Philanthropy Undergrads Award Funds to Local Nonprofit

Philanthropy Undergrads Award Funds to Local Nonprofit

Student Philanthropy Fund class
Students from Susan Appe's Private Philanthropy, Public Problems, and Power course conducting site visits to local nonprofit organizations (Photo credit: Patrick Dodson)


ALBANY, N.Y. (January 23, 2020) – Undergraduate students in Professor Susan Appe’s Fall 2019 Private Philanthropy, Public Problems, and Power course have chosen the Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) as the recipient of $3,000 from the Student Philanthropy Fund.

Based in Troy, N.Y., the Commission on Economic Opportunity runs over 25 different programs in the Capital Region that give people the tools needed to empower and lift themselves out of poverty.

“CEO reaches so many in our local community and provides services that range from early childhood education, workforce development, and wellness programming,” said undergraduate student Makena Semevolos-Bullock who worked with classmates Nelly Martinez and Abby Waldow to research the organization. “CEO addresses many of the public problems that the class wanted to see philanthropy tackle: poverty, education, and malnutrition. We wanted our philanthropic dollars from the Student Philanthropy Fund to contribute to solving these challenges locally,” explained Makena.

Throughout the fall semester, Professor Appe guided students through the process of researching local organizations aligning with the Student Philanthropy Fund’s goals. The class compiled a list of nonprofits and looked at their mission statements, projects, finances, community partnerships, etc., and then discussed criteria that would inform their decision making: inclusiveness, providing opportunities for meaningful lives, the values of accountability and transparency, the impact of the donation, and organizational effectiveness.

Narrowing down the list of deserving nonprofits, four organizations were selected as finalists and the class conducted site visits to learn more about the organizations and ask specific questions about their operations and programming. In the end, the Commission of Economic Opportunity was awarded the $3,000, standing out in particular for its diverse reach and for providing essential services to the local community.

“It’s a wonderful program you have going at Rockefeller College, and this is a great class for both the student body and the community,” said Pearl Higgins, CEO’s Director of Marketing and Communications, about the recently expanded Student Philanthropy Fund. 

The Student Philanthropy Fund is housed at the Institute of Nonprofit Leadership and Community Development (INLCD) at Rockefeller College and allows students to distribute funds to commendable nonprofit organizations as part of coursework. Students learn about philanthropy and the essential role nonprofit organizations play in building vibrant communities.

The Fund originated in the Spring 2019 graduate course Philanthropy and Civil Society, and expanded to the undergraduate level this past fall. In 2019, Rockefeller classes gave $4,500 total to the following Capital Region nonprofit organizations:

  • $500 to The MoonCatcher Project in Schenectady, N.Y.
  • $1,000 to Youth FX in Albany, N.Y.
  • $3,000 to Commission on Economic Opportunities in Troy, N.Y.

The program will continue to grow in Fall 2020 as Professor Susan Appe has been awarded $10,000 to give to a local nonprofit organization after a competitive grant process through the Learning by Giving Foundation. Local nonprofits should keep an eye out for the Fund’s call for proposals in early fall 2020.

CEO logo
CEO Fill the Truck Event
Team CEO members collecting items for the Fill the Trunk Event -- a fundraising/food pantry drive to help stock up on personal hygiene items, diapers, formula, household cleaning supplies, etc. (Photo credit: Pearl Higgins)