Neeru Khosla, co-founder of the CK-12 Foundation
, a nonprofit that produces free open-source K-12 materials, is a living embodiment of the maxim “All philanthropy is personal.” Khosla says that when she started thinking about philanthropy, she allowed her passion and heart to lead her on her journey—one that focuses on helping others build a better future.
A lifelong learner, Khosla came to the United States for school after becoming disenchanted with India's educational system. As she learned more about the way the American educational system worked, she was shocked by the narrow focus and rigidity that she felt characterizes much of that system. Instead, she was drawn to the uncommon philosophy of her children's school, which emphasized individual learning. "What I love about the philosophy there is the treating the student as an individual: It's not about mass production; it's not about factory lines; it's not about this is where we want you to be, so be there," she says. "It's about...helping that student...to get to wherever their passion is." In response to her beliefs and passion, she established the CK-12 Foundation in 2007 with serial entrepreneur Murugan Pal. (Pal passed away last year.) CK-12 supports K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and, to that end, generates and distributes educational content via web-based “Flexbooks” that can be customized and then either downloaded or printed.
To see a complete archive of Neeru Khosla's videos, see here.
It’s not surprising that the co-founder of an education nonprofit that offers free resources to help create educational equity for all believes in giving tools. "I think it's really criminal to give money and then say, 'Here's the money, go improve your life,' and walk away to the next thing, because what you're doing is you're creating dependency," says Khosla. "And once you create that dependency you're actually putting people in a bigger hole than they were before." Khosla's belief in the importance of real empowerment is one reason she admires the microfinance movement: "It [isn't] about just giving you the money; [it's] about saying 'Here's some money—go make your life, and we support it,'" she says. "'But we want you to be accountable for it, and tell us how you will grow this.'"
Giving this kind of support—the kind that can empower those in need to create a better future—is "the real meaning of philanthropy," she says.
Posted: 5/21/2013 10:32:41 AM
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Doris Fisher, Co-Founder of the KIPP Foundation, says that strong leadership is so important to the success of each KIPP public charter school that a school's opening will be delayed if such leadership is lacking. Indeed, Doris' son John Fisher, who has led the family’s philanthropic activities since his father's passing in 2009 and who is Chairman of KIPP's Board of Directors, says that school leadership has been "critical" to the charter school network's success. "If we have a great principal, that great principal hires great, great teachers, motivates those teachers, and can create a great school," says John. "Our whole focus at the KIPP Foundation has been to...find and train the best leaders that we can."
[Related: Why Some Nonprofits Are Getting Bigger]
—which stands for the Knowledge Is Power Program—was founded by Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin in 1994 to prepare children in underserved communities for success in college and in life. It does so through an academic focus as well as an attention to more holistic aspects of students' development. It was an approach that greatly appealed to Donald and Doris Fisher, co-founders of the clothing retailer Gap Inc., so much so that the Fishers bet big to help bring the schools to more cities.
To see a complete archive of videos featuring John Fisher and Doris Fisher, see here.
How big? In partnership with KIPP's founders, the Fishers invested $15 million to establish the KIPP Foundation in 2000 to bring KIPP—which was then just two middle schools in Houston and New York City—to more cities by recruiting and training top-notch leaders to open more schools. Today, KIPP is one of the biggest names in public education. The schools have grown to more than 2,800 teachers at more than 125 schools across the country. Moreover, the KIPP Foundation, through its KIPP School Leadership Programs (KSLP), is responsible for the development and training of more than 250 KIPP school leaders. As for the students, who are the recipients of that attention to leadership, KIPP devotes much attention to measuring results on a number of factors such as college completion
John and his mother believe that success starts with a personal connection. "It’s so rewarding to...see the affection [the kids] have for their teacher, the affection they have for each other," says Doris. "One of our slogans is 'team and family' and they really are a family."
Says John, "We have gotten tremendous personal satisfaction and enjoyment out of [working] with KIPP."
