NYU STUDENT SOCIAL VENTURE FUND PRACTICUM
Meeting time: Wednesdays, 6:00 – 9:00 PM
Location: NYU Stern, KMC 7-191
Instructor: Adjunct Professor Matthew Klein
Blue Ridge Foundation New York
Phone: (718) 923-1400 x222
Office Hours: By appointment
BACKGROUND AND DESCRIPTION
The NYU Student Social Venture Fund Practicum Course is designed to give students the
opportunity to learn about venture philanthropy and social entrepreneurship through actual
engaged grant-making. Class members will function as the staff of a capitalized fund –
supervising the Fund’s operation, making grant recommendations, and providing management
assistance to grantees.
In recent years “venture philanthropy” – the practice of imbuing philanthropic work with concepts
drawn from private sector venture capital experience – has been a prominent topic in the social
sector. Venture philanthropy can apply to a wide range of activities, but generally includes a few
common characteristics: an active relationship between the grant-maker and the grantee;
management assistance that accompanies financial support; a willingness to support the general
operations and administrative costs of nonprofit organizations; and, a keen interest in tracking
The concept of “social entrepreneurship” also describes a broad continuum of work, ranging from
creative strategies used by pure nonprofits to the practice by some institutions of promoting a
social good by selling a product or service and generating revenue for their operations. Several
factors have caused those interested in social change to think entrepreneurially, including the
cultural celebration of entrepreneurship and business success; the political trend toward fewer
government-provided services; a longstanding frustration among nonprofit leaders with traditional
fundraising; and, the growth of networks and associations promoting various social
The Practicum operates squarely within these disciplines and offers students the opportunity to
function as engaged grantmakers. The Fund is an ongoing enterprise; each year, the cohort of
students enrolled in the Practicum pick up where the last cohort left off. In 2005, the inaugural
year of the course, students established a mission, developed the basic mechanics of the Fund,
issued a request for proposals consistent with the mission, and selected 3 grantees. In 2006,
students built on this work by advancing the Fund operations, providing support to the existing
three grantees, developing a new request for proposals and selecting an additional three
grantees. The 2007 cohort continued to manage the progress and direction of the Fund, while
also beginning the process of raising funds for future grantmaking. The 2008 cohort picks up
where the 2007 students left off.
Classroom instruction and discussions, reading materials and guest lectures will provide students
with the guiding frameworks and background context on which they can draw to manage the
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The primary purpose of the Practicum is to deepen students’ understanding of social
entrepreneurship and engaged philanthropy through their direct involvement in these fields.
Students will draw on their academic training to address the real-world challenges of making
strategic philanthropic investments and helping grantees increase their social impact.
As course participants and fund managers, students will be both observers and practitioners of
efforts to create social change. Students will confront intellectual challenges (e.g., how to
determine nonprofit effectiveness?) through course assignments and in their own decision-
making; they will develop relationships with others in the philanthropic and nonprofit communities
through guest lectures and as they form working funding alliances; and, students will grapple with
day-to-day management challenges through discussions of the reading and by working hand-in-
hand with nonprofit leaders.
Additional objectives. As an operating Fund, the Practicum has several goals that extend beyond
the classroom. First, the Practicum will seek to foster social innovation and to deliver value to our
grantees. The Fund is more than a vehicle for student learning; it is also aims to be an effective
and thoughtful grant-making institution. Second, the course will strive to provide students with a
genuine opportunity to use their skills to meaningfully impact important social problems. Students
will function as learners, but also do-ers, and will be expected to bring their prior academic
training and work experience to bear throughout the term. By its nature, the work of the course
will be multi-disciplinary, and students will draw on principles of strategy, finance, marketing, law,
management, and other disciplines to create and manage the Fund. Finally, the course aims to
contribute to the strong reputation for social entrepreneurship education established at Stern
Business School and New York University. It is rare, if not wholly unique, at business schools for
a course to include actual grant-making to nonprofits and social enterprises. As a result, course
members have the opportunity to model how university resources can be channeled and
leveraged in support of local social change efforts.
Enrollment is by application and the course will be capped at a number of the professor’s
discretion. Enrollment is open to students from all the graduate programs at New York University.
Interested students should email Professor Klein a resume and paragraph of interest.
The Practicum is appropriate for students who during the course of their careers anticipate
working in the nonprofit / social enterprise field, serve on nonprofit boards, or become funders of
charitable organizations. No prior experience in the nonprofit sector is required.
