Philanthropy and Society students award $83,000 to local nonprofits

Author: Erin Blasko

Philanthropy Lab Event 08 Mc Feature

Students in Jonathan Hannah’s Philanthropy: Society and the Common Good class at the University of Notre Dame, a partnership with the Philanthropy Lab, spent the fall semester researching and evaluating local nonprofits for consideration for thousands of dollars in grant money.

Hannah is director of the Program on Church, State and Society at the Notre Dame Law School. The Philanthropy Lab supports philanthropy education at colleges and universities in the U.S.

The students, working in teams of five, consulted with Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns, conducted online research, performed site visits and solicited and evaluated proposals to determine which organizations best aligned with their values and would most benefit from their support.

They also learned about the social, organizational and financial aspects of philanthropy from Hannah and guest speakers including Lou Nanni, who oversees development at Notre Dame in his role as vice president for University relations.

At an awards ceremony Dec. 5, the students presented novelty checks representing $83,000 in actual money awarded from the Philanthropy Lab to six local organizations:

• Cultivate, a food rescue organization, received $20,000 for its backpack program, which provides weekend meals to students in South Bend and Elkhart.

• Neighbor to Neighbor, which fosters relationships among South Bend’s immigrant and non-immigrant populations, including migrant and refugee populations, received $8,000. 

• The Elkhart Education Foundation received $15,000 for its Schoolhouse Supply Store, which stockpiles free school supplies for Elkhart Community Schools teachers, paraprofessionals, counselors and social workers.

• Dismas House received $15,000 for its transitional housing program, which houses ex-offenders with Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross students in South Bend.

• A Rosie Place for Children received $15,000 for its respite care program for medically fragile children, located on a five-acre campus in South Bend.

• Imani Unidad, which offers risk counseling as well as HIV/STD prevention and education services in South Bend, received $10,000.

“It was a phenomenal experience,” Evan DaCosta, a senior political science major from Boston, said of the semester-long course. “I would recommend others take the class.”

The biggest takeaway?

“I didn’t realize how much really does go into philanthropy,” DaCosta said. “It’s not just writing a check. You have to do research, you have to talk to (community and nonprofit) leaders, you have to look at (tax) forms, you have to look at how efficient the organization is. It’s really a pretty interesting world.”

Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. chats with students. Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. chats with students.

The $83,000 included an initial $50,000, plus $1,000 for each student who committed to future giving and $10,000 if Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., took part in the awards ceremony, which he did.

The latter accounted for the $10,000 for Imani Unidad.

“I’m impressed with what you’ve done,” Father Jenkins told the students, “and impressed too with our partners in the community that do such great work.”

He reminded the students that “the generous people are the happy people. They find in their lives meaning. They find a purpose to life. And that is how to build a worthwhile life.”

Tieal Bishop is CEO of A Rosie Place for Children, which offers short-term relief to families of children who require specialized care because of ongoing health issues.

“This is meaningful,” Bishop said of the $15,000 for her organization. “It will have a significant impact on the hundreds of children we serve.”

Specifically, Bishop said, it will allow A Rosie Place for Children to host as many as 20 to 30 children for sleepovers and/or expand its playground, which features specialized equipment for children with sensory issues.

“I think Father Jenkins said it best,” Bishop said. “A check is fabulous, but really being invested in your community, that’s what makes a difference in the long run.”

Philanthropy: Society and the Common Good is offered through the Hesburgh Program in Public Service and crosslisted with the Department of Political Science and the constitutional studies minor.

Hannah, the former director of foundation relations at Notre Dame, developed the course, which he plans to rename Philanthropy and the Common Good for 2020, with support from Nanni and the development team and in coordination with Cristina Desmond, program director at the Philanthropy Lab.

Desmond is a 2010 Notre Dame graduate.

“Notre Dame was a great partner this year, and we were thrilled to add them to our network,” said Desmond, emphasizing the overlap between the University’s commitment to service and community and the lab’s work “to inspire students to be thoughtful philanthropists and to be thoughtful about how to support deserving organizations.”

“I think many students and alumni feel fortunate to call Notre Dame home and want a way to give back,” Desmond said, “and the class enables students to do so in a way that maximizes their learning and the impact in the community.”

Said Hannah, “No one was forced to be in this class, but they all wanted to take it to focus on philanthropy and volunteering. That’s really inspiring.”

For Cat Edmonds, a senior management consulting major from South Bend, the class was an opportunity to learn about philanthropy while supporting her hometown.

“I’m a big believer in South Bend and its potential, so to visit these organizations and see the actual impact (these grants) are going to have is super exciting,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds is one of two students from the class who will represent Notre Dame at the Philanthropy Lab’s annual Ambassadors Conference in Dallas in June, where she will have the opportunity to network with like-minded peers and pitch one of the class’s six grantees for further funding from a pool of $150,000 in additional grant money.

At an awards ceremony Dec. 5, the students presented novelty checks. Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame.

At an awards ceremony Dec. 5, the students presented novelty checks.

Founded with the goal of promoting philanthropy and philanthropy education, the Philanthropy Lab has contributed more than $9 million to philanthropy courses at dozens of colleges and universities in the U.S. since 2011.

“The Philanthropy Lab has a threefold mission: to spark students’ interest and participation in philanthropy, to increase the prevalence and priority of philanthropy education in higher education, and to become self-sustaining at the University,” said Hannah.

With continued support from the lab, Hannah hopes to establish Philanthropy: Society and the Common Good as a core part of the curriculum within the Hesburgh Program in Public Service, while working with Nanni and the development team to find new sources of financing for the course, distinct from the lab, so that the lab can expand to more schools.

“This enables us to take our seed funding and expand to other schools without preexisting philanthropy courses,” Desmond said, and “encourages alumni to engage with current students and share their own philanthropic experiences.”

Desmond praised Hannah for doing “a fantastic job setting up the course and getting students excited about philanthropy,” noting how during a visit to the class in the fall “the students were excited about the subject matter, passionate about the local organizations and wrestling with hard questions to make the best decisions possible.”

She also thanked Father Jenkins for his “support of the course and participation in the end-of-term giving ceremony, emphasizing the importance of the next generation of leaders from Notre Dame considering what it means to be a responsible citizen.”

“A common aspect of our most successful partnerships is strong institutional awareness of and support for the Philanthropy Lab class,” Desmond said, “which is why the support of Father Jenkins and Lou Nanni is so encouraging.” 

Contact: Erin Blasko, assistant director of media relations, 574-631-4127,

Originally published by Erin Blasko at on January 16, 2020.