Education

Philanthropy Update

May 14, 2003 5 min read
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Kellogg Foundation Sets Up Fund To Tap ‘Youth Philanthropy’

To honor the upcoming 75th anniversary of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, its leaders wanted to establish a grant that would represent the organization’s main interests.

To that end, they have set up a new fund that will support “youth philanthropy,” a program that folds philanthropy into service learning and sprinkles some youth-leadership on top.

By 2005, when the anniversary occurs, officials plan to “hold up the work of the fund to show people what the foundation really stands for: young people as valuable resources,” said Bob Long, the vice president of programs for the Battle Creek, Mich.-based foundation.

The $5 million fund “is intended to provide money, knowledge, networking, and support services for young people who want to create new and inspiring engagement strategies,” Mr. Long said.

A 14-member board, including eight young people, at the National Service Learning Partnership at the Academy for Educational Development in New York City, will select eight sites this summer to take part in the program.

Grantees will be consortia directed by young people, between the ages of 12 and 19, with the help of such partners as community-engagement organizations, school districts, or faith- based groups.

Each consortium will be given $400,000 over four years, and will be expected to raise $20,000 from its community. At least $40,000 must be used yearly to finance a dozen or more local mini-grants chosen by a local “youth board.”

The program will give young men and women the opportunity to “decide what are the pressing problems and how do we address them,” said Kenneth Holdsman, the director of the youth-philanthropy fund.

After two years, the youth boards and their partners will have to draft “impact plans” to determine how they can effectively make lasting changes in their communities, he said.

“People say we’re the future, but we’re really the present,” said Lauren Pickering, an 18-year-old high school senior from Harbor Springs Mich., who is a member of the council selecting the grantees. “Why wait for the future when you can do something now?”

Entrepreneurs Wanted

The NewSchools Venture Fund is looking for a few good entrepreneurs.

Part of a small genus of charitable organizations known as venture philanthropists, NewSchools offers money and management expertise to groups with innovative ideas about improving education. Some of its biggest investments in the past year have been to expand networks of charter schools. (“Venture Fund Seeds School Innovations,” April 24, 2002.)

Now, the San Francisco-based enterprise is putting new energy toward directly improving regular public schools. At NewSchools’ annual “summit” of education leaders, held May 1 in Palo Alto, Calif., fund officials announced plans to raise at least $20 million to finance ventures aimed at helping school districts become better- performing organizations.

The Performance Accelerator Fund, as the group calls it, will focus on four areas: efforts to recruit and train teachers and administrators; tools for assessing student progress; programs that increase instructional time, such as after-school tutoring; and curricula that are proven, by research, to improve student achievement.

Those were the top needs identified by district leaders interviewed as the venture fund planned its new project, said Kim Smith, the chief executive officer of NewSchools.

“Educators just don’t have the tools to do what we ask them to do,” she said. “So we need to go out and find entrepreneurs to provide those tools to them.”

Groups that win NewSchools’ support may come from either the for- profit or nonprofit world. As an example, Ms. Smith points out that some technology start-ups could have good ideas for helping teachers better gauge student learning.

Some ventures that NewSchools already has invested in could get additional infusions from the new fund. One of the earliest members of the philanthropy’s “investment portfolio,” for instance, was New Leaders for New Schools, a New York City-based nonprofit that’s piloting an apprenticeship program for novice principals—an effort that also fits under the accelerator fund’s areas of focus.

Any group that seeks NewSchools’ backing must undergo its rigorous screening process. Like the venture-capital firms it seeks to emulate, NewSchools subjects potential investments to intense scrutiny to determine which seem likely to bear fruit.

Still, Ms. Smith expects that NewSchools will have plenty of good ideas to choose from. “The entrepreneurs emerge,” she said, “when they think there’s capital to help them grow.”

Youth Helping Youth

More information about the foundation is available at www.11-10-02.com.

When the intern at the Chicago-based 11-10-02 Foundation first proposed the idea, Greg Forbes Siegman, the founder of the volunteer group that funds college scholarships, wasn’t sure the young man could pull it off. After all, it wouldn’t be easy for 18-year-old Kris Ekdahl to raise enough money to finance one of the $5,000 scholarships the foundation awards.

But he gave the enthusiastic Mr. Ekdahl the go-ahead anyway. “We said that’s outstanding if you want to try,” Mr. Siegman said.

Six months later, with the help of four friends, Mr. Ekdahl had raised nearly $10,000 by babysitting, holding a fund-raiser and auction, and writing successful grant proposals.

That amount is enough to pay for two foundation scholarships, which generally are given to students who, because of their less-than-exemplary grades or other complicating factors, wouldn’t ordinarily qualify for such aid. (“Scholarship Fund Seeks Hidden Talents in Average Students,” June 6, 2001.)

Mr. Ekdahl, a straight-A student who plans to attend Princeton University this coming fall, “knew that there is a lot more to life than just what your GPA is,” said Mr. Siegman.

The college-bound senior from the Latin School of Chicago was rewarded for his hard work April 26 with a Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Service, sponsored by the American Institute for Public Service. The Washington-based institute was co-founded by the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Coincidentally, Mr. Siegman received the same award three years ago for his work with the 11-10-02 Foundation, named after the date of his 30th birthday.

Mr. Siegman said he hopes that the example Mr. Ekdahl set will show business and organization leaders “that if they give a young person an opportunity to do more than just type fast, they will really make the most of it.”

—Michelle Galley mgalley@epe.org & Jeff Archer jarcher@epe.org

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