Backing a New Generation of Emerging Philanthropists

July 15, 2020

In 2019, Doris Buffett launched the Learn.Lead.Give. Scholarship in partnership with the Learning by Giving Foundation. This scholarship aims to cultivate a new generation of philanthropists who are not only leaders inside the classroom but leaders in their community as well. Each year, this scholarship provides one high school senior who has participated in experiential philanthropy education with the opportunity to expand upon these studies through a four-year scholarship to a LxG college partner in the student’s community. 

Over the past year, LxG has been proud to partner with the San Francisco 49ers Foundation’s STEM Leadership Institute (SLI) program to pilot our inaugural high school philanthropy class and recruit a student leader for the new Learn.Lead.Give. Scholarship. LxG was particularly proud to bring experiential philanthropy education into a STEM environment for the first time. At LxG, we believe that experiential philanthropy should not be pigeon-holed into one academic discipline or only be offered to those pursuing certain professions. We are working toward a world where thoughtful, ethical philanthropy and community education is the cornerstone of every student’s academic experience and upbringing. 

We are proud to have the Learn.Lead.Give. Scholarship serve a small part of that vision. - Amy Kingman, Executive Director of Learning by Giving

Not too many years ago, we were part of the first cohort of UC Berkeley undergraduates piloting an experiential curriculum designed to teach and train students on how to become effective philanthropists, principally by “doing”.

This unique field-based approach, championed by the “Learning by Giving” program (LxG), taught us about the in’s and out’s of strategic grantmaking from a first principles perspective and culminated with a grant the class awarded to a local, well deserving nonprofit (mind you, this came after numerous hours of in-class framing, social evaluation, operational diligence, modeling, memorandum composing, deliberation, etc.).

These take-aways represent just a modicum of our learnings:

  • Philanthropy isn’t exclusive to the billionaire class, “mega-corps”, or “the rich & famous.” While those with more have a moral obligation to give more, those rich in knowledge, skills, time, and network can also become vital participants in philanthropic giving.
  • The more democratized philanthropy becomes, the more philanthropy can influence and steer away from “savior philanthropy.”
  • The best time to start giving is always now.
  • The best place to start giving is often in your community.
  • The best causes to start giving to are those you are most passionate about.
  • The best outcomes are those that amplify the impact of your dollar.
  • The most effective giving is deliberate giving. Deliberate giving seeks to address real needs defined by the communities being served.
  • Giving compounds. Giving “deeper” can often yield better results than giving “wider.”
  • Nonprofits face many uncertainties, operational challenges, fundraising hurdles and regulatory burdens. It is the responsibility of philanthropy to be sympathetic to this.  Unrestricted funding can often prove more valuable than larger, more restricted grants. Trust in the team while holding them accountable.

Albeit only a semester, the experience was enormously influential in shaping and challenging our outlook on social giving, inspiring us to continue to remain active and thoughtful contributors in the nonprofit sector to this day.

For this reason, the two of us felt so much gratification upon learning that the LxG curriculum was being extended further along the education pipeline as part of a conscientious effort to engage the latest generation of high school leaders, thinkers, doers, and givers.

As former LxG students ourselves, we were even more pleased when we discovered that the organization was planning on actively backing this next-generation as they continued their pursuit of giving in the form of a full scholarship to attend a local university that teaches LxG.

It was a great privilege for us to participate in the scholarship committee alongside David Shapiro, Sam Kennedy, Erika Walker, Sarina Beges-Thysen, Justin Prettyman, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, and Dr. John York, to help evaluate this exceptionally talented pool of young people. 

Of the finalists who all boasted impressive qualifications and demonstrated admirable passions for civic engagement and community leadership, the committee was proud to award this year’s scholarship to Vibha Tantry.

Vibha is a clear embodiment of someone who goes beyond herself to give back to her local community. She has demonstrated a strong understanding of the pressing social needs her community faces, has dedicated time and academic research to further explore and address some of these areas, and through her leadership as President of Girls Who Code and GAINS (Girls Achieving in Non-traditional Subjects), she has served as a strong advocate for young women seeking to break career and educational barriers. Unbelievably, all of that just scratches the surface! 

Archimedes is said to have once famously exclaimed, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world!”

It is our hope that the LxG curriculum continues to provide young generations of changemakers with that fulcrum. And, now, with a scholarship in place, perhaps a way to lengthen the lever is through student leaders like Vibha.

With this in mind, we are optimistic that Vibha and countless others like her will be able to move the world.

It is an honor to be able to pass the torch on to such a capable “Learning by Giving” fellow. Although there is much heavy-lifting left to be done, the future remains bright.

Fiat Lux.

- Chris Russi & Michelle Poon
Learn.Lead.Give. Scholarship Committee