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Fridays from the Frontline: Stanford GSB – Splitting the Check for Coronavirus Relief

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Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, two Stanford GSB students launched an economic relief campaign to support individuals and non-profit organizations impacted by the crisis.  Erin Washington and Isabelle Fisher, both GSB Class of 2020, share their story of launching the #SplitTheCheck initiative and how you can join in giving.

Splitting the Check for Coronavirus Relief

Erin Washington, GSB ’20 (left) & Isabelle Fisher, GSB ’20

By Isabelle Fisher, MBA ‘20 and Erin Washington, MBA ‘20

The #SplitTheCheck campaign hopes to turn the current coronavirus crisis into the largest giving event in history. Many Americans in very different financial circumstances have received or will receive a stimulus check as part of the CARES act. We want to inspire those who do not have an immediate need for the money to donate some or all of their checks to those who do.

When someone signs the #SplitTheCheck pledge on, we encourage them to donate the pledged amount to the cause that inspires them the most. We provide a curated list of nonprofits, but we want to empower people to direct their funds to the beneficiaries they are most passionate about helping.

We met as first year MBA students. We were in the same section, the group of 72 students with whom you take (nearly) all of your fall quarter classes. We quickly discovered a common passion for Medicaid (the government health insurance program for low-income Americans), and we continuously sought opportunities to work together to try to improve the lives of low-income and vulnerable communities in the US.

The intensification of the COVID-19 crisis happened to coincide with our spring break, and rather than traveling the world for one last business school adventure, we stayed at home, wondering how we could help. Luckily, the faculty at the GSB was also thinking about how to mobilize students to respond to the crisis.

The school announced a new class called “Civic Workshop,” designed by Keith Hennessey (former Assistant to the President for Economic Policy under President Bush) to support students in channeling their skills, efforts, and civic instincts to provide immediate assistance to communities struggling with a new and painful coronavirus reality.

We quickly decided to focus on communities that were hit particularly hard by the economic fallout from the pandemic. We were exploring avenues to encourage direct giving when we came across the #SplitTheCheck campaign, started by a group of friends (and Stanford Alums) in the Bay Area and New York, including Keegan Cooke, the Associate Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the GSB. We jumped at the idea to work closely with a member of the GSB faculty, and to help scale a campaign that could provide support for people who need it the most in this difficult time.

It’s hard to imagine working on this campaign without the resources available to GSB students. Keith and our Civic Workshop classmates have provided valuable feedback, brainstormed ideas on how to spread the word, and generously tapped into their own networks to share the pledge. Professors like Jeffrey Pfeffer agreed to tweet the campaign, as did the official GSB twitter account. And we were pleasantly surprised how many local mayors and nonprofits responded to our cold emails from a address.

So far our campaign has received 83 pledges totalling $62,000. Though the current #SplitTheCheck campaign is by nature time-bound, since at this point everyone who was slated to receive a stimulus check already has, we are also ready to reactivate should there be another round of stimulus checks. In the meantime, we hope you’ll sign the pledge and donate to the cause of your choice.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.