Destination Impact interviews Kat Rosqueta about CHIP’s mission, super power, and more

Group in collegiate gothic This profile was originally written by Ayushi Vig for a Destination Impact newsletter series. Hosted by the Raikes Foundation’s Impact Driven Philanthropy Collaborative, Destination Impact is a community of donor advisors and educators. Destination Impact has been fostering peer-to-peer learning and community-building spaces for its members since 2018.

Q: Describe CHIP’s mission in your own words.

CHIP aims to be the premier source of knowledge and education on how philanthropy can create greater social impact.

Q: What is CHIP’s superpower?

We have two interrelated superpowers.

First, we are the only university-based philanthropy center with a singular focus on philanthropy for social impact.

Second, we have a deeply multidisciplinary approach with a focus on real-world practice. At our home school, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice (SP2), our team is surrounded by faculty, students, and practitioners committed to the passionate pursuit of social justice, innovation and impact. Our center was created out of a collaboration between SP2 and a group of Wharton alumni. There is no one discipline that has the solutions to our most pressing challenges. The future requires interdisciplinary solutions. Because of where we sit, we are able to bring the best thinking from all disciplines – business, policy, health, medicine, law, and so on – and to create knowledge and education that is both informed by the best available evidence and is actionable in the real world.

Q: What is a recent win or success you’re celebrating?

We just wrapped up our most recent High Impact Philanthropy Academy cohort. Over the past two years, we’ve been able to successfully adapt what had been an in-person, campus program to a virtual setting. It helped that we’re at a university, a place where every professor and student was pivoting to virtual learning. Everyone had a lot of lessons to share about what does and doesn’t work online. That process also helped us bring a greater depth of intention to how we bring people together. We reworked aspects of our curriculum to be more interactive, so that we’re making the most of our time together as well as using the rich experiences and knowledge participants already bring to the group. The global pandemic, calls for racial equity, the continued growth of impact investing – these are just some of the developments that have influenced philanthropy over the past few years. Converting our in-person program to a virtual setting gave us a chance to re-examine our content. This in turn further informed the evolution of the format. We developed a range of supplemental curricular material, including case studies and virtual exercises, to support asynchronous learning and lay the groundwork for our highly interactive synchronous virtual sessions.

It took us several tries to get it right, but we did! We certainly didn’t expect that we’d be able to generate the magic and camaraderie of being together in-person over Zoom. We are thrilled that our participants feel that they now belong to a community they will travel with for decades. They’ve actually self-organized meetings to continue learning and refining their practice together – all despite them not yet having met in person. It’s very powerful to see what is possible when a community has a shared learning experience and a shared commitment to high impact philanthropy. We continue to work with our various alumni groups in areas they need specific support. For example, we have an upcoming workshop for our alumni with Candid, the largest source of data on the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Members of the Candid team will guide our alumni to use the Candid platform more strategically in their work (full disclosure: Kat currently serves as the chair of Candid’s board of directors). The success of our High Impact Philanthropy Academy is important, because it fulfills one of our two-pronged missions – to be a source of education helping philanthropy create greater social change. We know that good information is not sufficient for creating shifts in practice. Transformation only happens when you are connected to a community that reinforces that practice. We run this program twice a year, and in 2023 we will have one Academy online and one in-person. We are confident that, because of the work we’ve done over the past two years, the in-person program will be better than ever.

Q: What is a recent “failure” your organization has experienced, and what did you learn from it?

The flipside of our superpower access to interdisciplinary thinkers and leaders is that we’re not always flexing this muscle as much as we’d like. Being housed at a university – especially one like Penn, which has 12 different schools, and is the largest employer in Philadelphia – we have tremendous opportunities to bring cutting-edge applied research to our work. It takes intentional, strategic effort to unlock knowledge effectively and to foster collaboration. We are continually asking ourselves how we can tap into the wealth of knowledge that surrounds us more efficiently. We’re a small team at a big hub. And while we know we can’t do it all, it has been a growing frustration that we’ve been unable to unlock more partnership opportunities. That’s why we’re now in the process of hiring for a new role at CHIP. We’re hiring our first Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives, whose role will be to unlock those opportunities for partnership, at Penn and beyond – including with members of the Destination Impact community.

“It takes intentional, strategic effort to unlock knowledge effectively and to foster collaboration. We are continually asking ourselves how we can tap into the wealth of knowledge surrounding us more efficiently.”

Q: How did the events of 2020 shape your work?

In addition to helping us adapt and improve the High Impact Philanthropy Academy, the events of 2020 shaped our applied research agenda. Every year, we create an annual High Impact Giving Toolkit to support anyone who wants to make a greater impact with philanthropic resources, whether they have ten dollars or one billion. Our 2022 Toolkit dove into strategies to support a just recovery from COVID. Given the structural disparities that COVID revealed along lines of race, gender, and socioeconomic status, we also spent time looking into the ways funders can assess proposals for their potential to address structural inequality. In partnership with Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the MacArthur Foundation, we worked on the Choosing Change Toolkit to help funders assess proposals through the lens of structural inequality.

Our 2023 High Impact Giving Toolkit, launching this month, focuses on how philanthropy can support a more secure future for all. Educational opportunity, financial stability, responsive government, removing structural inequality, effective disaster response – all of these contribute to a sense of security and hope for the future. Our free 2023 Toolkit outlines evidence-based strategies, nonprofit examples, and a list of resources that our team has analyzed and curated so that individual donors and professional grantmakers can help more people experience that security and hope. We will also be hosting a series of webinars in early 2023 on how donors and grantmakers can make the most of the toolkit. We’d love to have Destination Impact members there!

Q: What brought you to working with donors?

