Maryland invests $75 million in the Do Good initiative

The University of Maryland made history last Thursday by becoming the first Do Good Campus through its implementation of a $75 million Do Good Initiative.

The initiative, which is comprised of university resources, state funding, corporate and foundation grants, and individual donations, has allowed the university to create the Do Good Institute, the Do Good Accelerator and expand on the existing Do Good Challenge.

“We’re not just the first [university],” said the Director of the Do Good Institute, Robert Grimm, “but we’re pioneering approaches and programs that other universities will want to copy.”

The Do Good movement started in 2011 when Grimm and a group of undergraduate students who were involved in the recently introduced nonprofit and social innovation classes were approached by a friend of the program. They were given the opportunity to create an event with actor Kevin Bacon.

While thinking of ways to utilize the famous actor’s popularity, the group of philanthropy-focused undergrads came up with the Do Good Challenge, which is like a cross between American Idol and Shark Tank. In February 2012 Kevin Bacon starred in a short, homemade, YouTube video challenging Terps to “make the biggest impact they could about a cause they were passionate about.” The top teams would be at a final event with him judging along with a celebrity panel.

“I want to see how you can use your creativity to encourage social change,” Bacon said in the video.

Grimm said they weren’t sure what kind of response they’d get, but the Do Good Challenge was an instant success with more than 100 teams taking part and packing the Stamp Student Union for the final.

The winning team, Food Recovery Network, created a way for leftover diner food to be transported to local shelters instead of being wasted. They are now in 191 campuses and have saved more than 1.4 million pounds of food.

The skeleton of the Do Good Initiative began to form during this process. With help from the university, the Food Recovery Network was formed into an official nonprofit organization given board members, free legal services, free space to work from and strategy consulting to develop a business plan. These were the resources that the Do Good Institute wanted to have available to all students.

“We have a generation of college students who are coming and they really want to make an impact now, and now they can,” Grimm said.

The Higher Education Research Institute reported 50-year high for entering college students that said becoming a community leader is an important goal in their life.

Terps Against Hunger is another success story to come from the Do Good Institute.  The organization packages and donates meals to local food shelters. Last week more than 2,000 volunteers came out along with congressman Chris Van Hollen and university president Wallace Loh to help Terps Against Hunger package their millionth meal.

A group of psychology students partnered with Prince George’s Family Crisis Center and used their counseling expertise to help the kids and families. They also raised $15,000 to build a new playroom for the kids and organized childcare services with other students on campus to give parents free time to run errands and give them time off.

In the future, the Do Good Initiative plans to provide all interested students with the resources to take any idea to the next level, whether that be legal aid, counseling, workspace or monetary grants. The School of Public Policy is also offering an undergraduate major in public policy including a focus on nonprofit and social change leadership.

The Do Good Accelerator will be up and running at the start of next school year and will provide coaching and resources for Do Good projects and ventures. The Accelerator will look to duplicate the Food Recovery Network model but improve on what they learned.

Students can expect a new minor in nonprofit and social change leadership. Anyone will be able to enroll in it regardless of major.

Some students, however, are worried about the price tag attached to the initiative.

“If they’re pulling assets from somewhere else, I’m a little against that large amount of money because there are places on campus that need fixing that directly affect students,” junior aerospace engineering major Ben Adam said.

Concerns aside, the university is optimistic about the future of the program.

“We’re defining the model of what a Do Good Campus is,” said Grimm. “A lot of people become teachers, or accountants or scientists but we want to motivate and equip them with skills to make an impact on a cause they care about no matter what their profession.”


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