Posted: 5/16/2013 10:55:00 AM
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Like many of today's remarkable philanthropists, David Rubenstein, Co-Founder of asset management firm The Carlyle Group, believes in giving while living and hopes to give away more than half of his wealth during his lifetime. Rubenstein signed the Giving Pledge in part to inspire others, especially younger people, to also give of their money—and more importantly—of themselves. "I tell everybody if you want to be a good philanthropist...you don’t just have to give away money: Give away your time, your energy, your ideas," he says. "I think it’s unfortunate that the lists of the great philanthropists only [include] people by the amount of money they give away as opposed to the ideas, the time, and so forth; I don’t know that I can change that, but I do think it’s important if you’re going to be a philanthropist to think that it’s not just about giving money."
In a concrete example of this belief, Rubenstein currently serves on a number of boards—31 at the time of his interview with Bridgespan. Yet, he also believes in being strategic with one's precious personal resources, especially time, and to that end he is currently in the process of narrowing his focus so he can concentrate on a few organizations and causes, recognizing that by doing so he can increase his impact. Being strategic is especially important since Rubenstein is engaged in his very busy career alongside his active philanthropy.
To see a complete archive of David Rubenstein videos, please see here.
Instead of building up an entirely new skillset for philanthropy, Rubenstein says, "I’ve tried to...take my private sector skill and translate it into the philanthropic sector," he says. A key talent he uses? Asking people for money. It’s no surprise that many people have difficulty asking others for money, so Rubenstein happily steps in and applies the unique skills that brought him success in his business—fundraising and persuading others—to his philanthropy. "[O]ne of the skills that I’ve tried to bring to the philanthropic area is...to try to help the organizations by helping them raise money in addition to just giving my own money."
Philanthropy—on top of his for-profit career—creates a virtually nonstop schedule, but Rubenstein is grateful for what giving has brought to his life. "I could have spent my entire life just building my company and making more and more money, and then on my deathbed say, 'Here’s all the money. Somebody give it away,'" says Rubenstein. "I wouldn’t have been involved with any of the giving away; I think that would have been a less rich and less enriching life."
Posted: 5/14/2013 12:08:23 PM
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Early in his philanthropy Paul Tudor Jones, founder of Tudor Investment Corporation and venture philanthropy organization the Robin Hood Foundation, learned an important lesson: All the energy, love, and money in the world dedicated to your philanthropy won't get you far if you don't also have the strategy to achieve your goals.
Jones began his philanthropy journey in 1986, when he was in his early 30s. Inspired by a 60 Minutes
report, he adopted a class of Bedford Stuyvesant sixth-graders as part of the "I Have a Dream" Program: He would pay for their college tuition if they graduated from high school. Bedford Stuyvesant was one of New York City's toughest neighborhoods, but Jones was up for the challenge. "My 'I Have a Dream' class started out as this incredible model of energy, resource, investment, and love," Jones says, who himself was recently profiled for 60 minutes
. For example, he took the students on ski trips, and he took them on a trip to Africa. "We did every kind of field trip you could imagine, and I was involved with them in their homes, and I was going over their report cards with them." And then he found out his efforts were not achieving the desired goals.
[Related: Three Strategies for Creating Effective Philanthropy Alongside an Active Career.]
About five years into Jones's involvement, a Harvard researcher asked to study the student's progress as part of an overall assessment of the 'I Have a Dream" Program. Jones says they measured metrics such as class attendance, dropout rates, teenage pregnancies, and college attendance. He says that his program excelled in the area of college enrollment: There were three times as many people enrolling in college as what had statistically been the case for that demographic, an occurrence he attributes to the offer of scholarship money he provided. But that was one of the only metrics about which he could boast.
"On virtually every metric, the class that I’d adopted was no different than another class from an elementary school that was a few blocks away," he says. Jones says that the mistake he made was neglecting to focus sufficiently on the students’ academic needs: “I confused energy and financial resources with what those kids really needed, which was extraordinary amounts of academic intervention.” He was spending his resources in a way that did a lot of good, but Jones’ failure to set his students’ academic acceleration as an “explicit goal,” meant that ultimately he was not achieving the results he sought for the kids. Jones took the lesson to heart, saying: "That was eye-opening for me, and that actually was maybe the best thing that’s happened to me in my journey in philanthropy."
