Instructors: Dorothy Schwartz: 865-3722 or 671-4787

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Thoughtful Giving: Philanthropy and American Culture
COR 301

M 4.10-6.40


Dorothy Schwartz: 865-3722 or 671-4787
Adam Tuchinsky: 780-4885
Office Hours By Appointment Gladly Given
Office Hours:

Carnegie Library

Fort Fairfield, Maine

I confess that I have hitherto indulged very little in philanthropic enterprises….There are those who have used all their arts to persuade me to undertake the support of some poor family in town; and if I had nothing to do, --for the devil finds employment for the idle, --I might try my hand at some such pastime as that. However, when I have…even ventured so far as to make them the offer, they have one and all unhesitatingly preferred to remain poor.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

If you believe that every life has equal value, it’s revolting to learn that some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not….So we began our work in the same way anyone here would begin it. We asked: “How could the world let these children die?” The answer is simple, and harsh. The market did not reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not subsidize it. So the children died because their mothers and their fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system. But you and I have both.

We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism – if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes. If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world. This task is open-ended. It can never be finished. But a conscious effort to answer this challenge will change the world.

Bill Gates, 2007 Harvard Commencement

Course Description

“Thoughtful Giving: Philanthropy and American Culture” is an interdisciplinary course in the humanities with a community-based focus. It satisfies the Ethical Inquiry, Social Responsibility, and Citizenship general education requirement.

The course has two basic parts. In the traditional academic part, students will read and discuss various texts that address the issue and theme of philanthropy and giving. Philanthropy is a compelling object of study in its own right, but philanthropic discourse—work written by and about philanthropists—has a lot to teach us about American culture and the way in which observers perceived it. Philanthropy, in many respects, has held an ambivalent place within American culture. It has served as a marker of class even as philanthropic efforts have labored to relieve and reform problems associated with rampant inequality. At times, philanthropic discourse has served to legitimate American individualism, and in others, it has held up an alternative associationist or communitarian ideal. Throughout the course, we will try to both analyze and historicize the American philanthropic project in particular. Historical and humanistic inquiry will also serve as the basis for the course’s applied component.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote that students should learn chemistry by baking bread. So the second focus of the course will be practical giving. Thanks to a generous $10,000 grant from Doris Buffett’s Learning by Giving Foundation, we will have the opportunity to work with and support several worthy organizations. This is a heavy responsibility and a learning opportunity. In the course of one semester, this class will telescope the philanthropic process. We will identify our mission, issue a call for proposals, complete a systematic study of organizational applicants, write a grant, and set up a process for assessing its impact. To help us with this important work, we will consult with members of both our philanthropic and non-profit community. As both the authors of, and the audience for, grant proposals, we will learn how to be effective authors of grant applications. Our hope is that your work with participating organizations will be ongoing, and that your work in this class could be a springboard to a career in community-minded organizations.

Our goal will be to make this gift in the most ethical, considered, and effective manner possible. Throughout the semester, we will compare and make distinctions between various modes of giving: gifts, grants, charity, investment, and development. In dialogue with major American writers and thinkers, students will probe their own values. What obligations do we have to society? To what extent is there a social compact between the various classes of society? How do we prioritize social needs? What motivates philanthropy? Does philanthropy reinforce social hierarchies?

Overall, this class is a unique opportunity for students to learn about various aspects of American culture, probe, define, and expand their own ethics, and then to act upon them in a collaborative and experiential way.


Dorothy Schwartz is Executive Director Emeritus of the Maine Humanities Council and serves as a national consultant to state humanities councils and other nonprofits.  She served as Executive Director of the Maine Humanities Council from 1985-2006, during which time the organization’s income tripled and the reach of the Council expanded significantly.  Under her direction the Council successfully completed an NEH Challenge Grant raising over $1 million for the Maine Center for the Book.  She has won numerous awards for her leadership and received Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters awards from Bowdoin College and University of Maine Farmington, respectively.  She is currently a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Committee at USM and is a trustee of the Morton-Kelley Charitable Trust.  She has served on many other boards, including Maine’s Cultural Affairs Council, the Governor’s Task Force on the Creative Economy and Maine Philanthropy Center. She is a graduate of Smith College, where she also received her M.A.T. in Art History. She earned an M.S. Ed in Counseling at the University of Southern Maine where she has also taught Art History.

Adam Tuchinsky is an Associate Professor History and the Associate Dean in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Southern Maine. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina in 2001. He teaches a variety of courses for the the History Department and for general education the United States survey, Civil War and Reconstruction, the Age of Jackson, American Popular Culture, the United States in the Age of Market Revolutions, and an Entry Year Experience course on Henry David Thoreau.   


