Featured Stories, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Getting a taste of giving charitably

The Lutheran Community Foundation adds 'real world' to the classroom

Graduating seniors at Concordia Academy–Roseville, a school of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, learn a practical lesson in philanthropy. Through the Nurturing Future Philanthropists program of the Lutheran Community Foundation (LCF), the students learn about philanthropy in a practical way, actually giving away thousands of dollars provided by LCF (from $5,000 to $10,000 per year).

Last year the students didn’t take their choices lightly. They did research into charitable causes and learned as much as they could about the various charities, including Internet searches and on site visits. Organized into teams, they then defended their choices to about 100 senior class members at the school before making their final decisions. Susan Hayes of LCF had told the students, “It’s easy to give money away; it’s hard to give it away well.” They used a philanthropy curriculum written by Dean Dunavan, their religion instructor.

Susan Hayes of the Lutheran Community Foundation leads a class discussion about philanthropic giving at the Concordia Academy–Roseville last year. Photo provided by Concordia Academy–Roseville

“Philanthropy is God’s antidote for greed.”

In 2009, the pilot year of the program, Concordia Academy–Roseville seniors awarded $5,000 each to Lutheran World Relief and Blood:Water Mission in Africa; the $10,000 total reflected the pilot nature of the program at that point and Dunavan’s work in developing the curriculum. In 2010, the students awarded the regular annual amount of $5,000 to Exodus Cry. In 2011, $3,000 went to World Vision and $2,000 to East Side Boys and Girls Club in St. Paul.

When one of the students observed that they were giving away someone else’s money, the challenge became to give away some of their own money. They accepted the challenge, raising more than $8,000 that they then presented to Trinity First Lutheran School in Minneapolis, where many of them had volunteered, working with inner-city kids from the Phillips neighborhood.

The Nurturing Future Philanthropists program has grown from its pilot program at Concordia Academy–Roseville to include Springfield (Illinois) Lutheran High School. Each school was given $5,000. And, Hayes says she’s looking for a third school to participate in the program.

The philanthropy program reflects LCF’s aim to give back to communities. This particular program is aimed at promoting philanthropy with future generations. Hayes believes that, although adults may practice philanthropy, they may not be very good at teaching the next generation about it.

Hayes, a former teacher, said LCF had been looking for ways to “engage high school seniors.” She approached Concordia Academy–Roseville and met Dean Dunavan … and the rest was “magic.” The curriculum Dunavan developed is Scripture-based and includes nine biblical pillars of faith. There is emphasis on the joy that comes from giving and what the Bible says about that. Dunavan notes that “actually Jesus talked a lot about money and good stewardship.” And, the course work included a comparison of Christian versus secular giving.

Dunavan observed, “Philanthropy is God’s antidote for greed.”

Building a tradition of giving

Students wrote more than one paper about philanthropy, even at a time in their lives when they had many other things on their minds with approaching graduation and college or work ahead of them.

Hayes emphasizes the greater impact of larger donations, i.e. $5,000 versus 50 donations of $100. The larger gift can make an immense difference to struggling ministries. She stresses the importance of following up on the donations to see if the recipient organization reached its objective in use of the funds.

She observed that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is well-known to many students. That foundation always follows up to see if objectives are met. Even Warren Buffet proclaimed he didn’t know how to give his money away and channeled millions into the Gates Foundation.

Jake Oie, a 2009 graduate of Concordia Academy–Roseville now living in Redding, California, recalled about the program, “I’d never had a significant amount of money to give away. This was very meaningful to me. I realized the importance of philanthropy.”

LCF was founded in 1994 as a public charity working to help individuals and families give according to their charitable interests and financial circumstances. Since its inception, cumulative giving through LCF has totaled more than $730 million. Assets under LCF management total over $240 million. Hayes noted that while many community foundations are location-based (such as the Minneapolis and Saint Paul foundations), LCF is a faith-based foundation serving Lutheran givers throughout the country.

LCF’s offices are located in Minneapolis. To learn more, call 800/365-4172 or visit the web site TheLCF.org.

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