The course includes both classroom and experiential components. As much as possible, the
readings and class topics will coincide with the experiential activities underway during the
semester. The experiential work – the central focus of this Practicum – will involve team-based
assignments necessary for the operation of the Fund. Students will be expected to meet their
classroom and practical Fund responsibilities throughout the term.
Classroom topics. The course will focus on the topics of current interest in the social
entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy fields. We will pay particular attention to the issue of
performance management among nonprofits and foundations. As a class, we will consider how
performance is understood in these fields and apply select frameworks to guide and assess our
own activities. By the end of the semester, students will be versed in the intellectual and practical
complexities of new social ventures and equipped with analytic tools to apply to start-up
Experiential component (1) – operation of The Student Social Venture Fund. The Student Social
Venture Fund will be capitalized with a minimum of $25,000 for the Spring, 2008 term. Students
will manage all aspects of the Fund’s decision-making and operations. In addition, students will
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perform due diligence on grant applicants and design the selection process. The full amount of
Fund is available for distribution by the end of the term based on students’ recommendations,
although students may determine that some portion of the funds should be held over for future
semesters. Future cohorts of students will assume responsibility for carrying on the work of
previous classes and further advance the activities of the Fund.
Experiential component (2) – support for existing Fund grantees. The Fund currently has a
portfolio of six grantee organizations. Students will work in teams on projects to help the most
recent additions to the portfolio address specific management challenges, and will consider how,
if at all, to support additional portfolio organizations.
The current Fund portfolio includes:
• 2005 grantees: Legal Outreach (www.legaloutreach.org), Lower Eastside Girls’ Club
(www.girlsclub.org) and Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (www.seo-usa.org).
• 2006 grantees: People’s Production House (http://peoplesproductionhouse.org), Rocking
the Boat (www.rockingtheboat.org), and Sistas On The Rise (www.sistasontherise.org).
• 2007 grantees: College and Community Fellowship (www.collegeandcommunity.org),
Stickball Printmedia Arts (www.stickballarts.org), and International Rescue Committee
(New York) (www.theirc.org/where/united_states_new_york_ny).
Grades will be based on the following:
Project Deliverables: 50%
Class Participation: 20%
Peer Assessment: 10%
Project Deliverables. Project work is the focus of the Practicum. All of the projects will be team-
based. Each student will participate in team projects in connection with the (i) operation of the
Fund and (ii) support for Fund grantees.
Class Participation. Students will be expected to attend all classes and contribute to classroom
discussion. Quality of contribution to the discussion is much more important than quantity.
Presentations. Each project will require a presentation by team members to the full class. Most
presentations will be interim reports of the team’s progress with the goal of eliciting feedback and
additional input from the fellow students.
Peer Assessment. As part of our commitment to managing the performance of the Fund, we will
engage in a “staff” performance review in which peers will anonymously rate and offer feedback
on one another. The results of the peer review will be a factor in the final grade.
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Class 1 – Social Entrepreneurship, Venture Philanthropy & the NYU Student Venture Fund
February 13, 2008
Social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy (of course) will frame the work we do as a Fund
throughout the semester. At this first class, we’ll discuss whether “social entrepreneurship” and
“venture philanthropy” suggest an outlook about nonprofit and foundation work as much as they
describe particular methods or practices, examine the debates that these concepts have
provoked, and consider various trends with which they are associated. We’ll also go over the
structure of the Practicum and special responsibilities of being part of the Fund’s managing team.
And our grant-making strategy work will begin right away; we’ll discuss the various philanthropic
and social interests that students bring to the class and begin the process of selecting a focus for
the semester’s request for proposals.
• Dees, G., “The Meaning of ‘Social Entrepreneurship’”
• Letts, C., Ryan, W., & Grossman, A., “Virtuous Capital: What Foundations Can Learn
from Venture Capitalists,” Harvard Business Review, March – April, 1997
• Scott, J., “New Economy, New Philanthropy,” in State of Philanthropy 2002, National
Coalition for Responsive Philanthropy, 2002.
• Sievers, B., “If Pigs Had Wings: The Appeals and Limits of Venture Philanthropy,”
Presentation at the Widdeman A. Nielsen Issues in Philanthropy Seminar Series,
Georgetown University, November 16, 2001.
• Schorr, J., “Social Enterprise 2.0: Moving toward a sustainable model,” Stanford Social
Innovation Review, Summer 2006.
Questions to consider:
• What elements of social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and venture philanthropy do you
think should influence our work? Which elements are you most interested in exploring?
• What specific risks and opportunities do you think are most relevant to our practicum as we
employ a venture philanthropy approach?
• What values should drive the work we do, and the way that we work with one another?
