Education par excellence: Developing personal competencies and character through philanthropy-based education
Yeah! Our article was published in The Journal of Accounting Education. My co-author, Shirine Mafi, and I had been working on this project for three years now. We felt this project had an impact on our students for the good, but we couldn't show that. We tried several different types of surveys, but to no avail. Then, one day I asked Adam Grant, a faculty member at the Wharton School of Business, for advice. I told him my dilemma, and he told me to look for a change in how a person views him or herself. Thus, we looked at "before" and "after" data, and behold, we found this change. In addition, we gathered qualitative feedback and a satisfaction survey. Upon analyzing this data, we could provide support for the efficacy of this project.
The Philanthropy Project emphasizes experiential learning and is designed to promote the learning of discipline-specific concepts while simultaneously addressing the social needs of the surrounding community. In the Philanthropy Project, students receive money to distribute to not-for-profit organizations (NFPs) based on a competitive proposal process they help to develop and administer. A distinguishing characteristic of this project is that it is not a simulation. Students make real decisions that have immediate consequences to certain groups of people in their own communities. They have to make difficult choices by allocating scarce resources to some agencies and saying ‘‘no’’ to other agencies, all with worthy causes.
The philanthropy project was administered in accounting classes at both a regional public university and at a comprehensive private university. At the conclusion of the project, students reported experiencing the benefits of collaboration, communication, conceptual learning, community engagement, and character development. Students also learned about not-for-profit financial statements and related economic measures. A timeline of activities, grading rubric, and templates are provided to aid in the adoption of this project by other accounting educators.
The project was designed to have students take ownership and display pride in their participation in the project. Upon hearing virtuous leaders of the NFPs speak, students commented how they learned that one person can make a major difference in the surrounding community. Other students indicated that they planned to participate in philanthropy in the future. Supporting student comments included the following:
‘‘We can all make a difference in the world. It is not someone else’s job. We are all responsible for our world.’’
‘‘It was great to see how we could make a difference in these small organizations. I was happy to see how all of us could have a big influence on the lives of those who need help the most.’’
By elevating the good, people can be changed and helped. This not only includes those receiving the funding, but also those giving the funding. To me, this was the project's greatest contribution.
(A copy of the article is on my website, http://www.marshahuber.com)