His research focuses upon the intellectual and political history of the United States during the Civil War era, broadly construed.  He has published articles in, among other places, the Journal of American History and American Nineteenth-Century History. His first book, Horace Greeley’s New-York Tribune: Civil War-era Socialism and the Crisis of Free Labor was published by Cornell University Press in November of 2009.

Learning Outcomes:

  • To improve writing and analytical skills

  • To understand the philosophy and mechanics of non-profits, and in particular, learn how to write and evaluate grant applications and organization profiles

  • To work collaboratively with classmates on a project of common interest

  • To explore ethical judgments in an individual and group context

  • To learn about the challenges faced by both non-profit organizations and the communities they serve

The textual portion of the class will weave together thematic and historical approaches.

Semester Assignments

Class assignments are due the day they are listed on the schedule below. The grade distribution is as follows:

Assignment #1 5%

Assignment #2 10%

Assignment #3 10%

Assignment #4 10%

Assignment #5 10%

Assignment #6 30% (Team-written proposals or Evaluations)

Assignment #7 5%

Participation 20%

A 93-100 C+ 78-79

A- 90-92 C 73-77

B+ 88-89 C- 70-72

B 83-87 D+ 68-69

B- 80-82 D 63-67

D- 60-62

Scholarship, generally, is composed from written sources, secondary and primary.  Scholars, however, are very careful to cite their sources of information and to credit other peoples' ideas.  If you don't know what plagiarism is, please consult me, or any style manual.  Be warned: plagiarism can be easy in the age of the Internet, but the Internet also makes it easy to catch cheating.

If you have any questions about USM's guidelines for academic integrity, you should consult:
Note: If you need course adaptation or accommodation because of a disability, please contact the office of Academic Support for Students with Disabilities (237 Luther Bonney)
Learning By Giving Foundation Grant Rules
1. No grant may be given to an entity within USM

2. USM will not divert any part of the gift for administration

3. Grants must be made at a minimum of $2000

4. Students will make the decisions on the grant awards.

5. Students will be responsible for designing the assessment measures.

6. Instructors will be responsible for the implementation and assessment of the grant’s impact.


University of Southern Maine

Fall Semester, 2013

Instructors: Adam Tuchinsky and Dorothy Schwartz

Classes will meet in Room 419/427, Wishcamper Hall

Mondays, 4:10 – 6:40 p.m.

September 9 Introductions

What is a good gift?

Why do people give?
The Nonprofit Sector: types, organization, management, funding

What can our class accomplish by giving away $10,000? Can it make a difference?

Review of syllabus
Guest: Suzanne McCormick, United Way of Greater Portland

What are Portland’s pressing needs?

What are the various responses from the nonprofit sector?

September 16 The Philanthropic Landscape in Maine and America

Foundations: types, organization, management

What is the role of philanthropy in civil society?

Snapshot of philanthropy in Maine

The role of giving by individuals and government in America
The Language of Philanthropy

What is an RFP? What is its purpose? How does the RFP relate to the mission of the grantor? How does the mission of the grantor relate to the mission of the grantee?

Crafting a Mission Statement

Review of last year’s student mission statement and RFP

Student teams: Preliminary meeting
Writing Assignment #1: With your team partner, craft a foundation mission statement, and identify and briefly research two Portland nonprofit organizations whose work may serve the mission of your foundation. Please submit by e-mail attachment.


Lynn and Wisely, “Toward a Fourth Philanthropic Response,”

Perfect Gift, 102-110

Dykstra, “What is a Grant” (BB)

Selections from Tom Wolf: Managing a Non-profit Organization

Explore web sites of Maine Philanthropy Center, United Way of

Greater Portland,, Portland nonprofit organizations

September 23 Request for Proposals and Grant Guidelines


Discussion of what needs to be included in the RFP.

Discussion of what kind of information the student foundation will need in order to make a good decision about the award of its funds to nonprofit organizations.

Grantwriting 101: A Tutorial

How to write a successful proposal: one size does not fit all!

What are the essential parts of a proposal?

How to read between the guidelines.

Review of last year’s student proposals.

Constructing the application form.

Reading: Henri Barbusse, “The Eleventh,” Perfect Gift, 245-248

Visit web site of Maine Community Foundation & Common Application.

September 30: Grantmaker Professional Etiquette

Student teams assigned to their Portland nonprofit organizations as volunteer grant-

writers or evaluators of last year’s grants.