To see a complete archive of Paul Tudor Jones' videos, see here.
In 2009, Jones even described this experience in a commencement address
to the Buckley School's graduating ninth-graders on the subject of failure. For Jones, as for many remarkable philanthropists, failure provides rich lessons. "The most important thing is you’ve got to have a process that you know is going to work," he says. "You’re not going to achieve your goal if you don’t have a great way to get there and know exactly what the road’s going to look like."
Posted: 5/9/2013 10:42:30 AM
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Herb Sandler, along with his late wife Marion, co-founded and ran Golden West Financial Corporation for 43 years. The company reportedly achieved the best long-term earnings record of any company other than Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. “We were involved in running what many have described as the best managed financial institution of all time,” says Herb. “One gets an enormous charge from that.” When the Sandlers sold their business in 2006, it never occurred to them not to give the lion’s share of the money away. And yet, Herb’s pride comes from somewhere else. “Anybody can give money,” he says. “But if you have the ability to improve the output of the organization and to make [it] more effective, that’s really exciting.”
That focus on effectiveness produces great results, and today—on World Asthma Day
—it seems fitting to share how the Sandlers’ philanthropy has revolutionized asthma research, a focus area their philanthropy supports.
A personal struggle with asthma inspires a focus on helping all those affected
While Marion’s own struggle with asthma originally put asthma on the Sandlers’ philanthropic radar, Herb says, “from the beginning [we knew] that we would not make any breakthroughs during our lifetime.” Indeed, the Sandlers recognized asthma as a pervasive and critical health issue. According to the American Asthma Foundation
, which was established with support from the Sandler Foundation, asthma causes 3,500 deaths in the United States each year and affects 300 million people across the globe, many of whom are children. In fact, asthma is the most common chronic disease affecting children in the United States, which, Herb points out, disproportionately affects low-income children living in inner city areas. In such areas, according to the AAF, asthma has “sky-rocketed.”
Despite asthma’s prevalence, the Sandlers found that the field of asthma research and treatment was stagnant: There had been little innovation over the past half-century. Herb and Marion believed that the failure was in part because “the same type of people continue to work on asthma without interjection from specialists and experts in other fields.” So how could the Sandlers disrupt this stagnation? Marion had what Herb calls a “brilliant insight” The answer lay in injecting fresh ideas into the field of asthma by finding a way to attract those who’d—until then at least—had no interest.
To see a complete archive or Herb Sandler videos, see here.
Big grants, short applications, fast turnaround times—and ideas from every quarter
The Sandlers, under the American Asthma Foundation Research Program’s national asthma grants program, kickstarted breakthrough research with a three-pronged approach: big grants, short applications, and fast turnaround times. To court innovative researchers and their most promising ideas, the Sandlers offered grants "that would get [researchers] attention," says Herb. They also created a short grant application and instituted a fast approval process. Herb points out that this was in stark contrast to the typically thick applications that researchers had to complete for most grants and the long approval waiting periods that went with them.
The response was overwhelming. “We were turning down Nobel laureates,” says Herb. Because the Sandlers’ philanthropic strategy was built on investing over a long time horizon, they also funded significant amounts of “basic” asthma research through the Sandler Asthma Basic Research Center at UCSF (SABRE). To help assess the progress of this research, Sandler uses a separate, expert advisory board.
Since focusing on asthma in the late 1990s, Herb is extremely proud of the success they’ve seen. For example, the American Asthma Foundation currently has five drugs in clinical trials as a result of its research program. Sandler points to these drug trials (with more in the wings) and other breakthroughs as a result of the program: “I want you to know, that’s never, ever, ever, ever been done, that in that period of time you've gotten that number of drugs into clinical trials.
The Sandlers' ProPublica: Muckraker for the 21st Century
Posted: 5/7/2013 10:42:22 AM
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