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Home Feature Paying it Forward: Undergraduate Students Partner to Explore the Funding of Nonprofits

By Liz Warren-Pederson


Marshall Foundation helps students understand how funders make decisions about what nonprofits to support.


Students in Pam Perry’s MGMT 381: Management of Effective Nonprofit Organizations class ended their semester by making a real impact in the community.

One of the class’s guest speakers, Jane McCullum of the Marshall Foundation, addressed the class about how funders make decisions about what nonprofits to support.

“The final project for the class included six teams of students, with each team representing a nonprofit,” Perry said. “I planned for the teams to pitch each other and choose to fund a winner using play money.” When McCullum heard about the project, she committed $2,000 from the Marshall Foundation so that the student teams could make a real difference.

“The students took it very seriously and it took three rounds of voting to finally select the nonprofit finalist that would receive the money,” Perry said.

“There was a great variety of organizations represented, and I would’ve been proud if any of them won,” Michael Nageotte (Business Management ’17) said. He pitched on behalf of Arizona’s Children Association, but in the end, the class chose to fund Youth on Their Own.

“They help the neediest teens in the city who are homeless by no fault of their own,” Thomas Hope (Business Management and MIS ’16), who pitched on the organization’s behalf, said. “They are strict about the teenagers they take in, and have stringent grade requirements for eligibility of additional benefits and help. They focus on getting the teenagers to graduate, not just support them.”

“Not only are we contributing to 100+ Christmas presents, but these funds will go to a group of people who don’t have a family or home to spend the holidays with,” Nageotte said. “The homeless youth of Tucson will be greatly impacted by this gift. One contribution can change one or many lives.” 

“The story of impact is what stood out to me the most,” Jeanette Ruiz (Business Management ’16) said. “It was amazing to see how much a $20 gift card and a blanket could mean to students who may have never received a card before. I had a personal connection since my first scholarship was a $10 gift card for hamburgers and that meant hope for me just like these students.”

“This class and experience impacted my time in Eller because I learned many skills that most people only learn in top internships,” Nageotte said. “We gave presentations on behalf of real organizations and made a strong investment of ourselves into this project.” 

“This experience helped me to understand how the nonprofit sector and funding works,” Ruiz said. “It also taught me about the power of paying it forward.” 

“I will remember this experience forever, and it encouraged me to get more involved with my community and contribute what I can,” Hope said.


Top image of Pam Perry’s MGMT 381 class courtesy Eller College.