• Wealth Management

A Lesson in Back-to-School Giving

As the new school year begins, there are many ways to help students get off to a good start.

Whether it is buying new crayons for a kindergartener or reviewing college essays with a high school senior, your contribution can make a difference in a student’s life. As a new school year begins, there are many opportunities to lend a hand.

The key is to find the opportunity that fits best with your interests, budget and schedule. Below are some broad categories to choose from as well as a few specific organizations—supported by the Morgan Stanley Foundation—that are excellent choices if you would like to focus your philanthropic efforts on the new school year.

School Supplies

Essential to any productive classroom is a sufficient set of school supplies. While many families can purchase their own children’s supplies, others lack the resources to make sure their child is properly prepared. Donating supplies to these students can make a significant difference in their ability to learn.

There are a few organizations where volunteers get shopping lists and fill backpacks with age-specific school supplies that are then given to children. Absent donations, teachers often have to fill the void. Contact your local board of education to see if they work with any non-profits that provide school supplies.

Food and Nutrition

Low-income students often lack more than just school supplies. Children who come to school hungry not only struggle to focus and learn but have been shown to receive lower scores on standardized tests than those who are well-fed. Currently, 22 million children receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program.1 Programs like these are vital in nourishing children during the school day, but they can’t feed children once they head home.

The organization Feeding America aims to extend food accessibility to children on the weekends through its own Backpack Program. Bags of food are assembled at about 160 local food banks and are distributed to more than 450,000 children at the end of the week. Morgan Stanley is a partner of Feeding America and has provided significant financial support as well as volunteer service.

After School Programs

Although most formal education takes place during the school day, there still exists a need for children to find intellectual and social support outside of the daily classroom setting. Effective after school programs have been shown to encourage physical activity and improve classroom behavior.2

They also provide students of all ages an opportunity to improve social skills and build confidence. The activities that take place at these organizations can vary, depending on the targeted age and interests of the students. If you are interested in supporting after school programs, one way to start is to reach out to a school in your area to find what organizations they partner with on after school programming.

Education Equality

Not all students are given the same resources and opportunities to succeed in the classroom. As a result, many children who grow up in low-income households will never graduate from college. Disadvantages can start before children even enter the classroom.

One way to help is to donate to organizations that provide books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need. For example, Morgan Stanley has partnered with Book Trust, a national charity which enables low income students to choose, own, and love their own books. Receiving books at a young age can prepare children to enter and excel in school.

In addition to a lack of resources, there are certain structural limitations that affect students in low-income areas. Some organizations work to diminish education inequality by recruiting teachers for schools in low-income areas that might otherwise have difficulty hiring new teachers.

Mentorship

The benefits of high school mentoring include increased graduation rates, higher college enrollment, and improved interpersonal skills.3 Mentor relationships can be especially formative for students who are underperforming academically or are dealing with difficult challenges outside of school.

The organization iMentor allows volunteers to support a high school student on their path to college. By connecting online once a week and in person once a month, volunteers can offer advice and support while also personally learning from the fresh perspective of a young student.

Getting Off to A Good Start

It is important to take the time to decide how you would specifically like to give to students (for more ideas, see my article about the many ways to give within the focus area of education). Dedicating your efforts to one or two causes rather than many has proven to be a more impactful way to spend your time and money.

The first few weeks of school are essential in setting the tone for the rest of the academic year. By deliberately allocating your time and resources, towards efforts like those discussed above, you can help schools and students start the new school year on the right foot.