Learning by Giving

Because of the success of the UT Collaborative Grant endeavor outlined below, the Learning by Giving Foundation granted ABN $5,000 to distribute to our member nonprofits. With this money, ABN plans to give one free training class ($75 value) to a member nonprofit when they complete our Standards for Excellence Online® Assessment. This assessment is always free to members ($500 value), and includes a free one-hour consultation following its completion. We are so excited to be able to use this money to give back to our members who do great things for our community! For more information about how to take our online assessment, visit betternonprofits.org/assessment.


The Alliance for Better Nonprofits (ABN) has a relational approach of assisting nonprofits by providing the tools they need to increase their capacity and their impact. We believe significant problems require collaborative solutions, so we seek to strengthen not just individual organizations, but entire networks. Collaborating makes our communities stronger and creates the opportunity for organizations to thrive, and ABN hopes that our overall impact on the East Tennessee region will be greater than any individual organizations’ impact could be by standing alone. Through a partnership with the University of Tennessee Haslam College of Business and the Learning by Giving Foundation, our members are able to make a greater impact in the community by working together towards a common goal.

The Learning by Giving Foundation, created by Doris Buffet (sister of Warren Buffet), works with universities across the U.S. to teach students about philanthropy through experiential learning. The UT Haslam College of Business received $10,000 in funding from the Learning by Giving Foundation to be distributed to local nonprofits through a UT course called Leadership in Nonprofits and Social Entrepreneurship, a service-learning class focused on teaching students how to manage charities, foundations, associations, and other nonprofits. In addition to the $10,000 contributed by the Learning by Giving Foundation, UT alums James A. Haslam II and James L. Clayton both matched the grant for a total of $30,000.

The instructor of the nonprofit management course, Dr. Alex Miller, is the William B. Stokely Chair of Business in the UT Haslam College of Business, as well as ABN’s board chair. Dr. Miller invited teams of two or more ABN member nonprofits to submit proposals for programs intended to foster collaboration for greater collective impact on regional priorities, including health, education, or income broadly defined. Applicants were encouraged to creatively consider how these small seed grants could be used to foster collaboration and thereby improve both collective impact and the chances for greater follow-on funding from other sources.

Current ABN intern Meghan Jackson participated in the course. She, along with 33 classmates, spent two and a half months discussing the allocation of the $30,000 in grant funding. Beginning with proposals from over 20 ABN member nonprofits, the class analyzed each one in order to narrow down top five contenders. Once the top five were selected, the students broke off into five teams—one for each proposal—to conduct more research. Each team scheduled interviews with the collaborating organizations in order to learn more about their goals and what they hope to gain from the programs implemented with their grants.

At the conclusion of the course, 4 groups of 14 area nonprofits received grants to fund programs surrounding topics such as human trafficking, homelessness, and equal opportunity education. Meghan enjoyed her experience in Dr. Miller’s course, stating, “I loved that we gained experienced working with real professionals and going outside of the classroom walls. There is a lot of the material that can be learned in a classroom, but certain aspects can’t be learned within those walls.” With the help of generous donors and Dr. Miller, the students and the participating organizations were able to learn from and interact with one another to impact the greater good.

If you are interested in being considered for the Fall 2017 UT Collaborative Grant program, be on the lookout for proposal submission information coming later this year.

Learn more about the UT/ABN Collaborative Grant: