The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Generous U?

Generous U is a national contest celebrating philanthropy and charitable giving on U.S. college campuses. Student groups, clubs, and organizations are invited to compete for the $10,000 Sillerman Prize and the Generous U title by demonstrating their success in:

  • engaging a substantial number of peers in charitable giving
  • increasing philanthropic awareness and a culture of monetary giving on campus
  • creating both a sustainable model for their group to thrive and using funding received in a sustainable manner so that the people or organizations they give back to also thrive over time
  • developing a model that can be adopted on other campuses

Generous U is sponsored by the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

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Who can compete?

Student groups, clubs, and organizations, including Greek Life associations (fraternities and sororities), may compete in Generous U if they are formally recognized by their college or university and chartered to accept the $10,000 Prize as an organized entity. (The prize cannot be awarded to an individual.) The Sillerman Center will confirm the winner’s status at its college or university prior to awarding the Generous U prize and title. Applicants are required to include a letter confirming their status on campus from a college or university official with their submission. To be considered, applicants must engage in eligible activities that promote philanthropic giving on campus (see below for details about eligible activities).

How can my group compete?

Click here for the contest instructions. Additionally, please fill out the Intent to Apply form (required) before submitting your application. The Intent to Apply allows us to communicate with you directly and helps us to better understand the types of organizations interested in Generous U. The competition will be judged on the basis of a two-part submission including a written proposal and 2-4 minute video. See the application for full details about what you will need to apply. Submissions are due on Friday, March 17, 2017.

My group applied for Generous U in a previous year, can we apply again?

Yes! While your application must be new and updated showing growth, you can absolutely apply again. However, no group can win the grand prize of $10,000 two years in a row. If your group won the grand prize last year, it will only be eligible for a runner-up prize this year. All applications are reviewed and weighted individually by a panel of volunteers.

What is your definition of philanthropy?

At the Sillerman Center, we view philanthropy as granting money that makes a sustainable impact in an area of social concern or clear community need that extends beyond the needs of one individual. More specifically, the Sillerman Center is committed to supporting a particular type of philanthropy called “social justice philanthropy.” We define social justice philanthropy as contributions to nonprofit organizations committed to creating social change by both empowering and creating more economic, social, educational and political opportunities for people who have been historically marginalized, discriminated against or who are economically disadvantaged. YOUR philanthropy may be traditional or social-justice based. We will show no preference to one style of philanthropy or another.

What activities are eligible?

We will consider any organized activity intended to encourage charitable giving by students. To be eligible, activities must promote monetary donations towards a larger cause. Your cause may be related to a social justice issue or any other area of interest that meets a clear community need either nationally or internationally. Examples of eligible activities include giving campaigns or campus-wide challenges, giving circles, social networking or social media initiatives, publications, or intercollegiate events that generate philanthropic interest and monetary giving.

What activities are not eligible?

The judges will not consider routine membership drives or dues collection for which the group, club, or organization is the ultimate beneficiary. However, fundraising to support programs, projects, or activities directly related to promoting philanthropy or charitable giving on campus are eligible.  

While the Sillerman Center deeply respects volunteerism and community service, ONLY activities that promote philanthropy through MONETARY giving are eligible for the Generous U title and prize. If your group or organization also practices volunteerism, your group is still eligible for the prize as long as it also practices philanthropy through monetary giving.

I’m still not sure if my group qualifies, can you give some additional examples of eligible work?

  • Groups who use funding to help themselves become more sustainable through starting their own endowment, purchasing equipment that will no longer have to be purchased every year, using funding to develop additional interest of the group through events
  • Groups who use funding to engage additional community members in an activity. For example, if your group helps organize a summer camp for disadvantaged youth and you use the funding to bring more kids to the summer camp, this work is absolutely acceptable for Generous U
  • Groups who use the funding to give grants or donations to other organizations

How will the competition be judged?

A panel of volunteers from university campuses and the philanthropic and business communities will judge the competition. The judges will be looking for:

  • high quality written and video submissions
  • creativity and innovation - something that has not been attempted before or a new twist on something that may already exist in some form
  • evidence that the activity has increased or will increase the understanding and/or practice of philanthropic giving now and in the future
  • cost-effectiveness of the activity relative to how much giving it catalyzes; sustainability of the activity over time
  • adaptability of the activity to other campuses
  • impact of giving on the intended community and promotion of social justice 

Are students taking experiential philanthropy (grant making) courses eligible to compete?

An experiential philanthropy course in which grants are made with an outside donor’s money are not eligible unless individual students taking the class apply under the auspices of recognized clubs where they are actively engaged in or promoting philanthropy and charitable giving.

We are not professional filmmakers; will this affect how you rate our video?

No. While we do require you to make a 2-3 minute video specifically for Generous U as part of the application, we do not expect you to have the video made professionally. Your video should simply help show us who you are. Here is an example of a video from the 2016 competition which was created by the winning group. 

How in depth should our budget be?

Your budget does not have to be in depth. We would like to know your how much you believe your expenses and costs will be over the current academic year; though if you have a more extensive budget already drawn up, please do include that as well. Expenses and costs may include items such as transportation, food, events, etc. If you are also able to provide us with how much funding you have already acquired, for example from a local organization or from your college or university that would be useful as well. If your group or organization is new, please provide us, at minimum, with a projected budget for the year.

Here is a template for what a basic budget may look like:

Projected Revenues for FY 2016

Funding already received:

Funding projected within the next year:

Total Revenues:


Projected Expenses for FY 2016







Total Expenses:



Total Revenues (from above)

Total Expenses (from above)

Revenues minus expenses:


My question isn't answered here. What should I do?

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Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

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