Learning by Giving Philanthropy Grants 

Spring 2024

Since 2003, Davidson College students enrolled in POL 381, "Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector," have allocated grants to local non-profits as a central part of the course. A total of $150,000 in grants has been disbursed over the past 21 years. The endowed funding for this course was made available through the generosity of the Learning by Giving Foundation, established by Doris Buffet, in order to promote student learning about effective and responsible philanthropy.

This spring, the class will have $20,000 in grant money to award, thanks to funds from both the Learning by Giving Foundation and the Davidson College Center for Civic Engagement. The grant money will be awarded to registered 501(c)(3) organizations submitting what the students determine to be the most promising proposals.  

The grant has two equally important purposes:

  • Pedagogical: to promote student learning about grant writing, project proposals, and effective philanthropy.
  • Stewardship and service: to ensure that these funds are allocated to the most impactful project proposals generated in the broader community.

The students are responsible for almost all aspects of the grant, including determination of eligibility requirements, application procedures, and selection of grantees. Neither the Learning by Giving Foundation nor Davidson College plays any role in selection of grantees.

The Grants

A total of six grants ($3,500 or $3,000) will be awarded. The grants will be split into three separate geographic areas, each of which will receive two grants:

  1. Projects targeting needs in the Greater Charlotte area (urban/suburban). 
  2. Projects targeting needs in the Lake Norman corridor (the four towns in the immediate vicinity of Davidson College: Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson, and Mooresville).
  3. Projects targeting needs in rural North Carolina.

Both secular and faith-based organizations are welcome to apply, although proposals for projects with proselytizing goals or requirements to attend religious services cannot be considered. Proposals may request funds to launch a new project or support an ongoing one.

The students will use the following criteria in assessing the applications: project design, project impact, organizational capacity, finance and budget, and application quality. 

Priority Needs

This year, the class is especially interested in supporting projects and non-profits focusing on urgent, unmet social needs, including but not limited to projects addressing three of the region’s most pressing problems: low social mobility (all three geographic target areas), lack of affordable housing (especially in the Greater Charlotte area and Lake Norman corridor), and lack of access to basic health care services (all three target areas, but especially rural NC).

Application Form

Download the PDF Application Form.


Applications may be submitted by email. Email attachments must be received by Monday, March 11, 2024. Applicants will receive acknowledgement of receipt of application. Applicants will be notified of grant allocation decisions in the first week of May.

Contact Information

Applications should be emailed to Prof. Ken Menkhaus at pol381@davidson.edu

For clarification or more information, please contact Prof. Ken Menkhaus at his email address kemenkhaus@davidson.edu. Do not contact the Learning by Giving Foundation or Davidson College administration; they have no direct role in the grant.

Previous Grantees

View past grant recipients (PDF).