Grantwell Program Shares Nonprofit Savvy



BYU’s Winter 2014 Grantwell students advised nonprofits such as the Fredette Family Foundation, Operation Kids, and Charity Squared.

It’s not always easy to know whether a charity is effectively using its funds or not. That’s why students who participate in the Marriott School of Management’s Grantwell program learn to tackle this tough topic as they research and give recommendations to local nonprofits.

In the six years since the program’s inauguration, BYU’s Grantwell students have allocated $1.5 million to deserving nonprofit organizations. Now Romney Institute professors are preparing to teach other universities how to run their own Grantwell programs, helping more students gain career-boosting experience.

“The program gives students a top-to-bottom philanthropic experience, with real projects and work experience to deepen their engagement in the nonprofit world,” says Aaron Miller, the faculty adviser for BYU’s Grantwell program. “With the program at other schools, more students will have this same opportunity to learn.”

Miller and fellow professor Todd Manwaring organized the program like a charitable foundation—with students serving on the board of directors and as project and development team members, all headed by a student executive director.  Project teams consult clients on three different topics: giving donors recommendations on grant recipients, consulting nonprofits on utilizing funds to fulfill their missions, and evaluating the effectiveness of past projects.

“We’re able to have a lasting impact on some of these organizations, and we get a diverse learning experience,” says Jackie Saumweber, former student executive director of Grantwell and 2014 MPA graduate. “Overseeing the projects helped me develop leadership skills and learn how to motivate and support my teams.”

In 2012 John Wagner, director of community relations for UNLV’s Nonprofit, Community, and Leadership Initiative, approached Miller to discuss starting the Grantwell program at UNLV. Miller was happy to help, and this January the Grantwell program at UNLV kicked off.

Miller and other Marriott School professors are currently developing a manual to help more universities start programs. He says the value in Grantwell is not just in the funds students help give out but also in the employment opportunities Grantwell alumni receive because of their experience overseeing and analyzing the grant-giving process.

“I don’t know how many students have told me that they got their jobs because of their experience with the program,” he says. “Whether a project is big or small, every student’s learning experience is fantastic.”