Following former Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson's sale of the team in 2014, Levenson delved right into the non-profit sector, seeding funding of the Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland.
Do Good Institute
The initiative is unprecedented in the world of higher education. Its aim is to reach students at the undergraduate level at the University of Maryland and expose them to the world of non-profit and volunteering. The hope is to create the next wave of non-profit business leaders and meld them into individuals who are competitive against their private-sector counterparts. The program is seeing tremendous response.
“Over the years, we found that there were these amazing organizations headed up by extraordinary people that often fell short of their mission because these people lacked, frankly, some of the business skills that you need to be successful,” Levenson told Benzinga in an exclusive interview.
Levenson and his wife Karen took the idea to the University of Maryland. The couple seeded the $75 million initiative, while the state of Maryland chipped in an additional $20 million. The first class offered, Philanthropy 101, consisted of a lab component where students were given $10,000 to allocate to the cause of their choice. It became an instant hit on campus.
The Do Good Institute has a two-prong mission:
- To transform the campus into a Do Good campus where every student that graduates is informed and motivated to give back.
- To train the next generation of nonprofit leaders.
Launched in 2010, the initiative has been gaining significant traction. For the fall of 2017, majoring in the field is now available. The goal is to help attract students that are passionate about community service and giving back.
The program has already been successful in creating the next generation of non-profit entrepreneurs. Former student Ben Simon co-founded the Food Recovery Network (FRN) through the Do Good Institute, a student-run waste-prevention movement on campus.
Throughout his exposure to the Do Good Institute, he went on to start a new project called Imperfect Produce, a program that gives consumers access to less-than-sightly produce at steep discounts. The goal is to limit waste, over 6 billion pounds of produce are wasted each year as they are deemed unfit to sell at retail.
“What we’ve been able to do at Maryland is reveal ways in which people through their time, through their ingenuity, can build incredible things,” Levenson said.
With the rise of alternative education, the Do Good Initiative is offering a unique value, as it reshapes higher education curriculum to adapt to an evolving education landscape.
“We really want to create a template that other schools could replicate. It will start to become contagious,” said Levenson. “From a business perspective, the on-campus higher education model is really under threat today as a business model. All these alternatives are coming, like online learning, and this can't be done online. This is giving a 21st century model for campus learning giving it a real reason for existing. I think it will be transformational and I think other campuses will gravitate toward this for that reason as well.”
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