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Students win Buffett foundation grant

Northeastern Students4Giving (NS4G), a student-led initiative that immerses its members in the operation of a working philanthropic organization, has received a $10,000 grant from the Sunshine Lady Foundation’s Learning by Giving program.

The Sunshine Lady Foundation—founded by Doris Buffett, the sister of investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett—promotes philanthropy at the undergraduate level with the hope of inspiring students to become leaders in their communities.

Northeastern is one of 21 colleges and universities across the country that received a grant from the Learning by Giving program.

Students will use the award to make grants to nonprofit organizations in the Boston neighborhoods of Mission Hill, the Fenway, Roxbury and the South End. Last year, NS4G awarded grants to Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries and Victory Programs, Inc., two groups in Roxbury that support families particularly at risk because of financial instability.

“This grant speaks to how hard students have worked to build a credible and meaningful organization,” said Rebecca Riccio, the NS4G advisor and a lecturer in Northeastern’s human services program. Riccio praised the University for its emphasis on community service and for giving students experiential learning opportunities that shape their analytical, organizational and leadership skills.

Many of the club’s members are enrolled in service-learning courses, Human Services Professions and Strategic Philanthropy and Nonprofit Management, that give them an understanding of community needs and grant management, but NS4G allows them to take their coursework further, said Riccio.

“Students care about the program not only because it relates to their courses,” she said, “but because they can see that they’re making a difference in the community.”

This distinctive experiential approach to learning attracted the Sunshine Lady Foundation, said Louise Sawyer, a consultant to the foundation’s giving program.

“Northeastern’s philanthropy program embodies Mrs. Buffett’s philosophy,” she said, adding, “Northeastern excels at both the ‘learning’ and the ‘giving’ sides of the equation.”

The grant gives members of the student group flexibility to spend more time assessing community needs and less time raising money for its philanthropy, said NS4G student leader Sarah Longstreet, a third-year communications and journalism double-major.

She stressed the importance of staying in touch with grant recipients through potential volunteer opportunities.

“We don’t just want to give money to these organizations and not know where it’s going and how much of a difference it’s making,” said Longstreet. “It’s about learning about what’s working and what isn’t working, and we won’t know unless we keep these relationships going.”

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