Are giving games a better way to teach philanthropy?

Jon Behar

Alliance’s recent feature on philanthropy scholarship showcased the growing number of educational opportunities tailored for current and prospective social sector professionals. As Gregory Witkowski described the phenomenon: ‘The development of philanthropy and nonprofit studies programmes over the last two decades is astounding.’ But student philanthropy programmes intended for a broader audience have languished by comparison.

‘Experiential philanthropy’ – in which students are given real money to donate to charities - is the standard approach to teaching philanthropy to undergraduates. In the feature, Charles Keidan reflected on co-teaching one such class to Stanford students who had the opportunity to donate $100,000. Millions of dollars a year are spent on this model, but it hasn’t grown in nearly a decade and has yet to extend beyond North America. Is it time to re-think student philanthropy programmes?

Below, I argue that less intensive and expensive formats like ‘Giving Games’ - low cost simulations of real giving choices - have greater potential for scale, and use scarce resources in a more efficient manner. I’ll argue that the lack of growth in traditional experiential philanthropy is connected to its high cost structure and show how results from the field suggest a different and smaller scale approach to student philanthropy is the way forward.

While professional philanthropy education is expanding to new geographies and subject matters, offering programs at the undergraduate, master’s, advanced degree, and executive education levels, we also need philanthropy education for ‘amateurs’  to instill philanthropic skills and civic engagement more widely at a cultural level.

 
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