Public Interest Project- FAQs

I attended an admitted students question and answer session last week and I figured, given my role in the Public Interest Project (PIP), I’d answer some of the FAQs posed by students.

What is PIP?

PIP is an entirely student run organization aimed primarily at fostering a community of students interested in pursuing public interest work. We are focused on providing funding, in the form of a grant, for students who obtain unpaid summer internships at non-profit or government organizations.

What does PIP do?

PIP holds a variety of fund-raising events throughout the academic year including phone-a-thons to law alum, bake sales, a BC versus BU basketball tournament, Valentine’s Candy-Gram sale, Movie nights where we reserve an entire theater for BU purposes and sell tickets to students at a discounted rate and share the sales with the cinema, trivia nights at the BU pub where team registration fees go to PIP and, our biggest fundraiser, an annual auction gala.

What is the PIP Auction?

This year was the 19th PIP auction and the event is our biggest annual fundraiser. Part of the application for a PIP grant requires applicants to provide four donations that PIP can use at the auction to help raise money. The auction has both silent and live components as well as several raffle prizes and balloon prizes. We usually have several hundred balloons with a tag inside corresponding to a prize varying in value from a $5 gift card to somewhere like Starbucks to an iPod nano or $50 to a local restaurant or salon. The raffle prizes range from gym memberships, to wine tastings for 10 at a local vineyard, to an entire Rockband video game set. There are two silent auctions and prizes usually consist of gift packages or physical gift baskets containing a variety of items donated by students like a gym membership, with a yoga mat, BU water bottle and gift card to a sports equipment store. Others include “nights out” themed packages with tickets to a show, opera, play or Red Sox game paired with a dinner out or hotel stay. The bidding guide is available here. The live auction contains big ticket prizes such as a weeklong condo rental in Mexico or Red Sox v. Yankees tickets or professor donations like the Dean’s parking spot for a week, or to have Professor Beermann bartend a party at your apartment, or dinner and a comedy show for four with Professor Wexler, or a group of professor singers serenade your 1L section. There are more descriptions for these prizes in the above linked bidding guide.

What else does PIP do?

PIP also organizes volunteering opportunities that are open to everyone, not just those applying for a summer funding grant who are required to put in a certain number of volunteer hours over the course of the academic year to qualify for a grant. We also have social events for those who are just interested in public interest and being involved in a public interest law community.

How do students get involved in PIP?

Students can join the e-board as 1L representatives or simply attending volunteering and fund-raising events PIP organizes or opting to organize their own public interest related events like career panels or social outings.

What is entailed in the PIP grant application?

Students applying for a grant have to put in a total of 30 “service hours” throughout the year. Ten of those hours must be spent helping the PIP board with various administrative functions in planning and running the social and fundraising events that occur throughout the year. Applicants also have to be available to help for up to 5 hours the day of the auction event with some of that time being pre or post auction and some of that time being during the auction. The remaining 15 hours are spent volunteering at a nonprofit organization. All 15 don’t have to be accrued at the same organization and the volunteering doesn’t have to be in a law related capacity or even at a law related organization. Fifteen hours at a food kitchen is perfectly acceptable. Students also have to submit an application essay of no more than three double-spaced pages. As mentioned earlier, applicants also have to submit up to four donation items to be auctioned off at the big event. Applicants also have to apply for Federal Work Study, however, receipt of any federal aid bears no weight on an applicant’s ultimate eligibility for a grant. The work study aid works to subsidize the grants for the organization and thus spread PIP’s money further.

Does every get a grant?

Traditionally, PIP has been able to give every applicant a grant nearly every year. However, the grants are never guaranteed and our success in satisfying every applicant’s need is largely function of how successful our yearlong fundraising efforts are… which are often a function of the economy and the ability of the students running the organization to creatively seek out more and new sources of funding each year.

What are the grants like?

The grants are $4,000 stipends paid out in weekly paychecks at the rate of $10/hour.

More information is available here and pictures from the 2009 Auction are available here and the 2010 Auction here.