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Online course will let students give money away

By Josh Funk

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 12:32 p.m. HST, Jul 14, 2013


OMAHA, Neb. >> A free online course that starts Monday will offer students the chance to learn about giving from Warren Buffett and help decide how to spend more than $100,000 of his sister's money.

More than 4,000 people have already signed up for the course that will also feature philanthropic advice from baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. and the founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield. Boston Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner and journalist Soledad O'Brien are other featured guests. The amount being given away could grow if more students sign up.

Buffett and his older sister, Doris Buffett, will be featured in the first class to talk about their motivation for philanthropy. Warren Buffett is gradually giving away all of his $58 billion Berkshire Hathaway stock while Doris Buffett has already given more than $150 million away en route to her goal of redistributing all her wealth before she dies.

"The trick is not to have her give it away faster than I make it," Warren Buffett joked because his family's wealth is tied to the Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate he runs.

Each one of the big-name givers will be featured in videos at the end of each of the six class sessions discussing an aspect of philanthropy.

But everyone involved with the course agrees that the fact students get a chance to give away real money may be more important than the famous speakers because it makes the lessons more powerful.

"It's an experience that gives profound insight into deciding how we meet the needs of our society," said Rebecca Riccio, the Northeastern University professor who will teach the course.

The Giving With Purpose online course is modeled after a class that has been taught at more than 30 universities that allows students to give away $10,000 after evaluating several nonprofits and learning about effective giving. This online offering allowed Doris Buffett's Sunshine Lady foundation to expand the classes without adding staff to manage the program.

"Giving With Purpose allows us to extend the classroom walls to include any individual passionate about philanthropy," Doris Buffett said in a statement. "There are thousands of people with the energy and ideas to make a difference."

Riccio said the course will focus on individual decision-making in giving and will teach strategies students can use to make sure their donations are effective.

"I'm trying to teach people about giving with their heart and their head," Riccio said.

Charitable gifts should be relevant to whatever people are passionate about, Riccio said. But this class will teach people how to judge what kind of impact a nonprofit makes and how well-run the charity is based on how much it spends on administration.

Allyson Goldhagen said she hopes many more people sign up for the class because she found the university version of the course so valuable, and she's looking forward to helping teach the online course.

Taking Riccio's class at Northeastern shaped the way Goldhagen thinks about nonprofits and helped her land her current job at the Associated Grant Makers, where she helps charities in the Boston area become more efficient.

Goldhagen said the course can help people realize how important their gifts are to nonprofits, even if they are modest. That's why she talked both of her parents into taking the course.

"I really hope that they start to think differently about the world and their impact on it," Goldhagen said.

Doris Buffett's grandson, Alex Buffett Rozek, organized the online course, and he said he hopes this will be the first of many times it is offered.

In addition to what students learn in the course about effective giving, the nonprofits involved are also learning because usually the classes focus on smaller local charities. As students review organizations that might receive grant money, the charities learn about the process of winning grants.

"These grants are huge to the organizations that receive them," Rozek said. "And because they went through the process, they do understand how to fill out a grant application and get funding."

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Follow Josh Funk on Twitter at https://twitter.com/funkwrite

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Online:

Learning By Giving: http://www.learningbygivingfoundation.org

Sunshine Lady Foundation: http://www.sunshinelady.org






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nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
I believe in fairness and equity and as such I would ask Warren Buffett to give a gift to the many thousands of sequestered civilian military workers who have been unjustly made to take almost the full brunt of the cost-cutting by our military under orders by our president. A twenty percent pay cut is just simply absurd. I can only imagine the hardships from such a drastic pay cut. Other sectors have threatened strikes over only a fraction of that which these workers have been slapped with. It is just simply wrong. I am a proponent of paying our workers what we can afford to pay them. But this action by our military is just simply unfair. They should have spread the burden equally among all the military workers, civilian and otherwise.
on July 14,2013 | 11:10PM
sailfish1 wrote:
Many people, including City & County workers" have taken pay cuts (via furloughs and layoffs) over the past several years. Federal workers need to shoulder the burden of the governments' budget crisis. Yes, they could have spread the cut over every federal worker and military, but that is the up to the military leaders. There are some areas where they cannot furlough people. Besides, the cuts aren't forever - it's only a few months.
on July 15,2013 | 12:36AM
mikethenovice wrote:
When you have a mortgage or rent to pay, a few months feels like forever when you don't have the funds to pay..
on July 15,2013 | 03:25AM
mikethenovice wrote:
How about his separated wife, Susan, that passed away several years ago?
on July 15,2013 | 03:21AM
mikethenovice wrote:
Warren is one of the last old time wealthy that believe in sharing. The new rich are greedy and only want to see their name on the Forbes 400 richest list. It's all about me attitude coming soon.
on July 15,2013 | 03:24AM
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