Discuss best practices for initial contacts/visits with your nonprofit partner organizations: What to expect in making a site visit and interviewing nonprofit staff. How much time is too much? Site visit etiquette.

Distribute final RFP, Mission Statement & Application. Student teams begin their site visits in preparation for writing their grant proposals on behalf of their nonprofit partners.
Guest: Meredith Jones, President, Maine Community Foundation

What is a Community Foundation? How does MCF operate in Maine? How does it solicit proposals and make its funding decisions?

What is most important for the students to know in writing their proposals, in evaluating their nonprofits, and in making their grantmaking decisions?
Reading: Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save (selection)
Writing Assignment #2: Write a two-page rejoinder to the argument Singer makes in The Life You Can Save.

October 7 Ethical Case Studies

Principles, Values, Standards: how to give away money responsibly

Guest: Carolyn Wollen, Betterment Fund
What are the perils to avoid as a board or staff member?

How are funding decisions made ethically and responsibly?

How are applicants notified? What about evaluation? Conflict of interest? Accountability?

Reading: O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi,” Perfect Gift, 298-302

John O’Hara, “Memorial Fund,” Perfect Gift, 315-318

Writing Assignment #3: Write a 2-page essay that addresses the following:
Compare and contrast the perspectives of O. Henry and John O’Hara on what makes a gift wise or foolish, meaningful or futile. How can the philanthropist or gift-maker honor and respect the perspectives of those who, for whatever reason, lack a voice?

October 21 Philanthropy and the State

Guest: Erik Jorgensen, Maine State Legislature

The role of government in philanthropy

Student Teams meet in class
Reading: Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (selection) (BB)

David Wagner, What’s Love Got to Do With It? (selection)

Writing Assignment #4: In a two-page essay, outline the main elements of Wagner’s critique of the philanthropic impulse. Does Tocqueville answer his critique persuasively?

October 28 The Social Obligations of Private Wealth
Guest: Carol Wishcamper, nonprofit consultant and philanthropist

Being a philanthropist: the joys and perils

The art of advising nonprofit boards and staff in Maine
Reading: Carnegie, “Gospel of Wealth,” Perfect Gift, 230-244

Addams, “Charitable Effort,” Perfect Gift, 140-154

Selections from Giving 2.0 by Laura Arrillaga-Andreesen (BB)
Writing Assignment #5: The assigned readings today present distinct

visions of the relationship between private wealth/interests and the

“common good.” In a roughly two-page essay, compare them.

November 4 Philanthropy in Historical Perspective

Student teams discuss their experience to date with the site visits, interviews, and construction of the grant proposals.

November 18 Effective Grant Writing

Class discusses agenda and procedures for the December 2 board meeting when the

decisions on the grants will be made. What criteria will the board use in judging?
Reading: Moses Maimonides, Laws Concerning Gifts to the Poor, Perfect Gift, 125-26

Selections from Rambam’s Ladder: a Meditation on Generosity and Why It Is Necessary to Give, by Julie Salamon

Writing Assignment #6: Grant Proposal and Evaluations by each team due to instructors: Please submit by email attachment by NOVEMBER 25.
First drafts of proposals will be reviewed by appointment from November 15 on.
NOTE: Final Grant proposal must be reviewed and approved in

writing by the nonprofit partner before submission to instructors.



Guests: A student from last year’s USM Thoughtful Giving Class

and students from other grantmaking programs at Bowdoin or Colby
Evaluation team presents their assessment of last year’s student-made

What should the student decision-making board consider in the new grant applications and presentations? What mistakes may have been made in the past?
Discussion of agenda for the upcoming board meeting on December 2, how the presentations will be made to the board, conflict of interest policy, and procedures for arriving at the most ethical and successful grant decisions, how the grantees will be notified of the success or failure of their proposals.



The student foundation board meets according to pre-determined procedures, to decide on awarding a total of at least $10,000 in grant funds.
Plan the final award celebration event

December 9 Ethical Case Studies and Board Meeting De-Brief
Film: Clear Cut: The Story of Philomath Oregon
Discussion of readings and film

Discussion of previous board meeting grant decisions

De-brief and wrap-up
Finalize final award celebration event.
Reading: Sarah Orne Jewett, “The Spur of the Moment,” Perfect Gift, 127-134

Edward Holmes, “The Town Office,” Perfect Gift, 395-398.

Writing Assignment #7: Due December 3

Each of the assigned stories points to a particular “danger” of philanthropy.

For this assignment, write a two-page essay on how these stories shed light on a particular ethical dilemma you have encountered in this class.


NOTE: Attendance is compulsory!

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