October 10, 2007

Giving to Schools

Do you donate money to your school?

A few months ago I had a long New York-to-Boston train ride with Brad Seiler, an intern from Harvard, and we spent the time talking about that school's alumni fundraising....

What's 17, 22, or 30 billion between friends?

My question: by contributing to grow the world's largest endowments, are we solving any problems? Might we be making things worse?

Maybe it would be good for more ivy-bound kids to take a job waitering. Maybe it would be better for talented young professors to be forced to compete harder for research grants. And maybe, horrible thought, it might be better if the Harvard brand just weren't quite so strong around the world.

If not Harvard, where should the money go? There are a million and one charities. Most seem even less transparent than my alma mater.

Transparent Charities?

Today mapgirl emailed me about a a financial education campaign on DonorsChoose (go ahead and donate if you want to help teachers with lessons about money before the next subprime debt crisis). DonorsChoose has been around since 2000 but it is new to me - apparently individual schoolteachers write up project proposals that you can can fund directly. It's an Ebay for retail philanthropy. Better yet, fees are optional - if you choose to also cover the DonorsChoose administrative expenses, you can do so at your option.

Are there other charity organizations like DonorsChoose?

Posted by David at October 10, 2007 01:56 PM

I view my giving back to Harvard as a way to "give back a little bit of what I got"... Sure there are other ways for underprivileged students to pay for their college education (e.g. waiting tables, launching the next Facebook), but if they are already at Harvard, why not make that the primary focus of their 4 years in Cambridge rather than facing the day-to-day difficulties of making ends meet? Their time at Harvard is limited, and I know that I certainly benefited from previous generations of alumni and their donations... so why not enable the same environment for the current generation? There is plenty of time before/after Harvard for these students to tackle the real world and all of its harried problems. I would venture a guess that a large proportion of Harvard alumni subsequently do give back to their global community, a behavior which perhaps is indirectly linked to our scholarship donations and the enablement of a broad and high-quality liberal arts education... and thus the circle is complete.

Posted by: Olga at October 10, 2007 07:16 PM
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