Philanthropy class learns how to evaluate charities, awards Common Hope with $20,000

Undergrad students Christina and Khoi at the presentation ceremony with the check for Common Hope

Undergrad students Khoi and Christina presenting the check for Common Hope

How do we decide what charities are deserving of our generosity?

According to an innovative class at the University of Texas-Austin, Common Hope is deserving in the amount of a generous $20,000 grant.

This decision was arrived at by a group of forty undergraduate students, after a semester of research and in-depth analysis of a number of charities. Led by Dr. Pamela Paxton, the students had the opportunity to do a lot more than listen to lectures and take tests. They became major philanthropists after an anonymous donor awarded the class $100,000. They were then assigned the task of selecting two to six charities to receive donations.

The course called, Philanthropy: The Power of Giving, covered the history and current state of American giving, the causes and consequences of philanthropy, and most importantly, how to evaluate charitable programs.

Split into 12 groups, the students researched and analyzed charities across many different disciplines, including education, arts, poverty, and international development. Each group then selected one charity to represent.

Dr. Paxton speaks at the check presentation ceremony for Philanthropy: The Power of Giving May 1. Photo courtesy of Life & Letters.

Dr. Paxton speaks at the check presentation ceremony for Philanthropy: The Power of Giving May 1. Photo courtesy of Life & Letters.

The group that advocated for Common Hope found us on Charity Navigator, an online charity evaluator where we hold a four-star rating, the highest you can receive. They were impressed by our efficient use of funds, with over 84% going directly to programs. They were also impressed by our programs’ proven impact, as shown by the University of Chicago study conducted in 2011.

A key aspect of the students’ evaluation was how the organization measures their success. From the University of Chicago study results, they could see that Common Hope students are more likely to graduate, and when they graduate they get better jobs, they earn more, they are in better health, and are consequently more optimistic about their futures. These are all significant, tangible outcomes, showing that donations to Common Hope’s programs produce real results in the communities we serve.

After fierce in-class debates and analysis of financials, IRS documents, and other criteria, the class met to vote on which of the 12 charities would receive their donations. The class could choose anywhere from two to six organizations and they could also determine gift amounts through a vote. In the end, five charities were selected to receive donations and Common Hope was honored to be the recipient of $20,000 for our secondary education program.

Thank you to the students who represented Common Hope. We are delighted that through your charity evaluations, you found our organization to be among the best. We wish you luck in all of your future endeavors and hope that your passion for philanthropy continues to grow.

If you wish to learn more about the course, the students, or the voting process, you will find additional information in this article from Life & Letters, the University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts Magazine. You can also watch a video from last year’s class, which gives insight into the course and the students’ passion for the charities they represented.

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