In early 2018, while still in his seat as a stock trader at Trillium, Lance Breitstein found himself at a turning point. Having reached a certain level of success in his career, he craved the opportunity to give back in a meaningful way.
But Lance didn't want to simply donate blindly to an organization or cause. As someone who enjoys challenging himself, he began by asking the question, “Given limited resources, what is the most effective way the average person can donate and give back?” Lance tasked himself with the mission of designing a non-profit that would allow his philanthropic dollars to have the most positive effect possible.
As a trader, Lance had learned how to analyze the risk and reward of various investment alternatives. The investing of philanthropic dollars is no different. Given a wide range of philanthropic opportunities, one must weigh the return on investment of each idea as well as the tangible benefits that come from it.
Combining this style of thought with the lessons he learned while reading The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty by Peter Singer, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's annual letters, Lance considered many factors, with the goal of creating a program that would create the greatest amount of positive impact possible.
He approached the designing of this program with a cause-agnostic approach: his goal was not to focus on a specific topic or need, but instead to spur as many people to philanthropic action as possible. To do so, one must focus on issues that are actionable and relevant to the individual, as many people have a psychological barrier to disconnected philanthropy. Given the socially-minded focus of the younger generation, targeting university students seemed like a good place to start.
College students are at an impressionable moment in their self-development, and have engaged and active minds. In addition, this current generation of college students are more socially-minded than ever, making them the perfect candidates for work that allows them to not only gain real-world experience, but also give back to their communities. It was out of these realizations that the Impact Competition was born.
Though many colleges and universities offer case competitions for students, these events generally offer a theoretical proposal that students are tasked with solving. The Impact Competition, on the other hand, aims to solve local, real-world issues facing the wider off-campus community, and provides the funding for the students to see their solution in action.
Hosting an Impact Competition is a resource-effective program for universities that allows students to more deeply understand the life-changing work that nonprofits enact while empowering them to get involved in a philanthropic organization and create positive change right in their community.
Lance initiated the program at his alma mater, Indiana University, where he was a graduate of the Kelley School of Business. Indiana University is now in its fourth year of the program, with the Impact Competition also being hosted at three additional universities in 2022.
Through the program, students are exposed to the transformative experience of giving back to their community, while utilizing the skill sets and knowledge they have accrued during their time in school. Along the way, students have their eyes opened up to the pressing social issues facing the community surrounding their campus, and get to experience the life-affirming experience of helping others and getting out of their own insular college bubbles.
One of the biggest benefits of the Impact Competition is the power it has to compound positive change. The program was purposefully shaped to take advantage of the fact that there is a built-in perpetuity of benefits when working with students, as they are just beginning their adult lives and have an entire lifetime of potential philanthropic involvement ahead of them.
As the future business leaders, CEOs, and organization directors of our country, the Impact Competition has the ability to transform these young adults into lifelong donors, volunteers, and nonprofit board members, thereby creating a more philanthropic next generation, and a world where resources are more fairy distributed and more people in need receive the assistance that they need. Every person positively affected by these competitions has a whole lifetime to pay it forward, as many are forever changed by the transformative power of giving back. Through a program like the Impact Competition, the power to create positive change is limitless.