• What is your vision for the Student Fund? What legacy do you want for the Fund, and for this
The first projects will begin work following Class 1.
Class 2: Consulting with Grantees / Grantmaking Approaches
February 20, 2008
One of the distinguishing characteristics of a venture philanthropy fund is the degree to which the
fund engages with its grantees. We’ll discuss the best practices of serving in a consultant role
and the need to deliver value in working with our grantees. We’ll also become familiar with the
Fund’s existing grantees. After reviewing the Fund’s work to date, we’ll turn our attention to this
year’s grantmaking, and begin the process of narrowing our focus. The fundamental challenge
faced by the Student Fund is deciding how to allocate its funds to create the greatest amount of
social change in its areas of concern. We’ll discuss some of the broad distinctions among social
change approaches (e.g., direct service, advocacy) and examine how foundations seek to align
their program activities with their vision for achieving impact. We’ll also consider the unique
attributes that the Student Social Venture Fund offers to the venture philanthropy field and to
social change organizations in New York City.
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• Letts, C. and Ryan, W., “High Engagement: What Grantees Say About Power,
Performance, and Money,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Vol. 1, Num. 1, Spring,
• Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, “Listen, Learn, Lead: Grantmaker Practices that
Support Nonprofit Results, December, 2006.
• Frumkin, P., “Strategic Giving: The Art and Science of Philanthropy,” The University of
Chicago Press, 2006, pp. 174 – 203.
• Fulton, K., and Blau, A., “Choosing Your Path: Principles for Seizing the Opportunity
Ahead,” excerpted from Looking Out for the Future: An Orientation for Twenty-first
Century Philanthropists.Monitor Group, 2005.
Student Fund Materials
• Fund Description, 2007; Website’s current content
• Winning proposals to the 2007 Student Social Venture Fund
Questions to consider:
• What concerns do you have about working with our existing grantees?
• What are the implications from the readings about the best way we can add value to the
organizations we support?
• What issues raised in the various grant-making approaches should influence our work?
Are our skills best suited to any one particular approach?
• What strategies for impact within the Fund’s mission are most compelling to you?
• Is there any “quick and dirty” research you would suggest to help in finalizing the 2007
• What are the organizational characteristics of applicants that you think we should take
into account in relative comparisons (e.g., innovativeness, proven success, strong
• Values and Vision Draft
Class 3: Review of 2007 / RFPs / Scale
February 27, 2007
We’ll quickly get up to speed on the work of the previous cohort and review some of the materials
that need to be updated. We’ll also use a portion of this class period to focus on some of the
mechanics of the Fund, looking in detail at our timetable for the remainder of the semester and
discussing our process for calling for proposals. Well also discuss “scale,” a chief watchword in
the social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy space. There is much talk of the
importance of growing and spreading solutions in the social sector, yet the challenges are great.
We’ll consider the issue of scale and alternative methods of spreading solutions.
• GrantCraft, “Using Competitions & RFPs,” Ford Foundation, 2002
• Frumkin, P., Strategic Giving, pp. 203 – 216
• Center for Civic Innovation at the Manhattan Institute, “Going to Scale: A New Era for
Funding Nonprofits, Civic Bulletin, No. 39, March, 2006.
• Buckman, R., “If Gordon Gekko Had a Good Heart, This Is How He Might Have Done It,”
The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2006.
• The Young Foundation, “Social Innovation: What it is, Why it matters, and How it can be
accelerated,” Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Said Business School,
University of Oxford, Young Foundation, 2007, pp. – 20-35.
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• Proscio, “A Double ‘Bottom Line’: Lessons on Social-Purpose Enterprise from the
Venture Fund Initiative,” 1999.
• Strom, S., “What’s Wrong with Profit?” The New York Times, November 13, 2006.
Student Fund Materials
• Prior Fund RFPs
Questions to consider:
• What are the best practices from the RFP reading that we should be sure to incorporate
in our work?
• What questions do you have about the work of the 2007 Cohort?
• Are there any dispositive features of a “social enterprise?” What are they?
• How should the concept of scale influence the Fund’s strategy?
• Website Draft
• Prospect Research Draft
• Values and Vision Final
Class 4: Theory of Change Revisited / Selecting Our Focus
March 5, 2008
We’ll return to the “theory of change” concept, looking more closely at the process of how to
explicitly articulate the Fund’s priorities and beliefs about how it creates positive impact. We’ll
also give some attention to the ways that social entrepreneurship is increasingly influencing
revenue-generating enterprises and the public sector. As this influence continues, important
questions arise: What are the key characteristics that determine whether a business can
appropriately be considered a social enterprise? What new models for delivering public benefit
might emerge? Finally, at this class we’ll also make a final decision about the grant-making focus
for the semester.
