September Guest Blog: Nonprofit Leadership at Youngstown State University

Our most recent Pay It Forward Award Ceremony in May 2017 with the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. This photo includes United Way staff, YSU students, myself, and also representatives from the Kool Boiz Foundation, who serve as mentors in the Promising Men Mentorship Program.

Greetings from Youngstown State University!

I consider this a great honor to serve as a guest blogger for Ohio Campus Compact (OCC), and share some of our great work in the Center for Nonprofit Leadership at YSU. An even greater honor was receiving the 2017 David Hoch Memorial Award for Excellence in Service awarded by OCC.

As the Director of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership at YSU, I have the privilege of working with some amazing students who are seeking either the Certificate or Minor in Nonprofit Leadership. These students have a strong desire to make the world a better place and come together from all across campus. Our program is housed in the Williamson College of Business Administration, but is open to students of any major.

One project my students participate in each year is the Pay it Forward: Student Philanthropy Initiative, where students serve as grantmakers and award a grant of up to $3,000 to an organization of their choice. The only reason we have this program is because of seed funding from Ohio Campus Compact received way back when I started my position in the 2009/10 academic year. We were fortunate to have received that funding for 3 years, and have since sustained our initiative on campus with student fundraising efforts. We’ve done everything from restaurant take-overs and Corn Hole Tournaments to Bar Crawls. The students feel a strong sense of accomplishment and ownership to raise the funds they give away, and they take the funding decision seriously when it comes time to award grants to local nonprofits!

Our most recent award went to the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley for the launch of their Promising Men Mentorship Program. I joke with the United Way Director of Development how our funding was the hardest $3,000 she ever raised. She laughed and agreed, but acknowledged how impressed she was with the process, the students’ thoughtful questions, and what a valuable program it was for not only the participating students, but also the surrounding community. Our Pay It Forward process starts with a needs assessment of the Mahoning Valley, and then the students distribute the grant application and encourage organizations to apply. I also send out the application to past applicants, and students spend two class sessions reviewing applications. Pros and cons are discussed for each applicant and the “top 4” finalists are determined via a ranking worksheet. Site visits with each finalist take place next, and lastly, the final vote, and an award ceremony to follow.

The Center for Nonprofit Leadership also supports a unique Regional Case Study Exercise, where we travel to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus, or Akron once a semester to participate in a one day, immersive case study experience. The students work as consultants and offer solutions to challenges the organization is currently facing. The day includes a tour of the organization, Q&A with key staff, brainstorming of solutions, and a presentation given to the organization’s Leadership Team at the end of the day. We have sustained this program since Fall 2013, and are looking forward to working with the Akron Zoo this semester!

If you would like to know more about our work in the YSU Center for Nonprofit Leadership or would like to brainstorm on new student engagement activities, email me! I can be reached at LJDewberry {at} ysu(.)edu.

Edited by Brenna Limbrick