Are you Generous U?

Philanthropic student groups vie for $10K in Sillerman Center’s upcoming competition

Type “Generous U” into YouTube’s search engine and you’ll discover just how broadly philanthropic today’s college students are.

With a few clicks, you can watch a video about microfinancing in Honduras; another about students traveling to Mexico to set up temporary health clinics, and a third video documenting a group’s 26-hour dance marathon to raise money for pediatric AIDS research. 

Generous U, a national college-based philanthropy contest, was launched by the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy at Brandeis’ Heller School in 2009 to increase philanthropy on college campuses. This year, the contest will award $10,000 to the winning student group and $1,000 to the runner-ups operating engaging, sustainable and impactful philanthropies. The deadline for submission is Monday, March 3.

Last year, the Sillerman Center started requiring applicants to submit YouTube videos explaining their student philanthropy. Last year’s winner, Kansas State University, won $5,000 for their student-led philanthropy K State Proud, which raises money to support fellow Kansas State students in need of financial assistance. 

BrandeisNow spoke with Andrew Hahn and Claudia Jacobs, director and associate director of the Sillerman Center, respectively, about the importance of college-based philanthropic engagement. 

Generous U is focused on promoting philanthropic values in college students. What has surprised you about the submissions you’ve received from student groups over the years?  

AH: Without doubt I would say the demonstration of innovation. Submissions have been clever! Fresh! Important! There is a huge demand for this kind of learning.

CJ: There is an amazing idealistic spirit among students to help others and do it in a thoughtful way. These students have shown tremendous maturity in dreaming up programs that help communities around the globe as well as their own campus communities, by helping one another after emergencies or funding scholarships. They’ve demonstrated an understanding that resources are needed to mitigate problems. 

A college campus seems a natural place for philanthropy — students are surrounded by passion and idealism. But then they graduate and are faced with student loans or a tough job market. How does the Sillerman Center and Generous U promote a commitment to philanthropy after college?   

CJ: We know from our studies, such as the recently released Pay It Forward project, that students who engage with philanthropic ideas in classes and through other college venues do carry these values into their adult lives.  Whether you are rich or not, you can still give. The Sillerman Center believes in democratizing philanthropy, so having college students practice philanthropy, as they do with the Generous U competition, bodes well for making college practices lifelong habits. 

What are you looking for when you watch a Generous U YouTube submission?

CJ: Energy, passion and a plan that seems realistic and doable.

AH: We look for people who have read carefully our guidelines and who understand our goals and our mission. We also want teams to be passionate about their ideas.

What lessons do you hope Generous U competitors and winners will learn from the competition? 

AH: Most importantly, they will learn more about the importance of philanthropy throughout life. Our hope is this will translate into positive outcomes for participants and those targeted for assistance.  

For more information on GenerousU, or to submit an application, please visit the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy. 

Categories: General, Student Life

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