Human Service course makes grants to local charities

The human service studies class "Designing and Implementing Social Programs" was funded by a foundation that promotes the study of philanthropy.


Two Alamance County nonprofit agencies – the Burlington Housing Authority and Allied Churches of Alamance County – received grants this spring from students in an Elon University philanthropy course that was supported in part by a national foundation.

The Boston-based Learning By Giving Foundation provided the Elon class with $10,000 for making grants to local agencies over the course of two semesters. With $5,000 earmarked for the 2012 spring semester, Associate Professor Bud Warner’s students in “Designing and Implementing Social Programs” spent time researching the needs or local residents, and the Alamance County nonprofits that address those needs, before selecting local programs to receive funding.

The Learning by Giving Foundation was officially created last year, though its founder, Doris Buffett, had been making contributions since 2003 to universities nationwide for similar purposes. Doris Buffett is the sister of prominent investor Warren Buffett.

“To me, this is experiential learning at its best,” said Warner, the university’s Faculty Fellow for Civic Engagement. “Students had to learn about community needs, identify how to address them, write a proposal with an organization that works in that area, and then struggle as a group to decide which projects should receive funding.

“This is the work of community-engaged learning. The knowledge and skills they developed in this course through this project will apply wherever they live – as future board members of social service organizations, as future employees, as future board members of philanthropic foundations, these students are better grounded in what it takes to address community needs.”

Representatives from the Burlington Housing Authority visited campus April 10 for the official check presentation on the second floor of Moseley Center. The BHA received $3,000, with Allied Churches receiving $2,000.

“A lot times you have universities in the community, and they do a little something,” said Ernest Mangum, the Burlington Housing Authority’s executive director, “but here there is a genuine interest in bettering lives.”

Students in Warner’s human service studies course said the responsibility of researching community needs and distributing grants was daunting but offered lasting lessons for their own future careers.

“It was a remarkable experience,” Tara Nager, a senior human service studies major, said when addressing the leaders from Burlington Housing Authority. “We always talk about working with organizations in the community. It’s beneficial to talk about it, but it’s even more beneficial to actually do it.”