When the second edition of an online course on effective giving starts next month, students will have a chance to learn from actor Patrick Dempsey, billionaire Warren Buffett and other prominent philanthropists.
Students in the free class that's scheduled to start on April 2 also will be able to help decide how to give away at least $100,000 of Buffett's sister Doris' money.
The Learning By Giving Foundation announced Monday that Dempsey had agreed to join the Buffetts, baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. and other philanthropists in sharing lessons they learned from their own charitable efforts.
"I believe that philanthropy can drive change by empowering everybody in the room to play a role," said Dempsey, who is perhaps best known for his role in television's Grey's Anatomy. Dempsey established a center in his Lewiston, Maine, hometown to offer support and education to people dealing with cancer.
The class is backed by Doris Buffett's Learning By Giving Foundation and Northeastern University. Anyone interested in the course over the age of 13 can sign up.
This will be the second time the course is offered. Last summer, students helped pick 40 nonprofits to share $130,000 in grants.
Each one of the well-known philanthropists will be featured in videos at the end of each of the six-class sessions discussing an aspect of philanthropy.
What sets the course apart and keeps students engaged is that they get to help decide how to give away real money, said Rebecca Riccio, the Northeastern University professor who will teach the course.
Riccio said 42% of the students who nominated a nonprofit to receive funding last summer completed the course. By comparison, only about 10% of all the students completed the initial course.
"That means a lot of givers remained with the course even after they no longer had a nonprofit organization in the running for money," Riccio said.
This time, all the students will have an opportunity to help decide which groups receive money at the end of the course. Previously, only students who nominated groups had a say in which ones received grants.
The Giving With Purpose online course is modeled after a class that has been taught at more than 30 universities that allows students to give away $10,000 after evaluating several nonprofits and learning about effective giving.
Northeastern is also co-sponsoring the online course now and plans to offer a version of it for college credit in the fall.