, funding approximately 60 life-saving surgeries in Africa.

This semester a class of UT Austin freshmen were given the responsibility of deciding how to donate $85,000 to charity. 

Philanthropy: The Power of Giving is an undergraduate studies signature course taught by Pamela Paxton, a sociology and government professor in the College of Liberal Arts. The class is designed to teach students about the nonprofit sector and the importance of philanthropy to American society. 

Paxton’s background as a social scientist has led her to incorporate social science techniques in the course that attempt to quantify charitable giving. That makes selecting the winning organizations at the end of the semester a little bit easier on students.

At the beginning of the class, students were divided into groups based on their philanthropic interests. Each group member then researched different charities and selected their favorite, giving a presentation to one another.

The groups then selected one charity to focus their efforts on and debated their selections with rival groups in front of the entire class to make sure everyone was as informed as possible about their options. 

During the final week of class, students met to vote on which of the remaining charities would receive their donations. The class could choose between 2 and 6 organizations from the finalists. They also determined the gift amounts through a vote. On May 15, they announced their selected charities and presented representatives from the organizations with checks. 

Charities receiving donations are: 

The majority of the funding for the course was provided by the Once Upon a Time Foundation through their program, The Philanthropy Lab. Additional funds were also given by individual donors.

This is the fourth time Philanthropy: The Power of Giving has been taught on the UT Austin campus, bringing the amount donated to charities selected by a class of undergraduate students to more than $390,000.

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