By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer
Six local nonprofits received an injection of funding from Baylor’s philanthropy and public good course. Baylor presented $75,000 in grants to the nonprofits during a ceremony on Jan. 14 at McLane Stadium.
Christian Women’s Job Corps, Family Abuse Center, the Talitha Koum Institute, Greater Waco Legal Services, Inspiracion and The Cove were selected from more than 60 candidates. The recipients were selected by the philanthropy and Public Good course, a class which entrusts grant money to Baylor students and tasks them with deciding which nonprofits should receive it.
The Talitha Koum Institute, which received $20,000, is a “mental health therapeutic nurture center” aimed at rehabilitating trauma-affected children. Susan Cowley, the institute’s executive director, described the process potential grant recipients go through.
“It’s quite a large group that [the students] begin with and they narrow it down a couple of times… the students now actually take even more responsibility than the organizations they’re studying,” Cowley said. “They do the bulk of the studying on their own. I’m allowed, if I want to, to have one phone interview, but it’s not required of me.”
Students went through a rigorous process that cut the list of candidates from 60 plus organizations to 27, then 10. Then site visits and internal deliberations were conducted to decide who received funding.
Every semester since the course’s inception has counted the Talitha Koum Institute among its top candidates, and the group is a perennial grant recipient.
Cowley said this experience has shown her the course is a “significant program of learning” which teaches students to understand both sides of philanthropic contributions.
“Students are taking a real deep and wide look at a total cross-section of what it’s like in the philanthropy world,” Cowley said. “There are times they feel like the funder or a foundation and at times they act on our behalf as if they are an organization seeking something, which gives them a tremendously broad view of what all this is about, and we see some excellent student participation across the board.”
The class grants are funded jointly by the Baylor/Waco foundation and Philanthropy Lab, a Fort Worth-based organization. Dr. Jeremy Vickers, Baylor’s vice president of external affairs and one of the class’s instructors, said the course this year focused on groups affecting change in McLennan County.
“Our [external affairs] office manages an initiative called Solid Gold Neighbor and we focus our work on making economic and social progress in Waco in five areas: Economic Development, Health, Education, Cultural Wealth and City Growth,” Vickers said. “We challenged the students to consider only organizations in McLennan County that did work in one or more of these five areas.”
Vickers said the course does more than just distribute grant money; it also generates publicity.
“Over the past few years, hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone into local nonprofits to strengthen their finances as well as to promote their good work,” Vickers said. “At the end of each semester, students invite the nonprofit recipients to campus for an awards ceremony and we publicize the awards as well. This creates some positive news and press that further helps the organizations.”