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Credit: Biruk Tibebe

Giving is personal. We all have unique backgrounds and interests that are expressed through the causes we put resources into. We personally see the value of our Penn undergraduate experience in everything we do: from freshman hall memories to Senior Week festivities and everything in between. 

To rank philanthropic causes on a binary good-versus-evil dichotomy is both biased and problematic. One person may split their philanthropic efforts evenly between a childrens’ hospital and a free legal clinic. If someone else concludes that a donation to the hospital is marginally more “impactful” than a donation to the legal clinic, is the person wrong for donating to the legal clinic at all? Should we shame this person for giving back to the community because it doesn’t meet someone else's definition of worthy? Of course not. 

The goal of philanthropy is to promote causes that you personally care about. As the co-chairs of Seniors for The Penn Fund for the Class of 2020, we encourage philanthropy of all forms. Philanthropy is not, by design or in practice, an endeavor that requires mutual exclusivity. Some of the greatest philanthropists have committed themselves to multiple causes, individuals like Andrew Carnegie, J.K. Rowling, and John D. Rockefeller. We invite Penn students to follow suit, putting resources into the ventures that speak to them personally. 

The Penn Fund is different from the University’s endowment. When people make endowed gifts, that money is typically restricted for the specific purpose outlined by the donor. Less than 25% of the University’s annual operating expenses are provided by the endowment. The Penn Fund, which raised $11 million in unrestricted dollars in 2019, is spent the next academic year, specifically on enhancing the undergraduate student experience. That is no small sum of money, and it goes directly to initiatives that may not be covered by a specific endowed gift. Most notably, this includes support of undergraduate financial aid, one of the University’s highest priorities. 

The dollars raised by the Penn Fund reach areas all across campus and help create some of our most treasured memories inside and outside the classroom. We see the value in The Penn Fund all around us; it is necessary for our undergraduate community. While both resources make a visible impact on the University, you will immediately feel the benefit of The Penn Fund throughout your time on campus.

We give to The Penn Fund because Penn changed all of our lives. We study different things, are from different states, have different backgrounds, yet still are united by the shared Penn community. If you were thrilled with your Penn experience, help us to continue providing students with joyful moments. If you felt like your time at Penn was lacking in some respects, help us to improve it for others going forward. Taking President Gutmann's advice from her guest column last week, we “learn and discover best when we roll up our sleeves and engage with all of the resources that Penn offers us.”

If you’re interested in joining our efforts to maintain and cultivate the undergraduate experience, join us at a wine and cheese mixer on Wednesday, Sept. 25 from 5-8 p.m. at E. Craig Sweeten Alumni House, or catch us at Octoberfest this semester!

HAYLEY BOOTE is a College senior from Wilkes-Barre, Pa. studying Political Science. Her email address is

AUSTIN COOPER is a College senior from Denver, Colo. studying Physics and Consumer Psychology. His email address is 

DANIELLA WIRTSCHAFTER is a College senior from Boca Raton, Fla. studying Communications and Consumer Psychology. Her email address is 

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