Wells Fargo and UO: Eleven years of giving back

This is the 11th year that Wells Fargo has teamed up with University of Oregon students to provide funding to one or more Lane County community organizations – a collaboration that has resulted in a total of $55,000 in grants to local nonprofits.

Since 2001, students in the American Philanthropy freshman seminar, offered by the Department of Planning, Public Policy, and Management (PPPM), have studied the history of philanthropy. The students get hands-on philanthropy experience by researching nonprofit organizations in Lane County then selecting one for a $5,000 grant from Wells Fargo.

classPPPM Associate Professor Renee Irvin initially suggested the class in 2001 and approached several banks to solicit sponsorship. Wells Fargo agreed to step in and participate. The financial services firm has been involved ever since.

“At Wells Fargo, we strongly believe in investing in the communities where our team members live and work,” said Dave Frosaker, a senior trust and fiduciary specialist with Wells Fargo in Eugene.

Frosaker, BS ’75 (political science and finance), visits the seminar each year to discuss Wells Fargo’s corporate philanthropic philosophy with students.

“We welcome the opportunity to make philanthropy real to all of you,” Frosaker told this year’s seminar students. “It’s just been incredible to watch college freshman take on this level of responsibility and caring.”

Students are responsible for choosing one nonprofit in Eugene that they believe deserves the grant (students have, however, occasionally split the funds among more than one group).

“As you’ll come to understand by taking this class – the need is great,” said Frosaker. “There’s not enough money to fund and totally serve all the needs of those out there.”

Wells Fargo reviews and approves the students’ grant recommendation each year. Since the class initially launched, a total of 20 universities across the nation have copied the seminar’s model.

Speaking to a classInstructor Paul Elstone advises his students to abide by UO’s giving guidelines as well as the priorities of Wells Fargo when choosing a nonprofit. Wells Fargo makes grants in three primary areas: community development, education, and human services.

“For the past decade many of the same nonprofits have been brought up,” explains Miles Reinke, a student in the seminar. He nominated the YMCA because he believes children should be able to access those facilities while growing up. Most of the selected nonprofits typically are in the human services sector, he says.

“I feel like there are so many nonprofits out there that need support to continue growing,” says Rachel Hoskins, a student in the seminar.

After the initial list, the students narrowed the nominations to five finalists: the Springfield Education Foundation, the Relief Nursery, Kind Tree Productions, the Community Center for the Performing Arts, and Looking Glass.

The decision was announced March 4: The class chose KindTree – Autism Rocks! to receive the $5,000 Wells Fargo grant for 2013.

“I’m proud to be involved with the ongoing success of the program,” Frosaker told the class. “I hope that some of you catch that passion for helping these organizations. Everything you do can make a difference and does make a difference.”

Wells Fargo has supported the UO Lundquist College of Business, School of Architecture and Allied Arts, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Law, Ford Alumni Center, UO Athletics, and the Oregon Bach Festival.

Last year Wells Fargo was named the most generous bank in the country by Chronicle of Philanthropy magazine and the most generous bank in Oregon by the Portland Business Journal.

Story by Cari Johnson