Blogpost: Once upon a time, in a class not far away…

By Kyle Hines 

Shortly after I began working at the National Forum in July 2010, our office received a phone call from the Once Upon a Time Foundation expressing interest in providing funds to the students of Dr. Burkhardt’s, “Philanthropy in Higher Education” graduate course.  The Once Upon a Time Foundation’s intent is to help educate young people in Philanthropy classes on the merit of charitable giving and to understand how difficult donating money can be when there are so many worthy causes.

While the direct evidence of our class’s efforts can clearly be seen in the two organizations that were granted funds (Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit1 and The Youth Connection2, each funded $25,000), an often-overlooked result of the gift to our class was the learning that took place in our discussions and debates within the class itself.  Most of the class members were in our early to mid-twenties and had never seen $50,000, yet were entrusted to donate the money to a worthy cause.  While this may have been a stressful or overwhelming situation for some, most saw this as an opportunity that may never happen again.  Through our classroom discussions, we established a class mission statement3, researched and presented nonprofit organizations to the class as potential grant recipients, created a way to evaluate the organizations that submitted requests to be funded, and drafted an agreement letter to be written towards the awarded organizations.

Through these experiences, our class was able to gain real-world experience that could not have been replicated in a typically structured seminar.  An important indicator of the success of the course is the fact that the Once Upon a Time Foundation has agreed to continue it’s support of Dr. Burkhardt’s course and increased the sum donated from $50,000 to $100,000 for this fall’s course.


1 The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit’s mission is “to empower young people to maximize their potential through professional performing arts training and the creation of first-rate theatrical and musical art.”

2 The Youth Connection’s mission is “committed to making metropolitan Detroit the best community to raise children by providing leadership for the improvement of the health and safety of youth through advocacy, increased investments, national-and community-wide partnerships and measureable results.”

3 Our class’s mission statement, “to help local (southwestern Michigan) underserved youth (ages 11-18) thrive through education and/or health/wellness related programs.”



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