The Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Philanthropy Courses

Participants in 2019 Graduate Philanthropy Course, holding check made out to "Street Cred/BMC"
Participants in the Spring 2019 Graduate-Level Philanthropy course awarded $10,000 to the nonprofit organization Street Cred.

The Sillerman Center sponsors two courses related to philanthropy.

Our undergraduate course is SOC 143a, Social Justice and Philanthropy. Each fall this class meets on Tuesdays from 6:00PM-8:50PM at the Heller School. The instructor is Celeste Lee, Senior Director of Grantmaking, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation. 

Our graduate-level course is HS 260b, Practicing Social Justice Philanthropy: Purpose, Practice and Problems. It is offered at the Heller School and the instructor is Denise Porche, Executive Director of the Island Foundation. 

Both courses provide students a strong grounding in the history, evolution, roles, contributions and myriad complexities associated with philanthropy in the United States.

The courses focus in particular upon social justice philanthropy, which, though it has no official definition, directs dollars in order to make society and its social institutions fairer, more inclusive and equitable. Social justice philanthropy typically aspires to attack complex problems at their roots so as to prevent the symptoms usually treated by more traditional charities and foundations. Students will engage in active discussion and in-class learning activities centered around timely readings and cases that illuminate contemporary questions related to philanthropy’s appropriate role, its inherent power and that critique its effectiveness in ameliorating social problems and advancing social justice on many fronts.

The courses also enable students to make grants to nonprofit organizations in the Boston area by simulating a foundation and completing a typical grantmaking cycle. Students will draw upon their growing understanding about philanthropy as they engage in collaborative real-dollar grantmaking, including choosing grantmaking priorities, writing requests for proposals, reading and evaluating proposals, making site visits and finally, awarding checks to their grantees. Students will rotate leadership roles within the simulated foundations, so as to practice skills in communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, delegation and collaborative decision making.

Past Courses


The 2019 Practicing Social Justice Philanthropy students awarded two organizations - Abilities Dance and Street Cred - grants of $10,000 each.


The 2018 Social Justice and Philanthropy students awarded three organizations - Greater Boston Legal Services, Waltham Partnership for Youth, and The Right to Immigration Institute - grants of $5,000 each.


The 2017 Social Justice and Philanthropy students awarded three organizations - Citizens for Juvenile Justice, Saheli, and Friends of the Children Boston - grants of $5,000 each.

The 2017 Practicing Philanthropy students made grants to three organizations: Saheli, YW Boston, and Black and Pink. Each organization received $13,500.


The 2016 Practicing Philanthropy students made cash awards to three organizations. Families for Depression Awareness, PAIR Project, and the Center for Teen Empowerment received $13,500 each.

The Social Justice and Philanthropy students made cash awards to three organizations. Cambridge Community Services, Somerville Community Corporation, and Screening for Mental Health received $5,000 each.


The 2015 Practicing Philanthropy students made cash awards to two organizations. More Than Words and Urban Edge were each awarded $20,000.


The 2014 Social Justice and Philanthropy students made cash awards to two organizations. Bridge Over Troubled Waters and Women's Educational Center, Inc. were each awarded $5,000.


The 2013 Practicing Philanthropy students made cash awards to four organizations. Students chose entrepreneurship as the funding focus and awarded $11,000 to the Possible Project in Cambridge to empower at-risk youth. $11,000 was awarded to the Center for Women and Enterprise in Boston to empower women. Interise of Boston was given $9,000 to stimulate economic revitalization in lower-income communities. Main Street Partners of Cambridge was awarded $9,000 to help urban small businesses and create jobs. Funds are made available for this Heller course from the Tomorrow Foundation.

In addition, the 2013 Social Justice and Philanthropy students made cash awards to two organizations. Boston Area Gleaners and Friends of Belmont Sport, Inc. were each awarded $5,000.