Each fall, Loren Snyder ’08 starts planning his New Year’s resolution for the following year. It’s a tradition, his way of looking to the past while thinking about the future. In 2015, Snyder found himself thinking a lot about philanthropy.
“I was planning my 2016 resolution, and my first idea was that I wanted to get a group of my friends together to give back to the community,” he says. “I feel like my generation isn’t as engaged in philanthropic giving. When I started brainstorming the names of people who might contribute, I realized: all the people were Butler community members, and I thought we could do something bigger with the University and the alumni community.”
That idea became the basis for the Butler Giving Circle, a philanthropic community of alumni donors dedicated to supporting two mission-critical elements of Butler University’s vision for the future—student access and success and community partnerships.
With an annual gift of $500, any member of the Butler alumni community can become a shareholder in the Butler Giving Circle. After shareholder funds are pooled, 20 percent are used to fund experiential learning opportunities for Butler students with Project 44, the Giving Circle’s priority partner; 40 percent of the funds are directed to the Butler Fund for Student Scholarship; and 40 percent are granted to an Indianapolis community partner with an existing affiliation to Butler.
In July 2020, the first of these grants was awarded to the Desmond Tutu Peace Lab at Butler University to support local nonviolence training workshops in partnership with the Martin Luther King Community Center (MLK Center). With the help of the $10,596 grant, all MLK Center employees, 10 Butler students, and one Peace Lab faculty member were able to complete the two-day training in the practices and principles of nonviolence. The workshops are being conducted using a “train the trainer” model, equipping participants with the skills to train successive cohorts in the nonviolence principles at both the MLK Center and Butler.
“One important goal of the trainings is making connections and creating a network of people from different backgrounds who have a shared commitment to the idea of nonviolence as a means of solving problems,” says Siobhan McEvoy-Levy, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Desmond Tutu Peace Lab.
“The other goal is to begin to have a cohort of people on campus and in the community who can help to create a culture of nonviolence and can be prepared to mediate conflicts as they arise.”
This fall, the MLK Center will begin offering the workshop to members of the community on a monthly basis with the intention of making it a regular part of onboarding for new staff, volunteers, and community partners. Last summer, 40 teens from the MLK Center’s Tarkington Work Crew, a summer teen job program, completed the workshop as the inaugural group of community participants. Allison Luthe ’97, Executive Director of the MLK Center, says the workshops have provided a shared starting point and set of values when conflicts arise among those who have completed the training.
“With the kids, these principles give us common tools and practices that we’re wanting to remind them of instead of just modifying a behavior,” Luthe says. “It gives them a chance to think about how they want to show up and conduct themselves in the world because nonviolence is a new way of thinking and a new way of life. And, we’re practicing these principles together. That’s why we want to have as many people as possible go through this training, so that we can hold each other accountable.”
McEvoy-Levy says the grant was particularly meaningful not only because it funded a program that will live on and can continue growing as past participants become trainers themselves, but also because it came about through a spirit of true collaboration between Butler students, faculty, alumni, and members of the community. With the help of alumni funding from the Butler Giving Circle, meaningful community engagement initiatives like these can flourish.
“I don’t want to pretend that it’s easy because partnerships take a long time to develop,” McEvoy-Levy says. “It takes a lot of trust-building and confidence-building and being true to your word. But we live in the neighborhood and our students and members of our community interact, and it has all of these different ramifications, so it’s important that we’re doing this together.”
To register or learn more about the MLK Center’s nonviolence training workshops, visit mlkcenterindy.org/nonviolence. To join or learn more about the Butler Giving Circle, visit butler.edu/givingcircle.