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Harbus Foundation Awards $70,000 to Local Organizations

Seven community organizations gathered in the Meredith Room last Wednesday to tell their stories and receive grants from the Harbus Foundation. The organizations’ missions ranged from work with immigrant women, to primary education, to mentoring for youth with criminal backgrounds.

“For me, this is personal. My grandmother was an educator, and when she passed away, my sister and I felt we had to do something in her memory,” said Thomas Smith, founding principal of Smith Leadership Academy Charter School, a grantee. The Harbus grant will provide computers for this brand new school that is starting up on a shoestring budget.

Other acceptance speeches were given by Harvard-educated social entrepreneurs, immigrant community leaders, and longtime Boston residents who have dedicated themselves to community development projects in their backyards.

Each organization received a grant of $10,000 and two benefited from venture philanthropy consulting services from HBS students. Where did this money come from, if not from an RC charity auction?

Surplus advertising revenues from recruiters facilitated the birth of the Harbus Foundation in 1997. Since then, the Foundation has pursued a dual mission to impact organizations in the Allston and Greater Boston community as well as to educate HBS students about philanthropy.

This year, the Harbus Foundation has undergone a major transformation. In the past, students would review a group of applications from all types of organizations, but this year, students formed six-person teams to read applications, conduct site visits, and select a grant recipient from a particular area such as after school programs or economic empowerment.

Change at the Harbus Foundation grows out of its constantly refreshed management team. Outgoing trustees Eric Chan (OF) and Jill Strassburger (OI) initiated this year’s changes. “I hope the new format will continue to sustain our dual mission long into the future,” said Strassburger.

Incoming trustees Kweilin Moore (ND) and Christine Kenna (NA) expect to keep the format. “The changes we’ve made this year have really improved the way grants are awarded and we want to continue to improve upon this for next year. Over the next week, we’ll be looking for people to volunteer to join the management team,” said Moore, who will be accepting questions and applications through Friday.

The Harbus Foundation gives HBS students the opportunity to run their own foundation. It also experiments with traditional grant-giving and higher engagement venture philanthropy models. The venture philanthropy teams gave grants to community organizations and then partnered with the grantees in strategic consulting projects.

One team built a complex model to help Rediscovery House’s youth members to launch an on-line used book selling business. Another team assisted Bottom Line, an organization that helps disadvantaged high school students attend college, in a major strategic review of the entire organization.

Client organizations welcomed the advice, even if they were initially more enthusiastic about the checks. “There’s nothing I love more than being told what I’m doing wrong and what I can do to improve,” remarked Bottom Line’s cofounder David Borgel as he went on to praise the Harbus team for its advice.

Historically, the Harbus Foundation has focused on education, journalism and literacy. In these general areas, each grant giving team found an organization that could benefit from the grant and about which the team members were passionate.

Student dedication continues to propel the organization. Interested students should email Kweilin Moore at kmoore@mba2005.hbs.edu or visit the foundation’s website at www.harbusfoundation.org.

April 26, 2004
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