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Center for High Impact Philanthropy at Penn: Guiding Educational Philanthropists
January 27, 2009, Volume 55, No. 19

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania has released its first investment guide for philanthropists seeking to make a meaningful impact on a core issue in the US educational system: stopping the flood of at-risk students who fail to develop the skills necessary to become productive, self-reliant adults.

“Pathways to Student Success: A Guide to Translating Good Intentions into Meaningful Impact” offers independent, practical guidance on how individual donors can make a meaningful difference in the lives of at-risk children.

“In the current economic climate, when need is increasing just as philanthropic resources are decreasing, it’s never been more important for philanthropists to understand how to do the most good with the dollars they have,” said Katherina Rosqueta, the executive director for the Center.

In this guide, the authors examine high-impact philanthropic opportunities that address the needs of at-risk students in four phases: early childhood and preschool (ages 0-5), primary school (grades K-5), secondary school (grades 6-12), and post-secondary school. 

It provides examples of promising practices and information on how to choose a giving focus, evaluate investment ideas, select organizational partners and assess post-donation impact. 

For each example, “Pathways to Student Success” presents a “back of the envelope” cost-per-impact measure. By linking costs with a definition of success, these estimates offer a starting point for philanthropists to evaluate these education-related opportunities.

In addition, this investment guide outlines common pitfalls to avoid when making gifts to improve educational outcomes, such as steering clear of “scared straight” programs and short-term mentoring relationships.

“The Center’s philanthropic guides draw on evidence from rigorous evaluations, field practice and insight from dozens of practitioners, scholars and stakeholders to present opportunities for producing the most philanthropic bang per buck,” Ms. Rosqueta said.

“Pathways to Student Success” and an executive summary are available at no charge from the Center’s website: www.impact.upenn.edu.

The Center for High Impact Philanthropy was established by alumni of Penn’s Wharton School and is housed at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice, which is celebrating its Centennial. The Center provides information and tools to support philanthropists’ efforts to direct their gifts where they can have the greatest potential to improve the lives of others.

Almanac - January 27, 2009, Volume 55, No. 19