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Groundswell International Awarded This Year’s Global TERPhilanthropy Fund

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Written by Maggie Marsh, Global Programs Associate and Teaching Assistant, MPP Candidate 2022

Undergraduate students in PLCY 388G, Global Perspectives on Leading and Investing in Social Change had the opportunity to grant a nonprofit organization $7,500 during fall 2020 semester. After months of studying grantmaking, nonprofits, and philanthropy, students completed the grant making process by awarding this year’s Global TERPhilanthropy Fund to Groundswell International for their Rotating Buffalo Fund program working with women in Nepal. Journalism major Kimi Fleming remarked, “Before this semester, I had no experience with philanthropy or grant making. However, I quickly learned the importance of the process and the impact this grant could make. Dr. Bies and Maggie were so passionate about the class, which helped the students connect with the process during each step.”

At the start of Fall semester, students discussed and debated critical issues impacting people around the world to identify an issue area for this year’s grant. Key problems students identified included climate change, inequity in education, and human trafficking. After intensive research, reading, analysis, and dialogue, students determined the grant would focus on food insecurity. Next, students drafted a Request for Proposals articulating their mission statement and key selection criteria for reviewing grant proposals. The class was particularly interested in funding an organization working on long term solutions to food insecurity that respects local culture and prioritizes community involvement, while also using environmentally sustainable methods. 

After inviting suitable organizations to apply, students reviewed a record number of proposals, ranked their choices, and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each applicant. Eventually narrowing the pool to four finalists, students then held “Virtual Site Visits” by Zoom with representatives from each organization where they asked questions and clarified which nonprofit aligned best with their mission statement and selection criteria. Daphne Kirschner, a senior double majoring in French and Government and Politics, noted “being on the grant making side means having to make difficult decisions about which organizations we are willing to fund and who we want to help, but in the end, it is very rewarding.” After writing reflection papers and casting a final vote, students selected Groundswell International to receive the grant. Communication major Denise Burroughs remarked “I am inspired not only by Groundswell’s drive to eradicate food insecurity in Nepal, but also their focus on empowering women from the Dalit caste. I am confident our grant will change the lives of dozens of marginalized families in Nepal." Other students indicated that the organization's expert staff, evidence-based methods, and attention to culture and community involvement were among the reasons Groundswell deserved the award this year. 

This year’s Global TERPhilanthropy Fund will support Groundswell International’s Rotating Buffalo Fund. This new program provides households with a no-interest loan for a milking buffalo which families pay off over two years by selling 90 percent of the milk to a cooperative, and keeping 10 percent of the milk for household consumption and nutrition. Thirty percent of the proceeds are profits to the buffalo owners, and 70 percent of the proceeds go to the Rotating Buffalo Fund until the loan is paid off. Once the loan is paid in full, buffalo owners keep 100 percent of the profits from their milk. The Rotating Buffalo Fund is self-sustaining and reinvests loan payments to purchase more buffalo and expand the program to new households. This program has the potential to increase the incomes of participating households by as much as $900 per year. This is more than double the income of many of these households, which currently survive on less than $2 per day. 

Groundswell International was formally awarded the Global TERPhilanthropy Fund during a virtual grant ceremony attended by School of Public Policy Dean Orr and Associate Dean Nina Harris, as well as Executive Director Steve Bresica and Development Director Larry Bostian from Groundswell and students and faculty in the course. While commending students’ attention to detail and critical considerations in determining a grant recipient, Dean Orr remarked “it gives me hope when hope is in short supply.” Dr. Angela Bies, the faculty member leading this course, has noted that it is the diversity of students, majors, and interests which makes the grant making process and class discussions rich and informed. Information Sciences major, Elijah Falope, noted “The course provided me with a wealth of new information on how nonprofits operate while also challenging my views on what philanthropy should look like in terms of purpose, scale, and operational costs. The grantmaking process exposed that many of our world's issues are interconnected, and the solutions to these problems do not come in a one-size-fits-all formula. The real, long-lasting solutions come from local and community-based approaches that tackle issues in context.”

Throughout the semester, a recurring theme in the grant making process and class discussions was the connections across issues such as climate change, food insecurity, educational equity, and poverty. Thinking as grant makers, students were cognizant of these relationships and thought strategically to fund an organization and program working across various issues to enable long-term solutions. On a happy note, unbeknownst to the students who invited and selected Groundswell independently, Groundswell was the also inaugural Global TERPhilanthropy Fund awardee in spring 2015.  This is a testament to Groundswell’s innovation and effectiveness. To learn more about Groundswell International and the impactful work they do, visit their website here

The Do Good Institute proudly provides the funding for this grant every year.

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