If someone asked you to picture a philanthropist, chances are a billionaire like Bill Gates or John D. Rockefeller Sr. would come to mind. But not all philanthropists are billionaires, or even millionaires for that matter. People who make modest gifts of time or money can make a big difference in their communities.

We are professors who teach and do research about philanthropy, the practice of expressing generosity by giving away money and, in some cases, time. We see our job as motivating and preparing college and graduate students to become future leaders of nonprofit organizations or donors with good ideas about how to make a difference — starting right now.

One approach, known as "experiential philanthropy," teaches about charitable giving through hands-on experiences. Students get real money, typically about $10,000 USD per class, to give away to local nonprofits. One of us (David) has determined that these courses are being taught on more than 80 different campuses.

"After learning through these hands-on philanthropic experiences, students often want to donate their own money to nonprofits."

The federal government has also pitched in to support a program called Pay it Forward, which engages college students in hands-on philanthropy, grant-making, and volunteer service. However, Congress abolished that funding in 2011. Its courses are being taught today only in Ohio, where local foundations foot the bill, at campuses like Denison University, Ohio State University-Newark, Central Ohio Technical College, and the University of Cincinnati.

Read more about how colleges are utilizing philanthropy by Jodi Beneson, David Campbell and Lindsey McDougle at Mashable