Kelly Andrews: I started out at the Wharton School, where I spent a long time working in communications and narrating the impact and accomplishments of the Wharton community. I had always wanted a mission-driven career, so I came to CHIP eager to learn as much as I could about philanthropy from a multidisciplinary perspective. I have learned a lot in my four years here, and Destination Impact has certainly been a great avenue to support my learning!

Kat Rosqueta: I had previously held roles in almost every corner of the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. I had worked in corporate and venture philanthropy, as well as in nonprofits as a program founder and director. I’d also been in multiple volunteer and board service roles. All of those experiences helped me see that there is still so much untapped potential in philanthropy to create social change. There is tremendous opportunity to help philanthropic dollars currently flowing to do more good. There is also a significant amount of money sitting on the sidelines because people aren’t quite sure how to give well. There’s a lot of noise out there. I saw CHIP as a way to cut through the noise.

Q: Given your positionality at Penn and your experience working with students and young professionals, what skills do you think are important for working effectively in our sector?

This is a fascinating question! We like to think about skills and qualifications at the team level – what attributes and competencies need to be distributed across a team working towards social impact? First of all, teams need to recognize some of the pitfalls that funders can fall into. We outline these pitfalls in Talent for Giving: Building the Team to Help You Do Good, a guidebook and multiyear project we completed with the support of the Philanthropic Partnerships team at the Gates Foundation. You need a diverse team with a generalist mindset and skills. You need to bring a lot of different experiences and a tolerance for ambiguity. There’s a lot of uncertainty in this work – there is no such thing as sure bets in philanthropy! You need the creativity and resourcefulness to leverage what you’ve learned in other contexts and apply it to the challenge in front of you, as well as to tap a wide range of networks and resources to solve problems.

Philanthropy is literally the love of humankind. Its potential cannot be fulfilled by narrow technical expertise alone. So much of what we need to create change is not found in the dataset, but in the lived experiences of people directly affected by issues. We encourage organizations in our sector to think collectively in terms of what a team needs – for example, you might have some people with more direct nonprofit experience, some people with analytical and quantitative skills, and some with a strong EQ and people skills. You need a team that can bring everything together for philanthropy to truly fulfill its potential to create a positive impact.

Q: What’s a question or challenge CHIP is currently navigating?

We are always thinking about how CHIP can have greater impact. As demonstrated by our increasing focus on cultivating partnerships, we know that CHIP will never have the kind of impact we aspire to alone. For us, it’s not about growing the biggest center in terms of funding or staff – it’s about contributing to a greater impact for our field. How can we unlock the potential of peer organizations so that we can collectively ensure that philanthropy realizes its potential to do good?

Like many others, we are also examining the big questions that will shape the work of philanthropy over the next five years – or even decades. We are in the early stages of a new project that we’re calling a “Strategic Blueprint” for the field. We are exploring recent developments and trends within philanthropy as well as in society at large, and their implications for social impact leaders. So far, themes we’ve begun to explore include the growth in DAFs, the decrease in religiosity, the development of new tech platforms, and the expansion of impact investing and conscious consumerism alongside traditional philanthropy. In society at large, we’re looking at climate change, threats to democracy around the world, and increasing wealth disparities. What do these developments mean for our sector, and how can our sector respond in ways that advance philanthropy as a stronger force for good? We’ll also be looking more into the legitimate criticisms of philanthropy and its reinforcement of systems preventing positive social change, such as those from Anand Giridharadas, Edgar Villanueva, and Rob Reich, to inform the Blueprint.

Q: What are some resources and tools that you can share with this community?

Definitely our 2022 High Impact Giving Toolkit on just recovery from COVID, as well as our 2023 High Impact Giving Toolkit on secure futures for all. As mentioned, the Choosing Change Toolkit guides funders on assessing proposals for potential to address structural inequality. In addition, our Early School Success primer focuses on strategies to recover learning lost during the pandemic and accelerate gains, and our primer on Guaranteed Income takes the groundbreaking work of our colleagues at the Center for Guaranteed Income and shows how donors and grantmakers can use guaranteed income projects to help the many, many people who are living right on the financial edge.

Our guidebook for high-net-worth donors, Talent for Giving: Building the Team to Help You Do Good, contains strategies for finding the people, talent, and networks to help you do more good with your giving.

We can also share We the People: A Toolkit for Strengthening Democracy, a framework for anyone looking to strengthen the democratic system through philanthropy. There is also a supplement to the toolkit titled “We the People: Nonprofits Making an Impact to Strengthen Democracy”, which highlights initiatives and organizations that are strengthening democracy through civic engagement and local media.

We also offer our High Impact Philanthropy Academy for those in a position to influence or allocate philanthropic funds. Applications are currently open for our Spring 2023 cohort, which will be virtual. We are also accepting inquiries and applications for the in-person Fall 2023 cohort. Early-bird tuition for the spring ends at the end of this year, but we would be happy to extend it for Destination Impact peers – please feel free to reach out to us with questions, and we’d be happy to provide a Destination Impact discount or referral code.

Q: How can the Destination Impact community help you?

We would love to gather the observations, experiences, and inputs of the Destination Impact community for our strategic blueprint work. Additionally, unlike many university centers where impact is measured by the number of peer-reviewed citations, we evaluate our impact by the relevance and use of the knowledge and education we provide. We aim to provide free public knowledge for practitioners, so we are always open to hearing what is and isn’t useful, and what else our team can tackle to be of service.

Q: What are some hopes you have for our community, and for our sector?

Philanthropy is about so much more than good intentions. When our work succeeds, it’s because we’ve been able to move people from good intentions to real impact. It’s exciting to think of the change this community has already and will continue to unlock in the world. We’ve learned so much from the efforts of the Destination Impact community. Collectively, we can move everyone with private resources that they wish to use for good.