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$100,000 challenge grant builds firm foundation for future of Social Welfare History Project

July 27, 2021 Protesters at Grants, Farmville Shopping Center, August 1963. Students carry signs opposing racial segregation, and encouraging shoppers to boycott businesses that support discriminatory practices. [View Image]

VCU Libraries announces a $100,000 challenge grant to benefit the Social Welfare History Project, a comprehensive web resource created by pioneering social worker John E. (Jack) Hansan, Ph.D. (1930-2019). Hansan created the project after retiring from a long career of leadership in social work and social services. 

In 2016, VCU Libraries assumed responsibility for upgrading the technical infrastructure and expanding the content of the website. Documenting the earliest social efforts and social reform movements in the United States from the Colonial Era to today, the project is a vital reference platform for researchers around the world who are interested in the history of social welfare and organizing for social change. 

VCU Libraries, engaging 13 nationwide partners, augmented the collection of historic information and scholarly essays in 2017 with a companion Image Portal that The Center for Research Libraries honored with a 2018 Primary Source Award for access to library materials.

In tribute to Jack Hansan's career in social work and his devotion to the online project, the Hansan Family Foundation issued a $100,000 challenge grant in June  2021 (to be met over  three years) to sustain and further develop the project. For every dollar given in support of this project, the Hansan Foundation will match the gift up to $100,000 – resulting in a total of $200,000 for VCU Libraries to use to strengthen and sustain the project. sustain the project until the end of this decade and beyond. 

“The challenge grant gives us a wonderful opportunity to lay a firm foundation for a long and secure future for this outstanding project,” said Director of Development and Major Gifts for VCU Libraries Kelly Gotschalk. “This challenge grant demonstrates the confidence the Hansan family has in VCU Libraries as stewards of Jack’s vision. This project is especially important to the family in playing tribute and honoring the legacy of the family patriarch.”

VCU Libraries plans to use this new funding stream to:

With expanded funding, the project can continue to educate a wide global audience on social welfare history and assert relevant connections to current-day social issues.

Project manager Alice Campbell observed, “Jack Hansan believed in the power of people coming together to improve the lives of others. He was a lifelong advocate for social justice, and for education as a catalyst for action. In a time of racial reckoning, public health crisis, and tremendous disagreement over the role of government, this challenge grant is another way for us to bring people together to continue his work. There are so many more voices and stories that we hope to one day make available through the Social Welfare History Project.” 

The Social Welfare History Project is one of VCU Libraries’ most frequently visited web resources, with approximately 5,000 visits daily. This resource has been cited on multiple occasions by The Washington Post, The Guardian and Mother Jones, as well as a range of scholarly publications, and has been of particular benefit for remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This one-of-a-kind funding opportunity will allow VCU Libraries to create a long-term sustainability model for digital scholarship projects, which is an urgent need in the field,” says Erin White, who heads digital engagement initiatives for VCU Libraries.  “Many digital projects are well-funded at the beginning, but languish over time. This grant allows the SWHP to expand and thrive well into its second decade of existence, and light a path for other projects to do the same.”

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To make a gift in support of this project, you may give online or send a check to VCU Libraries c/o VCU Office of Development and Alumni Relations Box 843042 Richmond, VA 23284-3042. Please make your check payable to VCU Foundation and write “VCU Libraries Social Welfare History Project” in the memo line. To discuss other options to give or for any questions, please contact  Director of Development and Major Gifts Kelly Gotschalk at kjgotschalk@vcu.edu or (804) 827-1163.

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