ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Students graduating with a degree in business are usually expected to know how to turn a profit, but for the past six years, a program at Abilene Christian University (ACU) has focused on teaching students how to use that money to benefit the community.

“It’s not enough to know how to make money,” said Community Foundation of Abilene’s Grant Director, Michelle Parrish. “How are they gonna be taught to be critical thinkers? How are they gonna find causes that are important to them?”

Students pose with ACU president Phil Schubert and Community Foundation of Abilene’s Grant Director, Michelle Parrish

The “Strategic Philanthropy” class is an elective for business students that gives real world experience in charitable giving. The students are tasked with researching local nonprofits and deciding which will receive a sizeable donation from the university’s funds.

“At the very beginning of the class, they gave each of us 10 dollars and they asked us to do good with it… ‘Oh my gosh, this is real money. How can I put it to the best use of good,'” ACU senior and project participant Lindsey May recalled.

That $10.00 was just a warm up as the students were told to divvy up $50,000 in school donations to the organizations they felt most passionate about. But passion was only part of the equation. Students had to advocate for their cause and, at times, negotiate with their classmates.

“I saw the struggle around the board table like… Everyone’s doing really good work, but without enough funding to go around to all applicants, you have to make cuts,” said Parrish.

May confessed, “It taught me a lot about having civil discourse; how to respect someone else while also disagreeing.”

From the nine nonprofits provided by the Community Foundation of Abilene, the students had to choose six to benefit. Each student thoroughly researched and heard pitches from organization staff. They also had to divide the money between each organization based on what they learned.

Gracie Isham gives presentation on Global Samaritan Resources

“They had great conversations and they made some tough choices,” Parrish said with a hint of pride.

At Monday’s presentation, the students awarded checks to the following organizations:

This is the sixth year ACU has offered this elective, and while the six students participating are the smallest class they’ve seen, Parrish told KTAB/KRBC she looks forward to the two-semester class that will be offered next year. That class aims to teach students to value people as well as profit.