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The Harbus Foundation

Writing large checks may not be unusual among HBS students, but a select group has found a way to write checks that make a difference to the Boston community.bankrolled by the nation’s only MBA student-run foundation.

The Harbus Foundation is the only entirely student-run foundation in the country. It was originally founded in 1997 by The Harbus News Corporation after a windfall in advertising dollars left the organization wondering how to employ its excess cash. Today, approximately 35 students divide into seven teams with each student team awarding a $10,000 grant to a local non-profit organization focused on education, literacy, or journalism. One of the most interesting things about the Foundation is its dual mission: to give back to the community as well as to get HBS students actively involved in philanthropy.

Some of the teams go on to complete a consulting project in the winter term. Last year, for instance, Marissa Dent (OF), Geoff Marietta (OH), Jill Regen (OJ), Kristen Keenan (OD), and Amiko Glasford (OC) selected Friends of Boston’s Homeless for their $10,000 grant. The team then worked with FOBH to determine how it might establish its food service job training program as a revenue-producing catering company. Mariann Bucina, Executive Director of FOBH describes the impact that the project will have: “One of our most critical needs is to create independent revenue to support our highly successful programs. The grant and consulting services from the Harbus Foundation will most certainly help us achieve this goal.”

Student experiences on Harbus Foundation teams offer a unique complement to their HBS education. “The grantmaking experience has taught us as a team that there are ‘multiple roads to Rome’,” says Arijit Roy (OB). “Many nonprofits have fully functional models that are effective and have different levels of impact in their ecosystems.” In addition, their experience as venture philanthropists exposes them to an effective alternative to ‘checkbook philanthropy.’ “Rather than write a check for a cause, my belief is that I can affect social change by actively participating in the community through deep partnerships with the non-profit sector,” says Roy.

Perhaps most significantly, the grants and consulting services have a noticeable impact on local Boston nonprofits. Martha Gershun, Executive Director of Reach Out and Read, noted the impact of the team’s efforts after just one meeting: “Even if the consulting engagement ended now, they have helped me start thinking about some important alternatives to our current practices. That is exactly the insight and prodding I hoped for!”

The Foundation gives each team the freedom to define its own selection criteria, as long as organizations fit within the Foundation’s mission of supporting education, literacy, and journalism in the Boston area. This freedom empowers members to get deeply involved in the process and engenders a real commitment to the organizations they invite to apply. However, it can make the final decision a difficult one. “It’s really hard to say ‘no’,” said Dent, “especially after meeting the management teams.”

Come learn more about the Harbus Foundation on Tuesday September 19, 4:00-5:00 p.m., in Spangler Auditorium or contact Mala Batra, Marketing Director, at mbatra@mba2007.hbs.edu. For more information about the Harbus Foundation, you can visit the website at:

September 18, 2006
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