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Learning by Giving: Haslam Students Learn Nonprofit Strategy

December 20, 2017

As the holidays approach, the thoughts of many turn to charity for those in need. Once the season draws to a close, however, nonprofit organizations throughout the Knoxville area will continue in their efforts to support others.

Students in the Haslam College of Business Learning by Giving class contributed to those efforts this year by distributing $30,000 among groups of nonprofits that collaborate to maximize their impacts.

Jonathan Thomas, a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who was enrolled in the class this fall, said giving funds to clusters of similar nonprofits groups encourages joint planning. That can lead to efficient work with low overheads and free more donated money to have a direct effect in the Knoxville community.

“I was most inspired by the Knoxville Area Mentoring Initiative, which is a network of five strong mentoring groups in Knoxville,” Thomas said. “Rather than trying to service Knoxville’s youth individually, they decided to collaborate and provide holistic care. These groups are not only excellent in their work, but they are also compassionate and devoted.”

Students in Learning by Giving are instructed by Alex Miller, the college’s William B. Stokely Chair in Management, on how to maximize the impact of donated funds through business principles.

“Nonprofits are businesses with a mission to meet critical social and community needs,” Miller said. “Students need to understand what is entailed in identifying and investing philanthropically in sound, well-run, nonprofit businesses. Anything less is a misallocation of critically important funds.”

This year, the Knoxville Internationals Network and Center of Light received $7,150; Bridge Refugee Services and
Tennessee Immigrant Empowerment Solutions, Inc., received $4,660; the Knoxville Leadership Foundation, Amachi Knoxville, Girls on the Run, YMCA of East Tennessee, and the Joy of Music School received $8,690; and the Restoration House of East Tennessee and Emerald Youth Foundation received $7,500.

Thomas and his classmates were asked to consider criteria including how the awarded funds would support the organizations’ ability to collaborate. If funds are given strategically, Thomas said, then “a couple thousand dollars can make a lasting change.”

Learning by Giving is offered in collaboration with the Consortium for Social Enterprise Effectiveness, which is housed in the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Haslam. The consortium seeks to develop leaders of social mission organizations and foster their organizational strategy building skills.

Funds for the class came in equal parts from the Learning by Giving Foundation, James A. Haslam II and James L. Clayton, Sr. This is the second year Learning by Giving students have distributed $30,000 to local nonprofits.