Theory of Change
• Colby, S., Stone, N., and Carttar, P., “Zeroing in on Impact: In an era of declining
resources, nonprofits need to clarify their intended impact,” Stanford Social Innovation
Review, Fall 2004.
• Grantcraft, “Mapping Change: Using a Theory of Change to Guide Planning and
Evaluation,” Ford Foundation, 2006.
• Tuan, M., “Finding Philanthropy’s New Sweet Spot: An All-Asset Approach to Investing in
Social Change,” Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and Stanford Social Innovation
Review, Report of Finding Philanthropy’s New Sweet Spot Symposium, May, 2006.
Questions to consider:
• What are the most important levers available to the Fund?
• RFP Draft
• Press Release 1 Draft
• Fundraising Plan Draft
Class 5: Foundation Effectiveness
March 12, 2008
As foundations increasingly demand measurable outcomes from their grantees they are
acknowledging the need to hold themselves accountable as well. Efforts to gauge foundation
effectiveness are nascent, but growing. We’ll examine some of these efforts and the challenges
inherent in quantifying a foundation’s impact.
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We’ll also introduce a performance management framework, the “BluePrint,” that will guide our
own work in identifying metrics to track our progress and measure our own effectiveness.
• “Indicators of Effectiveness: Understanding and Improving Foundation Performance,” The
Center for Effective Philanthropy, 2002.
• “Toward a Common Language: Listening to Foundation CEOs and Other Experts Talk
About Performance Measurement in Philanthropy,” The Center for Effective Philanthropy,
• Jain, V., “Satisfaction Not Guaranteed: Foundation grantees want more responsiveness,
not just more cash,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring, 2003.
• Blue Ridge Foundation New York, “BluePrint”
Student Fund Materials
• Benefits and Operating Achievements
Questions to Consider:
• What metrics for foundation effectiveness identified in the readings do you believe are
most linked to foundation performance?
• Given the challenges in precisely identifying a foundation’s impact, what percentage of a
foundation’s time and resources should be spent in this effort?
• What (additional) specific metrics should we incorporate into our ongoing performance
assessment of the Student Social Venture Fund?
• Come to class with your own list of our Fund’s differentiators and unique advantages
relative to other venture philanthropy firms and describe how the Student Fund can
maintain these advantages over time while contributing to the overall effectiveness of
colleagues in the field.
• Grants Management Draft
• Selection Guidelines Draft
• Fund Metrics – Benefits Draft
• Fund Metrics – Operating Achievements Draft
• Fundraising Proposal Draft
• Grantee Support Projects (all) Progress Report
• RFP Final
• Website Final
• Press Release 1 Final
• Prospect Research Final
Spring Break – No Class March 19, 2008
Class 6: Due Diligence
March 26, 2008
A foundation’s strategy is largely executed through its decisions about which organizations to
fund. Judgments must be made about the viability of the idea, the capacity of the leadership
team to execute the plan, and the context in which the applicant proposes to work. We’ll discuss
some of the ways that program officers seek to make decisions, usually based on relatively little
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• Culick, L., Godard, K., and Terk, N., “The Due Diligence Tool: For use in pre-grant
assessment,” Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, 2004, pp. 6 – 13; 34 – 38; skim
• Morino, M., “Mario Morino’s Ten Questions for Business Plan Writing (Translating a for-
profit view for adaptation to the nonprofit world),” Morino Institute, 2001
Questions to consider:
• Making an investment selection always requires a number of considerations. What do
you consider the most important (e.g., people, idea, likelihood of success, potential
impact, etc.)? Why should this factor take priority over others?
• In our own selection process, what factors should be weighted more heavily relative to
• Convening Draft
• Alumni Engagement Draft
• Continuity Draft
• Project Management Draft
• Grants Management Final
• Fundraising Plan Final
• Fundraising Proposal Final
Class 7: Social Capital Markets
April 2, 2008
As we finalize our selection guidelines, we’ll also reflect on the challenge of comparing different
social change efforts against one another. Addressing this difficulty is at the heart of the
burgeoning discussion about the need for a more rational social capital marketplace. We’ll
consider the nature of fundraising in the social sector and discuss whether any private sector
mechanisms might be adapted to the nonprofit sphere.
Social Capital Markets
• Meehan III, W., Kilmer, D., O’Flanagan, M., “Investing in Society,” Stanford Social
Innovation Review, Vol. 1, Num. 4, Spring 2004.
