Generous U competition is growing exponentially

Heller School's Sillerman Center aims to increase social justice philanthropy

Darnell Wilson, a junior at Northern Kentucky University, took the third annual Sillerman Prize for Innovations in Philanthropy on College Campuses last year for his conception of a fund to boost student retention by helping people facing possible disruption of their studies with mini-grants.

Heller School Dean Lisa Lynch

Four years ago, Lisa Lynch, dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, attended a meeting with Laura Sillerman who, with her husband, Robert Sillerman '69, funds the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis. Moved by their vision of the center’s mission, Lynch dreamed of doing "something “spectacular” -- akin to the X Prize that encourages technological innovation -- to advance the cause of social justice philanthropy.

She asked members of the Sillerman Center how to make the idea a reality, and they created Generous U, a contest for college and graduate students across the United States designed to encourage philanthropy and philanthropic values. Individuals or teams are eligible as long as they are part of a recognized campus club, student council, philanthropy or Greek life organization.

 Four years later the contest is gaining momentum.

The program had seven teams apply when it was piloted at Brandeis. The winning team was a mixture of undergraduate, Heller and International Business School students.

The following year 26 schools from throughout New England — and as far away as California entered. Babson College was victorious that year, followed by Northern Kentucky University in 2012. Runners up came from Cornell University and NYU respectively. This year over 240 student groups have expressed interest in applying and have filed letters of intent for the March 15 deadline. 

The student team that presents the best essay and accompanying YouTube video will be awarded $5,000, to be used by its club or campus organization to advance the winning plan. The college or university is also granted the opportunity to display the Generous U 2013 banner on printed materials and websites. The $5,000 prize had previously gone directly to the winning team for personal use.

“The contest has finally reached into more campus communities and it is creating a buzz,”  says Claudia Jacobs '70, the Sillerman Center’s associate director. “The new twist on the 2013 contest, renaming it Generous U and substituting the business plan requirement with an essay and a YouTube video, seems to have increased the fun and decreased the ‘homework’ aspect of the contest,” she says.

Jacobs hopes that the winning and runner up universities will be proud to display the Generous U 2013 banner on their websites.  “Not quite the same as U.S. News and World Report ranking,” says Jacobs, “but many prospective students would be proud to attend a university where their peers are generous.”

The deadline for applications is March 15. Complete details and application.

Categories: Humanities and Social Sciences, Student Life

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