UC Berkeley Graduate to Speak On Effectively Donating Money

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UC Berkeley graduate Eric Rodriguez will address an audience of 700 people from across the world Saturday on how to strategically invest in order to get the most bang for their charitable buck.

The event--which will also feature other students and UC Berkeley faculty--is only the latest stop in a personal effort to spread an idea that individual charity is most effective when pursued with academic rigor. A class based on this principle is currently being piloted this spring by the Center for Nonprofit and Public Leadership at the Haas School of Business.

"It's important to focus on philanthropy because a lot of people aren't educated as to where they should donate," Rodriguez said. "I believe advertising is great for big companies but when people are investing in future nonprofit organizations, I wish that they filled their decisions with more academic reasoning."

The course "The Economics of Philanthropy" is based on a winning curriculum that Rodriguez submitted for the 2009 Bears Breaking Boundaries innovation contest-a campus competition that encourages student innovation in the campus academic program.

Next week the 24 students enrolled in the course will determine which of six student teams is deserving of part of a $10,000 contribution donated to the class by the private Sunshine Lady Foundation, Inc., according to Nora Silver, an adjunct professor at the Haas School of Business and director of the center, who teaches the course. Each team will donate the money to either education or environmental nonprofits.

In addition to awarding philanthropies with donations, the students will cooperate with faculty in hosting a campus-wide philanthropy symposium scheduled for late April, Silver said.

"The average teenager donates $118 a year towards philanthropies," she said. "These students are probably giving money without thinking strategically about the impact of their money and we want to have this symposium to broaden peoples' understanding of the outcome their money could have."

Suraj Patel, a junior majoring in economics, said he originally took the class because it sounded interesting and he needed the extra units. The class far exceeded his expectations, he said.

"A lot of the aspects of philanthropy are associated with what I have learned in my entrepreneurship classes, so I hope in the future philanthropy can be the focus of classes such as finance," Patel said.

Contact Katrina Escudero at [email protected]

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