Discretion and Accountability

Faith SandlerAdvising, Awards to Students, Education, Giving, Impact, Words of Faith

Sometimes, it’s the small stuff.

When Paul Arenberg first approached me in 2010 about an Executive Director’s discretionary fund, I said a hasty “no thank you.” My public policy and nonprofit upbringing argued against any such “slush fund.” But if you knew Paul, you know that the discussion did not end there. We eventually agreed that such a fund could pay for mission-related but unbudgeted expenditures that were important or useful to students and staff. Paul required no reporting, and he replenished the fund annually until he passed away in 2016.

Sharing the ways in which this fund was used turned out to be joyful as well as accountable, during Paul’s lifetime and now beyond. A partial expenditure list might best illustrate:

  • Lunches and learning materials for a full-day financial aid seminar for high school counselors.
  • Transportation expenses for campus visits for a student seeking to transfer from community college to a bachelor’s program.
  • A restaurant gift card for a birthday dinner for a student stranded in a Boston snowstorm over winter break.
  • Floral delivery on International Women’s Day for a graduate who had survived fleeing Bosnia and had escaped domestic violence in the United States.
  • Computer and audio-visual equipment for a St. Louis Public high school establishing a college and career center.
  • Grocery delivery and a knee-wheeler for a student without health insurance who was injured at school.
  • Sign-language interpreters for students with hearing impairments attending orientation.
  • Groom’s attire and dancers for a wedding of a student. (Traditionally a cost borne by the groom’s family, this student had lost his family in warfare between Hutus and Tutsis in the late 1990s.)
  • Registration fees for St. Louis Public School students to attend the African American Nurses’ History Conference.
  • A consultant stipend for a staff workshop on adolescent and young adult development.
  • Production of a short memorial video to be played at the funeral of a young person who had died in foster care (and was a client of one of our graduates).
  • Fees for an upper division math student to provide tutoring to a younger student who was struggling in college algebra.
  • Stipends for students staffing and translating for The Scholarship Foundation at Universidad YA!, a college fair specifically serving Latinx students and families.
  • Media training for education policy interns.
  • Refreshments for the St. Louis premiere of “Show Me Democracy” a film directed and produced by one of our graduates and featuring a group of Scholarship Foundation policy interns in the year after the death of Michael Brown, Jr.
  • Exam fees for a student seeking admission to the School of Optometry at University of Missouri-St. Louis.
  • Emergency root canal (on two teeth) for a student in pain so excruciating she could not attend class.

Paul’s idea has given me a way to immediately and quietly respond to challenges and opportunities in the lives of our students and staff, and has inspired the next generation of Arenbergs — his children have now made a contribution to continue the fund as their father envisioned it.

Intrigued by the example Paul set, last year Sid Goldstein and Laura Kipnis established a fund which provides micro-grants to current Foundation students or advisees who have encountered an unforeseen, one-time emergency or opportunity which can be addressed by a grant less than $500. The Foundation’s advising staff authorizes these grants when they become aware of critical needs which could be fulfilled in this way. Already, micro-grants have been made to cover exam fees, supply purchases, and baggage fees for a study abroad trip. For some of us, a check for $200 is inconsequential, but for others it can make all the difference in the world.

Thanks to Paul, and to those he inspired, we have the responsibility and joy of making that difference.

– Faith Sandler