Berkeley - "Have you considered what you would do if you were suddenly rich?"
In her course summary for "Contemporary Philanthropy," a class being taught this fall at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business, M. Frances Van Loo poses that question to her prospective students.
"Or, (what would you do) if you were rich enough when you were older so that you no longer needed money for your children's education, or more homes or money for travel, or more savings for retirement?" Van Loo, an associate professor of business administration, also asks.
Van Loo said the idea for the 10-session, one-unit course began when a friend's son scaled the ladder of success at Microsoft and one day asked his mother what good deeds he could help finance with his burgeoning bank account. The mother asked Van Loo, an economist nationally known for her work on non-profit management education and a winner in 1985 of UC Berkeley's Distinguished Teaching Award.
Van Loo said the young man is not alone in his lack of knowledge about how to approach philanthropy and community responsibility.
"The need in the state of California for this kind of information is so great," she said.
Increasing numbers of people are finding high-tech success in the surge in dot.com companies, and UC Berkeley's proximity to the Silicon Valley has helped professors and even a few students join the increased ranks of the newly rich.
Meanwhile, philanthropy and charitable giving has been elevated to the extent that it is a measure used to compare U.S. Presidential candidates.
At the Haas School of Business, a fertile ground for many of nation's economic leaders and advisers, the curriculum includes courses on business ethics, corporate social responsibility, environmental management and, since 1989, a group of courses focused on non-profit and public management. Philanthropy is a logical addition to the mix.
"Through its teaching and research, the Haas School has a very long tradition of examining the relationship of business and society - and philanthropy has always played a key role in maintaining a healthy relationship," said Laura Tyson, dean of the school. "Courses like this one will provide business students with a useful framework for understanding and dealing with these issues in both their professional and personal lives."
Earl F. Cheit, Haas School dean emeritus and Edgar F. Kaiser emeritus professor of business and public policy, agreed. He said social responsibility has been a strong theme at the business school, named for alumnus Walter Haas Sr., who incorporated social responsibility into his business "long before it was a term of art." Haas graduated from the school in 1910.
"Our students are involved in an astonishing number of community activities - ranging from conducting a business plan competition for social ventures to raising money for charitable purposes," Cheit said.
Van Loo's class offers an overview of the history of philanthropy and various cultural approaches to it, and zeroes in on what philanthropy means today.
The class was set up to impart practical information about the meaning of giving money and/or time. It looks at what standards to apply when choosing among organizations seeking support, and how to decide if support should be in the form of volunteering, checks, gifts of stock or pre-IPO stock options. The course helps teach students the plusses and minuses of a donor-designated trust, establishing a new charitable foundation, or starting one's own non-profit agency.
Students will hear speakers tell what it's like to serve on a non-profit agency board of directors and learn about the nature, needs and basic issues of non-profit organizations. One of Van Loo's former students is Sterling K. Speirn, president of the Peninsula Community Foundation , which calls itself the Center for Venture Philanthropy. He will talk to Van Loo's class about the many ways Silicon Valley's wealthy are giving back to their communities.
The students will be asked to consider how they might best handle a career with significant financial rewards but with few emotional, spiritual or psychological returns.
"Maybe you do your day job, but you say, 'Okay, every Saturday morning I'm going to be in a soup kitchen,'" Van Loo said.
The concept of community involvement has long been popular at UC Berkeley.
Since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961, UC Berkeley has sent more than 3,000 volunteers, more than any educational institution. Cal Corps, a campus resource center for student community service, helps more than 3,500 UC Berkeley students volunteer their time in a variety of outreach efforts.
Recognizing this interest at the business school as well as on the campus at large, the Haas School is hosting a lecture in September by Paul Newman, known not only as an Oscar award-winning actor, but as a major philanthropist. Seating will be limited. One speaker scheduled to speak in Van Loo's class will be a recent Haas School graduate now working for a Newman philanthropic organization in Southern California.
Van Loo said she wants students rich and poor to be better equipped with the facts, so they can make informed decisions about giving back - whether it's to a religious organization, a charitable endowment or through a venture philanthropy project that invests in companies solving social issues, such as how to solve Silicon Valley's housing problem.
UC Berkeley Haas School of Business