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9 Best Foundations That Aid Education of Disadvantaged Students: Philanthropy Study

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A report released Tuesday by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) examined the cycle of unequal educational access and opportunities faced by U.S. students from marginalized communities, and argued that the way philanthropy deployed its resources must change in order to effect change.

"Education in America is broken especially for children in vulnerable communities, and the situation is actually worsening, but that's not the news," Kelvin Welner, with Amy Farley the co-author of the study, said in a statement. "What's newsworthy is the fact that the country's education grant makers are not effectively using their limited dollars to drive long-term solutions. By revisiting some basic assumptions, they can be more effective."

In "Confronting Systemic Inequity in Education: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy," Welner and Farley recommend two high impact strategies for foundations: dedicate at least 50% of their education grant making toward supporting marginalized communities and 25% toward bringing those communities into the policymaking process through advocacy, community organizing and civic engagement.

According to the statement, "marginalized students" include those who are economically disadvantaged, disabled, racial and ethnic minorities, women and girls, students with AIDS, immigrants and refugees, single parents, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender students and others from historically underserved communities.

The report identified nine foundations that meet the two recommendations:

  • Annie E. Casey Foundation (Baltimore)
  • The California Endowment (Los Angeles)
  • Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation (Bethesda, Md.)
  • Ford Foundation (New York)
  • Marguerite Casey Foundation (Seattle)
  • Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (Flint, Mich.)
  • Nike Foundation (Portland, Or.)
  • Skoll Foundation (Palo Alto, Calif.)
  • Surdna Foundation (New York)

"Who foundations fund and what they fund matters," Aaron Dorfman, executive director of NCRP, said in the statement. "If your goal is to improve the education system in America, you can't ignore

the large population of students that is disproportionately without access to quality education. And you can't claim you're seeking reform without engaging in education policy."

The statement said that analysis by NCRP showed that of the 672 foundations that gave at least $1 million in education grants from 2006 to 2008, only 11% devoted at least half of their philanthropic dollars for the benefit of vulnerable students. And a minuscule 2% allocated at least one quarter of their grant making for systemic change.

"The great task to strengthen public education in the United States is to address the fundamental inequities that are built into the system," Linda Darling-Hammond, professor at Stanford University School of Education, said in the statement. "In this very important report, NCRP has provided a roadmap for how philanthropy can play a critical and successful role in creating a system of great schools for all children."

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in Washington, D.C., is a national watchdog, research and advocacy organization that promotes philanthropy that serves the public good, is responsive to people and communities with the least wealth and opportunity, and is held accountable to the highest standards of integrity and openness.