Learning About High Impact Philanthropy: From Public Education to Donor Education

This morning’s reading list turned into a high-impact informational philanthropy experience from various information sharing channels. It started when Kat Rosqueta, our executive director, handed me a crumpled piece of paper, ripped out of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The paper contained the opinion article,  A Teacher Quality Manifesto by Deborah Kenny. Both Kat and Kate Barrett had been reviewing analysis for a draft of our investment guide on teaching quality and were pleased at the timing of the articles’ release. After I Googled Kenny’s opinion piece to find it online, I then stumbled upon1 the WSJ’s Friended for $100 Million by Barbara Martinez and Geoffrey A. Fowler, which announced the news of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to Newark, New Jersey’s public education system. I “Liked” the article on my Facebook page and noticed that Lucy Bernholz, one of my uber-informed Facebook friends in philanthropy (and part of the philanthropy twitterati) had posted that she had just written an article in the Huffington Post about how Mark Zuckerberg may be the youngest $100 million dollar donor. Are you still with me?

Kat and I handed A Teacher Quality Manifesto to our new student researchers, Masha Jones and Melanie Lei, so they could begin prepping a blog response. (UPDATE: Click here for: Blog Response to “A Teacher Quality Manifesto”: Teachers are People, Too.) In the meantime, I began to simultaneously scan both Martinez/Fowler’s and Bernholz’s articles to find out the scoop from varying perspectives. Martinez & Fowler noted that although large sums of foundation money being invested into the education system is not an uncommon phenomenon, the news of Mark Zuckerberg’s gift marks his first public endeavor as a philanthropist.

Mr. Zuckerberg decided he did not want to wait until he was near his career’s end before getting involved in major philanthropy.

I jumped over to Berholz’s piece, in which she highlights the significance of Zuckerberg’s youth (26 years), the amount of his gift compared to other large U.S.-based donations this year (e.g. the Giving Pledge), and also the fact that Newark’s public school system has now been endowed with a notable amount of public education funding. By now, my coffee was cold, my email inbox was swollen with bolded, unread messages, and my eyes were blurry … but I pressed on. As I continued reading both articles, I saw the name of Newark’s Mayor, Cory Booker, and got excited! Why? Because the Center is holding its inaugural, invitation-only Donor Education Seminar at Wharton, Addressing the Needs of Vulnerable Families this November, and we are fortunate to have the Honorable Cory A. Booker as our opening keynote speaker!

In closing, please keep in mind that you don’t have to be a 26-year-old, billionaire philanthropist, nor the Mayor of a major city, to learn from our rigorous analysis of cost-effective models for impact. This information can be downloaded from our website for free at: www.impact.upenn.edu. However, if you do happen to fall into either one of those aforementioned categories, you know where to find us!