Texas A&M: Mays Students Distribute Over $100K To Local Nonprofits Through Strategic Philanthropy Class

This spring, students from the Mays Business School’s Strategic Philanthropy class closed out the semester by donating a total of $108,500 to a group of local nonprofits — the most the class has given out in a single semester since it was first offered in 2016.

Mays Business School Lecturer and Manager of Societal Impact initiatives Kyle Gammenthaler, who created and continues to teach this unique course, said the class has given students an opportunity to make a real difference in their community while getting invaluable hands-on experience in the world of philanthropy. Each spring, charitable foundations and other organizations provide funds for the students to distribute to Brazos Valley-based nonprofits of their choosing.

The class is currently on track to donate its millionth dollar by the end of the Spring 2023 semester.

“Those dollars have a dual benefit,” Gammenthaler said. “The money goes to nonprofits, and that would be great if it was just by itself. But the primary beneficiary are students having autonomy to make very real decisions. I think donors that have bought into that idea have latched on to the very real, practical nature of getting to train the next generation of generous leaders.”

This year, the funds for the class were provided by the George and Barbara Bush Foundation, Aggieland Credit Union, The Philanthropy Lab in Fort Worth and George Michael Swift ’19. The students ultimately directed donations to seven different nonprofits:

Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network ($17,775)
Brazos Valley Food Bank ($4,000)
Health For All ($17,500)
OnRamp ($19,225)
Sexual Assault Resource Center ($25,000)
Save Our Streets Ministries ($9,000)
The REACH Project ($16,000)
“At the end of the day,” Gammenthaler said, “if the students leave feeling more confident that they have a better understanding of how their time, treasure and talent fits into the community in which they live, I think that’s a big win for me.”

Each year’s class operates much like a real philanthropic foundation would, as students take time during the semester to meet with the heads of local nonprofits and understand their goals and operations before deciding where and how to distribute funds. The semester culminates with a celebration like the one held a few weeks ago, in which students get to see all of their time and effort come together as they present the selected organizations with their checks.

“We bring in the nonprofit recipients, we get those giant checks, and we get to tell a little bit of their story,” Gammenthaler said. “We get to celebrate with those organizations and remind everybody that this isn’t Monopoly money, that we’re actually giving them this money to keep doing the work that their organization is called to do.”

Gammenthaler said he would have loved to take part in such an experience during his time as an undergraduate, so he’s been thrilled to see the class take off and continue to gain traction among the student body and the wider community. He said he’s particularly grateful to partners like the Texas A&M Foundation, which helps bring in donations and guest speakers for the class each year.

And even after the class is over, the students’ experience is not. Gammenthaler said everyone who goes through this course performs an evaluation of their donations two years later, ultimately presenting information about the impact of their gifts to students in the current class.

“This is a really special experience for me as an educator because I get to teach, I get to experience it, and then two years later I get to be reminded that this sticks with them,” he said. “I wish every instructor could experience the full circle of learning with their students; that’s definitely the most rewarding thing.”

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