Philanthropy lab donates $100,000 to Central Texas groups

Students pose with giant checks written from Baylor University to philanthropic organizations.
Students pose with giant checks written from Baylor University to philanthropic organizations.

By Elizabeth Arnold

Eight Waco nonprofit organizations are starting the new year thousands of dollars richer after Baylor’s inaugural “Philanthropy and the Public Good” course distributed $100,000 to those select organizations through a semester-long process.

The course was offered as part of the Philanthropy Lab, a program of the Fort Worth-based private foundation Once Upon a Time. The program works with universities across the country to teach students the value of philanthropy giving by providing them real money to give. Baylor is the 14th school in the program, joining Harvard, Yale, Stanford and others.

“It’s not every day you get a chance to work with $100,000,” said North Richland Hills junior Madison Young, who took the fall class and is serving as a senior advisor for the spring philanthropy class. “It was something you wanted to be doing. There was not only an academic obligation but also a moral obligation.”

The class began with a list of 70 different local nonprofits. After nearly four months of research, phone calls, board meetings and site visits, the class agreed on the eight to receive grants: Waco Habitat for Humanity, Waco Family Health Center, Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry, Communities in Schools of the Heart of Texas, Talitha Koum Institute, Animal Birth Control Clinic, Compassion Ministries and Act Locally Waco. Each organization received a different amount of money depending on the specific project the grant funds.

Talitha Koum, for example, received a grant for $7,000, to be used towards the training and implementation of brain mapping, a new approach to the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) developed by Dr. Bruce Perry of the ChildTrauma Academy. The program is intended to identify areas of a child’s brain that have not been adequately developed and then, through appropriate therapy methods, nurture those areas into recovery.

“In a child from deep, deep poverty, there is almost nothing sequential in their life,” said Susan Cowley, covenant partner and cofounder of Talitha Koum Institute. “There’s almost nothing in their life they can count on. The system fails them and they fail it.”

Cowley said the brain-mapping program will allow Talitha Koum to more specifically meet the needs of the children enrolled in their program.

Animal Birth Control Clinic plans to use its $17,300 grant to promote the spaying and neutering of larger dogs in the low-income areas of Lacy Lakeview and Bellmead. According to Executive Director Carrie Kuehl, because larger dogs typically have more puppies, the grant’s efforts will reduce the overflow in local animal shelters. The clinic offers spaying and neutering free of charge.

“It’s really important to reduce barriers for families that need to spay or neuter their dogs,” Kuehl said, “and reducing cost reduces one of those barriers.”

The class of 30 was divided into five six-person teams, each responsible for selecting at least one organization in a given nonprofit sub-sector. Sections included health and human wellness, education and mentoring, arts and others. Each team distributed one grant, though some voluntarily chose to double their workload and write a grant for two different organizations.

Prairie Village, Kan., junior Jack Steadman was a part of one such team.

“Waco is crying out for people who are going to lay their lives down for them,” Steadman said. “I’d encourage people philanthropy isn’t just something that starts when you graduate. We really can change lives now, especially carrying the cross of Christ.”

Students and nonprofit executives alike found the collaboration process rewarding and look forward to future partnership. Each organization selected for a grant last semester is eligible for the program again.

“We’re hoping it’s just a start,” said Rachel Salazar, outreach coordinator for Communities in Schools of the Heart of Texas. “We’re hoping it opens up more grant opportunities. It’s helping us keep the program going.”

Dr. Andy Hogue, lecturer in political science and director of Civic Education and Community Service Program, teaches the philanthropy course. Hogue said he is pleased with the semester’s success and hopes to make the course a permanent part of the curriculum.

“Philanthropy is not a series of transactions but transformations,” Hogue said. “If we can do that and nothing else I’ll be thrilled.”

The Philanthropy Lab approached Baylor in the fall of 2013 asking if the university would like to apply for the program. Baylor officially announced the partnership in February of last year. Since then, Hogue has been able to collaborate with other universities involved and design a program for the Baylor and Waco communities. Of the 14 different programs, Baylor’s is the only course that works solely with local organizations.

“We developed something that worked uniquely well for us,” Hogue said. “We decided to build this on strong, durable partnerships.”

The class taught students to study philanthropy, do philanthropy and, ultimately, become lifelong philanthropic citizens.

“There was a deep sense of understanding that philanthropy isn’t something old rich guys do but something that is for all of us,” Hogue said.

This semester’s philanthropy class was capped at only 22 students, after Hogue and the fall class found 30 to be too large a class size. Students must apply directly with Hogue in order to join the course, and each semester he has had to turn people away.

If interested in applying students may email