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Giving to close Boston’s opportunity gap

Earlier this week, the students in my Nonprofit Giving course at Framingham State University held a ceremony where they honored the work of the Boston-based nonprofit Bridge Over Troubled Waters. They awarded the organization a $10,000 grant to support its vast array of services and supports for the city’s homeless youth.

The overarching goal of the course was for students to see how giving can enable low-income people to access greater opportunity. The class invited local nonprofits to apply for funding that the Learning by Giving Foundation has generously donated to the university. Created by Doris Buffett, this foundation annually supports 40 experiential philanthropy courses at colleges and universities across the U.S.

At the beginning of the course, the class read my book Giving Hope: How You Can Restore the American Dream, which offers hands-on strategies for how giving can fuel opportunity. Then, they crafted a grant application, researched local nonprofits, and invited 20 of them to apply for funds. Students subsequently evaluated the 16 grant proposals we received. Lengthy discussion produced the list of four that received site visits (see prior post), and even more intense deliberation preceded the final vote. The students had the option of splitting the Learning by Giving grant in half, but the majority preferred to give it all to one organization.

At the grant ceremony one of my students, Dan, commented that “since the beginning of the process Bridge Over Troubled Waters was one of very few organizations that had strong support from a majority of the class. The organization offers countless services that include, but are not limited to, counseling, high school equivalency and career development, the mobile medical van, runaway services and a transitional living program. The organization addresses a group typically invisible from mainstream media but that deserves to have the opportunity to be upwardly mobile and should be near the forefront of national attention: homeless adolescents.”

Kudos to my students for selecting such a worthy organization to support!

The Final Four

Even though winners of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments were crowned this week, another Final Four is just beginning to heat up!

The students in my Nonprofit Giving course at Framingham State University have $10,000 to give away, thanks to generous support by the Learning by Giving Foundation which annually sponsors 40 experiential philanthropy courses at colleges and universities around the country.

Early in the course, my students read Giving Hope: How You Can Restore the American Dream, which familiarized them with how giving can enable low-income people to access greater opportunity. Then, they researched Boston area organizations that appear, at least from their websites, to be doing similarly promising work. As a class, we decided to invite 20 to apply for funding, and received 16 grant proposals. Students have spent the past two weeks discussing the nuances of these proposals, and have narrowed the pool of applicants to four, each of which we’ll be visiting in the next two weeks:

  1. Friends of Boston’s Homeless
  2. Bottom Line
  3. Key Program / Children’s Charter
  4. Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Our first site visit is to Friends of Boston’s Homeless this afternoon. Once we’ve done all four site visits, then comes the BIG DECISION – where to give the $10,000.

Stay tuned for details!

Dressing for success

GUEST BLOGGER: Tori Dost, Framingham State University (

“Going Places. Going Strong” – that’s the motto inspiring the work of Dress For Success. This emphasis on forward motion is reflected in all of their programs, which focus on providing disadvantaged women with the resources they need to become upwardly mobile. “We focus on helping each woman prepare for the journey ahead of her, and our concern is where our clients are going, not where they’ve been.”

Dress for Success is an international organization with 130 independently funded and operated affiliates around the world, established in 42 states in the U.S. While Dress for Success is best known for its suit program, in which women seeking employment receive their own free suit to wear to interviews and to keep, the organization also ensures that women do not simply land a job, but also begin a career.

Their career centers offer resources to search for jobs and enhance their job-related skills, including an Internet-accessible computer lab, resume and cover-letter writing assistance, and mock interviews and interview preparation. In addition, the Going Places Network by Walmart gives Dress for Success clients more opportunities to gain hard and soft skills necessary for success in the workplace. Finally, the Professional Women’s Group offers women professional development trainings, with topics including communication skills, financial planning, family management, and more. Some affiliates, in their Professional Women’s Group, offer one-on-one intensive career coaching through A Hand Up Coaching (AHUC). Through a combination of these programs, women in difficult financial situations are given the tools necessary to change the lives of their families and themselves for good.

For so many clients, Dress for Success has not simply provided them with the attire and skills to compete in today’s job market. For many, like Madeline from Cleveland, Dress for Success restored her faith in herself and her abilities. “It helps me see all of the positive qualities I possess, and empowers me to excel not just in the workplace but also in all areas of my life. I want to be the best I can be.” Every day, Dress for Success is reacquainting women with their potential to succeed.

Changing the Trajectory of Young People’s Lives

GUEST BLOGGER: Rafael Alvarez, Founder and CEO, Genesys Works