In between studying and end of semester exams, members of the student organization NIU CAUSE (the Collegiate Association of Unreasonable Social Entrepreneurs) raised and donated $2,500 to four worthy causes.
The funds were used for:
- A new $1,000 CAUSE scholarship in Social Entrepreneurship. The CAUSE scholarship will be awarded annually to qualified NIU students who pursue a minor or certificate in social entrepreneurship, both of which are housed in the NIU Department of Management.
- A $500 donation to Human Connections (formerly Investours Mexico). Human Connections plans to use the funds to launch an English class for its microfinance clients. Additionally, the organization plans to acquire data management software that will help scale its operations. Both uses were recommended by a team of management students in NIU’s newly launched semester-long social venture consulting course.
- A $500 donation to Altus Academy, a private, independent, not-for-profit college preparatory middle school serving low-income and underrepresented youth in Chicago’s North / South Lawndale neighborhoods. Founded by NIU alumnus John Heybach, Altus Academy has partnered with NIU to develop a college preparatory middle school for those who may not necessarily be able to afford traditional education in the Chicago area.
- $500 to Smile Train, a non-profit that provides cleft lip surgeries for children in 87 countries. The $500 donation will support corrective surgeries for two children. To date, Smile Train has provided more than one million cleft lip surgeries for children around the world.
In January 2014, NIU CAUSE members, made up of about 30 students from across the university, unanimously agreed to institute a policy that committed the group to donate 25 percent of whatever funds remained in the CAUSE bank account at the end of each academic year.
“At our last meeting, each active CAUSE member pitched an organization he or she wanted our group to support. After listening to the presentations, we voted as a group to decide which areas would receive the funds and how much they would receive,” said Zach Fiegel, NIU CAUSE student president who also graduates this May.
To date, profits realized by NIU CAUSE hover around the $10,000 level. Over the past year, the group’s fundraising efforts included weekly sales of their famous “life-changing” homemade pizza, with sales exceeding 2,200 slices.
CAUSE also collected sponsorship fees from 15 corporate or individual sponsors for their student-created, university-wide Social Impact Summit, an all-day seminar and workshop event. Launched in 2013, the annual NIU CAUSE Social Impact Summit has welcomed nearly 400 attendees in its first two years, with participants from the coasts, the Chicago area and across the university.
“This is an amazing group of individuals,” said Christine Mooney, NIU CAUSE faculty adviser, co-director of NIU’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Bill & Paula LeRoy Professor of Social Entrepreneurship.
“It’s such a wonderful group effort: from the launching of the pizza business to the hosting of the Social Impact Summit. It took the time, energy, creativity and dedication of a small group of students to really push these projects forward. Watching the students be inspired and unreasonable about what they could achieve, work through the challenges, remain flexible and never give up – well, that is about the best thing any professor or adviser could want.”
Previous donations made by NIU CAUSE include a $500 gift to a social entrepreneur in Mexico, where the students personally delivered the check when they traveled to Mexico last summer as part of their microfinance studies.
Additionally, NIU CAUSE students donated $500 to the Northern Illinois Food Bank in November 2013, $600 to help build a library in Tanzania and made $250 in Kiva loans. Kiva is a non-profit that allows people to lend money via the internet to low-income, under-served entrepreneurs and students in 70 countries.
“Our group exists so that students can make an impact and help change the world,” Fiegel said. “So many organizations deserve support. The enthusiastic presentations really made it difficult to select the winners, but we came together as a group to make the choices.”
“We’re all really proud of creating an annual scholarship to help other NIU students,” said Liz Peters who championed the idea and who is also a student in NIU CAUSE. “The social entrepreneurship program and amazing faculty advisers have been such a great asset for us. It really means a lot for students to get some financial assistance as well as all the ways they benefit and grow from being involved in such a great program.”