With literally millions of ways to give, Tom Hughes asked the students what nonprofit is the best in the “Philanthropy of Business” class, the first course focused on charity giving offered by KSU.
Hughes, a trustee of KSU who recently earned a MBA from the university, got the idea while at a conference in Lithuania, where he heard about Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy program.
Tim Blumentritt, associate professor of management at KSU, who has lived in east Cobb for nine years, served as support faculty for the graduate course.
Blumentritt said the class was added to the curriculum because KSU is so heavily integrated with the business community.
“We are encouraged to be entrepreneurial,” Blumentritt said.
The class met weekly for three hours for 15 weeks, and often included keynote speakers talking for an hour before 15 minutes of questions.
One class included a speaker from The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, which guides philanthropists, nonprofits and community leaders interested in improving the quality of life in metro Atlanta.
Last year, The Community Foundation distributed more than $83 million in grants and support to nonprofits, according to the website cfgreateratlanta.org.
Another highlight was a presentation by Dikembe Mutombo, a retired professional basketball player who was with the Atlanta Hawks from 1996 to 2001.
Mutombo started the Dikembe Mutombo F2.5 Foundation to improve living conditions in his native Democratic Republic of Congo in 1997.
Ruth Ann Harnisch, president of The Harnisch Foundation, which gives hundreds of grants to nonprofit organizations a year, came down from New York on her way to the Bahamas in her private jet, Tom said.
Harnisch is married to William Harnisch, president and CEO of Peconic Partners, an investment management firm.
There was even insight by speakers who help steer wealthy families on how to structure their charitable gifts.
“Most of our students had no idea what they were getting into,” Blumentritt said.
Raising money by learning
As part of the “Philanthropy of Business” class, Hughes gave each student $1,000 to be donated to a charity, but their grade was dependent on making the right choice.
In his professional life, Hughes said he hears unsolicited pitches and business plans five to six times a week.
Hughes, 73, has lived in Dunwoody for 35 years with his wife, Barbara, and has three children.
Hughes said he has made his living buying and selling around ten companies, with periods of running the businesses in between. The number also includes ones where Hughes said he was just a substantial investor.
Hughes said it is about thinking of deals to make before anyone else and cornering a market.
“I took advantage of some opportunities that I had,” Hughes said.
One opportunity was buying National Electronic Attachment Inc., the largest dental electronic insurance claims company in the United States, Hughes said.
He owned National Electronic Attachment, Inc. for five years, growing it by 40 percent each year, before selling it to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co., a leading global investment firm, for $50 million.
“That lets you do whatever you want to do,” Hugh said.
Hughes said he will teach the class again next fall, but keep the enrollment at 25 students, the same as this year’s class.
“There are only 27 seats in the class,” Blumentritt said.
Philanthropy by the numbers
The “Philanthropy of Business” class was about identifying who are the recipients and who are the donors, and how businesses interact with charities to make an impact in people’s lives around the world, Blumentritt said.
With a growing trend by Americans to be more charitable and younger generations wanting to be more involved in global aid, Hughes said it is important not to say yes to every cause, but pick a group that uses a concentration of money or resources in the best way.
This aspect of purposeful giving required the students to investigate a few of the 2.5 million charities in the United States, Hughes said.
The research meant asking for budgets and financial records to show how much money was spent on direct programs and how much went to overhead.
“If I give $1,000, where does it go? If you tell me it goes to the director’s pocket … click, goes the phone,” Hughes said.
A good standard is to have 80 percent of money going to run a program, but sometimes there are gray areas with travel expenses for personnel or administration costs that are more general, Hughes said.
Both men were surprised by the small niche charities all the students focused on, with one organization only having a $100,000 yearly operational budget.
For example, Toilet Hackers, which is working to address the global sanitation crisis that leaves 2.5 billion people without a toilet.
“Charities can fool you,” ones you don’t think will last just need that one big donation, Hughes said.
A personal lesson
From sick kids to cancer research to military veteran issues to abused or abandoned pets, a donation goes to what personally matters to someone, Blumentritt said.
“You never know what will move somebody,” Blumentritt said.
The group of 25 students included four volunteers returning from the Peace Corps, a Dartmouth College graduate who wants to work in the art world, and others who are part of a growing group of young adults who want to work for nonprofits — unlike the 1980s and 1990s, where the goal was to get a corporate job and power through to the top, Blumentritt said.
Hughes said the goal of the class was not to teach students how to open a charity, but to better run one of the many already in existence.
Hughes said the majority of directors of these organizations are 50 to 60 years old, and there will need to be a flip in leadership.
At the end of the course, the students of the “Philanthropy of Business” class wanted to give back to Hughes, so they had a wine-tasting charity event Thursday night at a Starbucks in Roswell.
In three weeks, the students organized the fully catered event for 100 people and raised $3,000 for Hughes’ charity, Alliance for Children Everywhere, which operates three rescue homes for abandoned infants, orphans and young children in crisis in Zambia.
Hughes himself donates $1.5 million a year to the cause and raises even more, Blumentritt said.
The final papers for the course were due this week, and even though the event will not count toward extra credit, Blumentritt said, the night demonstrated the students were able to act on what they had learned.