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Learning by Giving – What I Learned

Paige Preston spent a semester researching and advocating for Clínica Verde. Here’s what she learned.

Paige 2016By Paige Preston

You could say that it might be a risky move to give a bunch of college students $10,000. Risky though it may be, this past semester at the University of Southern California, I was in a class tasked with distributing $10,000 to a nonprofit organization, or two, of our choosing. Sitting in the first day of class, all I could think about was how much I wanted Clínica Verde to be a contender for the grant funds. I have always believed in the work that Clínica Verde does, but I knew that my simple belief would not be enough to persuade a class to give, and certainly would not be enough to get me anywhere close to an A on deliverable assignments. I had to do my research—delve into tax forms, critically examine the website, and sift through all information presented via third parties on the web. During this due diligence I would have to go back to my class and report my findings, as well. For me, this process was a breeze. Not only was information about Clínica Verde up-to-date and easy to find, but it was often presented in a very appealing fashion as well. While a few others had similar experiences, others came face-to-face with the inefficiencies, lack of communication, or bureaucracy that some view as a hallmark of the nonprofit sector. When standing in front of the class, the “advocates” for these organizations blatantly informed us not to consider donating to them a second longer.

After much research came the class-wide deliberation—it was time to decide how to divide up the $10,000. It was not totally a free-for-all process. To begin we had to decide upon a class mission statement, evaluation metrics, and giving guidelines. After a semester analyzing the social sector, we had a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. For this reason, coming up with our mission statement was the easy part, Empowering individuals within their communities through sustainable solutions. A fairly broad statement to be sure, but we further narrowed it down by aiming to fund organizations that focus empowerment using skill-building or educational programs. My class felt that a nonprofit that fit this description would truly be doing the best kind of work in the world. Although some people tried making creative leaps to get the organizations they were advocating for to meet these criteria, this was an easy sell for Clínica Verde. After all, empowerment, sustainability, and education are all central tenets of its work. When giving the grant pitch to the class, it wasn’t difficult to show how each and every individual Clínica Verde serves can have a profound ripple effect across the larger community.

Throughout this process I discovered something valuable about Clínica Verde—that it truly is doing the right things in the right way to make a global impact. It is transparent, it is sustainable, it is redefining an industry, it is creating change.

Now, I am sad to say that despite its perfect candidacy for the class grant, in the end Clínica Verde was not selected as a recipient. The class decided to keep the funds more local, and gave to two excellent organizations in the LA area that numerous students in the class had prior connections to. While I understand why my peers wanted to give to a nonprofit in our own backyard, I nevertheless disagree with their choice for a very simple reason. While not in LA or Southern California or the US, Clínica Verde has the potential to scale. It is an organization that could and should be anywhere and everywhere. Throughout this process I discovered something valuable about Clínica Verde—that it truly is doing the right things in the right way to make a global impact. It is transparent, it is sustainable, it is redefining an industry, it is creating change.

My failure is proof of the greatest thing Clínica Verde is in need of. It needs others to see how Clínica Verde belongs in each of our own backyards, and not just in some far off town in Nicaragua. In this way, each and every one of us who believes in Clínica Verde has an obligation. It is our job to advocate, challenge others to do the research, find a personal connection, share it, champion it, and push those around us to get involved and interested. We need to get others to feel that direct connection that becomes the deciding factor between choosing to donate or not. Let’s create our own ripple effect and get a truly worthy nonprofit the $10,000 it deserves and more. I say with the fullest confidence that Clínica Verde truly is the best type of force for good. As an organization, Clínica Verde, beyond doubt, gets an A from this class assignment (even if I don’t).

Paige Preston is finishing her junior year at USC, majoring in political economy.

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