Giving money away can be every bit as rewarding – and challenging – as making it.
That’s the lesson learned by the 62 Harvard Business School students who spent several months reviewing grants for the Harbus Foundation, a process that culminated at a reception at the Business School on April 19 when 10 local organizations received $10,000 each from the foundation.
Representatives from the funded groups were on hand to receive their checks, speak about their organizations, and mingle with other grant recipients. Alan Stone, vice president of Government, Community and Public Affairs at Harvard, gave a keynote speech. Robert Higgins, HBS senior lecturer and faculty trustee of the Harbus Foundation, also made remarks.
“These programs enrich people on the receiving end tremendously,” said Stone. “But really, the people who get enriched are those who expose themselves to people or a part of a community they wouldn’t have otherwise known.”
“The long Sunday process of final decisionmaking reminded me of how hard this is,” said Higgins, whose background includes both philanthropy and venture capital. “You wouldn’t believe the passion people have for their organizations. Venture capital seems awfully easy after watching that.”
“We leave the room [where grant recipients are selected] desperate to fund every organization,” said Prashant Agarwal HBS ’02, a trustee of the foundation. Students reviewed 60 local organizations, conducting site visits and thorough investigations into the finances, staffs, and missions of the organizations.
The nonprofit Harbus Foundation was founded in 1997 by students charged with utilizing profits from The Harbus newspaper. It has grown impressively, attracting twice as many HBS students this year as last.
For Jesse Souweine HBS ’03, who worked in development for a nonprofit organization, the process was eye-opening. “Most of the organizations we looked at were really strong,” she said. “It gave me an appreciation for the difficulty that people on the other side of the process had.”
Souweine’s charge, the South Boston Harbor Academy Charter School, made the cut; the school will use its Harbus Foundation grant to fund test preparation tutoring and college visits for its students. “The program they were seeking funding for was really core to their mission,” said Souweine.
The other organizations that received grants were Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation; The B.E.L.L. Foundation Inc.; Bridge Over Troubled Waters Inc.; Generations Incorporated; The Literacy Connection; Neighborhood House Charter School; Roxbury Preparatory Charter School; Tutoring Plus of Cambridge Inc.; and Women Express Inc.
Allston Brighton Community Development, one of several recipients in the immediate HBS neighborhood, will use its Harbus Foundation grant to expand hours and services of the technology center it runs at Brighton High School.
“Money is tight. This is providing some gap funding for all of our programs that run there,” said executive director Bob Van Meter.
John King ’95, who was president of Phillips Brooks House when he was a Harvard College undergraduate, is now co-director of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, a middle school with a mission to send its students to college. The school will use its grant for literacy efforts.
“Making sure that kids are strong readers is the [mark of] success of our curriculum,” he said.
For Women Express, which publishes Teen Voices, a magazine by and for teen girls, the grant will mean more teens can get involved in the organization. Standing over a table arrayed with recent issues, several teen peer leaders held court as HBS students and other grant recipients browsed the magazine with curiosity.
“It helps you at school a lot,” said Felicia Gomes, 15, of her experience writing and editing for the publication. “I’ve gotten a lot of knowledge and respect.”
Then, hinting that the gulf between her and her benefactors may not be so wide, she added, “it looks really good on your resume.”