• Drayton, B., “Needed: A New Social Financial Services Industry,” Ashoka Newsletter,
Vol. 5, Issue 1, 2004.
Questions to consider:
• How applicable is the “capital market” analogy to the nonprofit context?
• Why hasn’t a more robust capital market developed to date? Does that suggest anything
about the prospects for one to emerge going forward?
• Site Visits Draft
• E-Newsletter Draft
• Fundraising Pitch Draft
• Grantee Support Projects (all) Drafts
• Selection Guidelines Final
• Convening Final
• Alumni Engagement Final
Class 8: SSVF Application Review
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April 9, 2008
This class is dedicated to a discussion of applicants to the Student Fund. The exact process of
ranking the written applications and performing additional diligence (e.g., interviews) will be
designed by the class and must occur within this timeframe.
• Applications to Student Social Venture Fund
Preparation for this class:
• Rank applications per the class-designed process.
• Fund Metrics – Benefits Final
• Fund Metrics – Operating Achievements Final
• Fundraising Pitch Final
Class 9: SSVF Application Review / Funder-Applicant Dynamic
April 16, 2008
The interaction between funders and applicants / grantees has been described by some
observers as a “dance of deceit” – a lack of transparency on both sides that undermines the
opportunity for honest dialogue and joint problem-solving. As we continue in our own selection
process, we’ll examine some of the underlying reasons for this relationship dynamic and seek
ways of avoiding it ourselves.
• Draper, L., “The Seven Principles of Firmly Centered Grantmakers,” Foundation News &
Commentary, Vol. 42, No. 5, September/October 2001
• Hooker, M., “Moral Values and Private Philanthropy,” Social Philosophy & Policy Vo. 4,
Questions to consider:
• How can the Fund avoid the problems highlighted in the readings?
• What policy should the Fund have about providing feedback to rejected applicants?
• Catch-up time reserved for past-due presentations
Class 10: SSVF Application Review / Philanthropy and Evaluation
April 23, 2008
Evaluation is a topic of widespread interest in philanthropy, and can assume a variety of
functions: to assess the results of an individual grant, to isolate the effect of a particular
intervention, to capture lessons learned, to judge the efficacy of a grantee organization or even a
foundation itself. For each of these and the many other purposes for which evaluations are
undertaken, there are critiques about the cost-benefit, scientific validity and unintended
consequences associated the effort. We’ll consider some of the major issues in this ongoing
debate as our selection process draws toward a close.
Philanthropy & Evaluation
• Berman, M., “Effective Giving: Measuring What Matters,” Linkages – The Newsletter of
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Winter 2003
• Frumkin, P., “Evaluating for Success: And the five dimensions of philanthropic impact,”
Philanthropy, September/October, 1999
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• Schambra, W., “7 (Bad) Habits of (In)effective Foundations,” The Chronicle of
Philanthropy, February 9, 2006
Questions to consider:
• The readings provide various rationales for undertaking evaluation. Which are most
compelling to you?
• What evaluation policy would you recommend for large foundations? For us?
• Press Release 2 Draft
• Grantee Support Projects (all) Final Deliverables
Class 11: SSVF Selection / Role of Foundations
April 30, 2008
Our day of decision-making arrives. During this class, we’ll select the 2007 grantees. As a
backdrop, the readings for this week explore the role of foundations within American society and
arguments concerning their legitimacy.
Role of Foundations
• Prewitt, K., “The Importance of Foundations in an Open Society,” The Future of
Foundations in an Open Society, Bertelsmann Foundation, 1999
• Wilhelm, I., “Philanthropy Doyenne Says Many Foundations Have Overly Lofty Goals,”
The Chronicle of Philanthropy, December 9, 2004
Questions to consider:
• What do you make of Prewitt’s argument? Do you agree with his conclusion about the
source of legitimacy for foundations?
• Site Visits Final
• Press Release 2 Final
Class 12: Performance Review & Wrap-Up
May 7, 2008
At this last class we’ll look back on the semester and review our progress against the
performance measures we developed earlier. An influential article on creating philanthropic value
will help frame our self-assessment. Finally, we’ll tie up loose ends, finalize all projects, and
assemble materials so that future cohorts of students can continue to build on our work.
• Porter, M. and Kramer, M., “Philanthropy’s New Agenda: Creating Value,” Harvard
Business Review, November-December, 1999
Questions to consider:
• Does the Porter/Kramer argument ring true based on your experience this semester?
• How did we do?
• E-Newsletter Final
• Continuity Final
• Project Management Final
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