September 28, 2020

With love, from your fellow students

While applications to the UND Angel Fund poured in from their peers, one student organization decided to take action.

 
The UND Nonprofit Leadership Student Organization (NLSO) was planning their spring fundraiser when the pandemic broke out, putting all campus activities on hold.
 

Nonprofit Leadership Student Organization
members Tyler Larson, Michelle Nguyen and Elizabeth Meares with Bob Olafson at the 2019 Olafson Ethics Symposium.
Click image to enlarge.

But the momentum they gained as a newly resurrected student organization continued. Virtual meetings were held over the summer to discuss the best way the group could support local nonprofits through the COVID-19 crisis.
 
Michelle Nguyen, a UND senior majoring in Political Science and Economics with a minor in Nonprofit Leadership, serves as the Organization’s president. She recalled the virtual meeting in which the group, growing restless from quarantining and wanting to take action, came up with an idea.
 
“Nonprofits were hurting more than anything because a lot of them lacked the resources – and sometimes the funds – to continue. We decided it wouldn’t hurt us to donate what we had raised over the last few years because we’d fundraise it all back in the fall. But these people were hurting much more than our organization was, so we decided to do the philanthropic thing.”
 
The group made a list of local nonprofits and philanthropic initiatives to consider. At the top of their list was the UND Angel Fund. “When I heard about its purpose to help students in need, I thought, ‘What a great idea. And such a cute name, too!’” said Michelle.
 
Last school year, the NLSO learned about significant gaps in services and barriers that make it hard for someone to pursue goals, like earning a degree. The UND Angel Fund – created in partnership between the UND Alumni Association & Foundation and the Division of Student Affairs & Diversity – helps reduce these barriers by awarding funds to students who qualify.
 
The UND Angel Fund has had a continual flow of donations since its launch in April. Over $170,000 has been raised and more than 200 students have received an average gift of $689. However, after the latest round of awards, the funds are nearly depleted.
 
New group, same vision
The NLSO letter that accompanied the gift to the UND Angel Fund. Click image to enlarge.

At a kickoff meeting last fall, a small group of students sat around a table and committed to reinstate the student-led nonprofit group that had disbanded several years prior. They created a new constitution and mapped out new goals. Michelle volunteered to serve as president and help revive the original vision.

The NLSO has since grown from eight members to over 20 participating in monthly meetings. Together, they represent over 34 clubs on campus and organizations within the community. On top of required monthly meetings, they have attended conferences, held fundraisers and community service projects that are made possible, Michelle noted, by the support from alumni and friends of the University of North Dakota. Professional development opportunities and guest speakers equip the members for real-life experiences and all aspects of philanthropic giving.
 
The Organization’s mission is to prepare students for future leadership positions in the nonprofit sector, but many of them are already involved. One member started his own nonprofit, many have interned at one, and others like Michelle are volunteering because of the help they’ve received from them. All members share an interest in philanthropy and the difference it can make.
 
“We live, breathe and talk about nonprofits, but our biggest focus is to give back with our time, talent, and treasure locally,” Michelle explained. As one of the only student groups that has made a gift to the UND Angel Fund, the NLSO is putting their nonprofit leadership training to practice.
 
“This was probably the most rewarding thing I did all year. How cool is it that we were able to foster that conversation as college students, but then also to activate the things that we have learned through nonprofit work?” said Michelle. “And to see what alumni have done with the Angel Fund – being a part of it almost made me feel like I am already one of them!”
 
— by Jenn Lukens
 
Be an Angel like the Nonprofit Leadership Student Organization and donate for students in need at UNDalumni.org/angel