The directors of four local nonprofits were surprised to learn last week that they would receive an unrestricted – and completely unsolicited – grant. The news came via an email from a Wesleyan student advising that they had been selected by a group of students participating in a class titled “Money and Social Change: Innovative Paradigms and Strategies.”
The grants, funded through the Learning byGiving Foundation, were awarded to the Rockfall Foundation ($7,000), the Buttonwood Tree ($1,000), N.E.A.T. ($1,000) and the Multicultural Leadership Institute ($1,000).
Led by Adjunct Professor Joy Anderson, the 16 students were quickly given the principal challenge of their class: from a pool of 400 area nonprofits, select four that would put their pool of money to the best uses to effect social change.
The students, according to class spokespersons Jacob Eichengreen and Hannah Lewis, winnowed the pool of potential grantees over the course of marathon sessions on successive Tuesdays until just seven remained. Students then advocated for their choices until the final four were selected.
Wesleyan University is one of thirty-five colleges and universities selected to offer this program of the Learning by Giving Foundation, established by Doris Buffett, sister of Warren Buffett.
Three of the four groups have previously partnered with Wesleyan students on various projects, although that was not a requirement for receiving a grant. The Buttonwood Tree is a grassroots performing arts and cultural center located on Main Street. The Rockfall Foundation, located in the historic deKoven House, has a 75-year history of environmental education and grant-making. N.E.A.T. , also located on Main Street, provides a multitude of neighborhood services, including a seasonal farmers’ market. TheMulticultural Leadership Institute supports multicultural and diversity awareness, education, advocacy and research.
Dr. Anderson (Wesleyan Class of ’89) is the founder and president of the Criterion Institute, which seeks to shape markets for social change. She was recognized on Fast Company’s 2011 list of the 100 Most Creative People in Business.