Betsy Crites had 10 minutes to deliver her pitch for a $500 grant.
On a recent Monday evening in April, Crites, co-coordinator of food security nonprofit End Hunger Durham, visited a classroom of Duke undergraduate students and shared facts about her organization. The Duke students were all part of the Durham Giving Project, a spring house course for and run by Duke undergraduates.
“If you had to choose between paying your rent and going to the grocery store, what would you do?” Crites asked as she discussed ways End Hunger Durham connects with local food pantries.
That evening, the 22 Durham Giving Project students were determining how to award $6,000 they fundraised to Durham nonprofits. Throughout the spring semester, students learned about challenges facing Durham, to include gentrification and food insecurity, by having nonprofit, community and academic leaders visit their house course. Then, the Duke students fundraised in order to ultimately award small grants to Durham nonprofits.
The Durham Giving Project students came up with creative ways to raise money, from writing to friends and family to delivering Cook Out milkshakes and designing and selling Durham postcards. Students were part of the grantmaking process from start to finish, from raising the money to accepting applications, arranging presentations and notifying the nonprofits that received a grant.
“We hope students in this year’s Durham Giving Project house course have gained a broader understanding of Durham and the quality-of-life issues that impact residents of the city,” said Neil Hoefs, program coordinator for the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership and a Durham Giving Project adviser. “Through course readings and in-class conversations with nonprofit community leaders, students had an opportunity to learn about Durham’s history and to engage meaningfully with their peers in philanthropic fundraising and giving efforts.”
Seventeen nonprofits applied for a Durham Giving Project grant, and all of the nonprofits received full or partial funding.
The Durham Giving Project student instructors are Allie Charlton, Cameron Beach and Michelle Qiou. Charlton and Beach said that by hearing directly from nonprofits, students learned how their grants could be used to tackle important community needs.
The house course also taught Duke students that they can still contribute their time, skills and money to nonprofits after the course is over, Charlton said.
“We’re trying to teach people what it means to be a giver in your community,” said Charlton, a Duke public policy sophomore. “In order to be an active giver in your community, you need to know your community. You need to know the history. You need to be an engaged citizen.”
These 17 Durham nonprofits received a 2018 Durham Giving Project grant:
El Futuro, which offers outpatient mental health services to Latino families in Durham, was awarded a grant from the Durham Giving Project this year. The nonprofit is moving to a new Durham location in Lakewood Shopping Center at the end of May, and there are plans to beautify the green space next to its newly renovated office.
The grant will be used to buy plants and tools like hand trowels to turn that green space into a therapeutic community garden for clients and Lakewood neighbors, said Kerry Brock, El Futuro’s manager of grants strategic development. Brock visited the Durham Giving Project house course on April 9 and shared El Futuro’s vision for its therapeutic garden.
“(These Duke students are) paying attention to the community around them and not simply living the college life on campus,” Brock said. “That’s inspiring to us, and it actually encourages us in our work, that other people notice and are interested and want to be involved.”