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Local College Students Become Grantmakers

February 26, 2020

There's something enriching about granting money to meaningful causes. It's a privilege the Community Foundation of Abilene and our fundholders get to enjoy all year. And for the past few years, it's something local college students also get to experience.

Abilene Christian University is partnering with CFA for the fourth year to give students the opportunity to serve as grantmakers.

"Thanks to some generous donors who desire to spark the joy of giving in the next generation, ACU is given the opportunity to teach philanthropy to our students by giving them money to give away in the Abilene community," said Dr. Jim Orr, Vice President of Advancement at Abilene Christian University and professor of ACU's Strategic Philanthropy class.

The Strategic Philanthropy class is for students of ACU's Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship. Students in this class get $50,000 to grant to nonprofit organizations.

CFA's Grants Director, Michelle Parrish, teaches the students about the grantmaking process and helps connect students to causes that might interest them.

"We could not do this without our partnership with Ms. Michelle Parrish and the Community Foundation, who guides our students to non-profit organizations in the Abilene community in need of funding and helps teach our students about thoughtful and strategic giving," said Orr.

Here's how the process works

Nonprofits apply for CFA's spring discretionary grant cycle.

Students review the applications and narrow down the pool to causes that interest them. The CFA Grants Director answers any questions the students may have about the applicants as they work to make a group decision.

The class works together to choose its grant recipients and allocate the $50k to any number of nonprofits, just as a grant committee would. Each grant the students make must be $5,000 or greater.

This year, CFA took the students to the Regional Victim Crisis Center (pictured below) to learn how to conduct a proper nonprofit site visit when considering a nonprofit for a grant.

Once decisions are made, CFA manages the actual granting of funds to the nonprofits. Since this money is granted out through CFA's existing grant cycle, the CFA grant committee also grants out its own pool of money to nonprofit applicants.

"We are so fortunate to partner with Dr. Orr’s class," said Parrish. "Our goal is to meet community needs, while also providing students with a rich and rewarding experience. They are faced with difficult decisions, and must work together for consensus. This experiment in real-world grantmaking offers wonderful life lessons along the way."

This partnership aligns beautifully with CFA's mission, part of which is to empower people to make a lasting charitable impact on our community and also to provide philanthropic leadership to enhance Abilene's future.

"Our students are benefited by learning about the needs of the community and then deciding where resources may be channeled to impact the lives of others," said Orr. "Our hope for all is that we think as much about how we may give away our resources of time, talent and treasure as we think about how we might accumulate them."

The students will make their final decisions this spring, and grants will be awarded in early April.

Other News

CFA grants more than $543k during 2024 spring grant cycle

See the list of local organizations awarded.

2024 Abilene Gives sets new giving record

See who tops the list; final grand total announced June 30

CFA grants more than $200k during 2024 VFD grant cycle

19 volunteer fire departments receive grant awards