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In new program sponsored by local philanthropist, university students are charged with giving away $10,000 to a good cause. It's not as easy as it sounds.
By KELLY HANNON
Turn 28 college students loose with $10,000 and see where the money goes.
At the University of Mary Washington, a new economics of philanthropy and nonprofit management class does exactly this, with one caveat: The money must go to a Fredericksburg-area nonprofit organization at the end of the semester.
Student can choose to divide the money any way they wish--they might give 10 grants of $1,000 each, two grants of $5,000 or one grant of $10,000.
The seed money comes from Fredericksburg philanthropist Doris Buffett, sister of billionaire Warren Buffett, and her Sunshine Lady Foundation. Buffett has started similar philanthropy and nonprofit management classes at the University of Virginia and Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. She hopes to launch another one soon at Cornell University.
"It just seemed to be a good idea to expose very bright and compassionate kids to what philanthropy's all about," Buffett said. "Because, hopefully, some of them will make a good living and at some point in their lives, they'll be engaged in philanthropy, and it shouldn't be scary."
The course proved so popular that Robert Rycroft, an economics professor at UMW and the class instructor, had to turn students away. Many students have already logged time at nonprofit organizations as interns and volunteers.
Rycroft expects the skills that students pick up in the class will be very marketable after graduation.
The nonprofit sector "has been growing pretty steadily over the past several decades in the United States. I think it's probably inevitable in a growing, continuing, dynamic society, there's going to be more interest in these sort of activities," Rycroft said.
Jeff Rountree, UMW's vice president for university development, agreed.
"The whole development field has become so critical now and is such a major part of institutions, whether it's a museum or a university. There are quite a lot of career opportunities," said Rountree, who helped to coordinate Buffett's gift.
The course's giving structure is not a free-for-all.