This week, Philanthropy Roundtable is launching the Opportunity Playbook, a digital resource for donors looking to invest in high-impact organizations that promote economic opportunity and advance economic mobility among individuals and families. These organizations also exemplify the Roundtable’s core values — liberty, opportunity and personal responsibility — and are devoted to empowering individuals and strengthening communities.
The Opportunity Playbook helps address national concerns about issues like economic mobility and education from a philanthropic perspective. Research from Opportunity Insights, a nonprofit organization based at Harvard University, shows that in 1970, 92% of American 30-year-olds earned more than their parents did at a similar age. By contrast, in 2014, that figure dropped to 51%.
In the meantime, many Americans are dropping out of the workforce. In a book published in 2020 entitled “The American Dream is Not Dead,” the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Strain wrote, “The rate at which prime-age men participate in the workforce has been falling for decades. The participation of prime-age women has stagnated over the past two decades and seems in danger of declining as well.”
On the education front, polling from Echelon Insights shows that while a majority of millennials and Gen-Zers believe the American Dream is attainable, less than half those polled felt their K–12 education prepared them for the world beyond high school. Statistics like these have spurred debate among policymakers who are considering making changes to America’s education and social support systems to increase opportunities for upward mobility, changes that challenge the “bachelor’s degree or bust.” One such approach to help many young people would be to develop coherent pathways beginning in high school leading to technical education options at the post-secondary level.
Alongside these necessary policy changes, the nonprofit sector — undergirded by private philanthropy — has a vital role to play in developing new ideas to bolster economic and educational opportunities, replicating and scaling successful programs and supporting research to inform policymakers.
Through the Opportunity Playbook, Philanthropy Roundtable is committed to equipping philanthropists with the tools they need to be effective in their charitable giving and support excellent nonprofit programs and those who rely on their work. With this guide, we seek to motivate donors who share our values to make thoughtful, deliberate investment decisions — ultimately helping them achieve greater impact in areas that have a critical role in shaping and sustaining our free society.
The Opportunity Playbook features exceptional organizations working across the following focus areas:
- Education: Students rely on their communities, schools and social support networks to help them on a path to lifelong learning and economic mobility. The organizations featured in this section include high quality pre-K and early childhood programs, as well as nonprofits that support charter schools and parent engagement.
- Workforce Development: This section features organizations working to remove unnecessary barriers to work, to cultivate entrepreneurship and create prospects for gainful employment in the skilled trades and digital spaces.
- Poverty Alleviation: To move out of poverty, individuals and families must transition from financial fragility to stability. This process often happens with assistance from communities. Organizations in this section pay particular attention to supporting the most vulnerable among us, including children in the foster care system, veterans returning from service and formerly incarcerated individuals.
Philanthropy Roundtable selected these organizations through a close examination of mission alignment, outcomes, fiscal health and potential for replicability. While some of the groups profiled are established organizations with a national presence, others are focused more locally or are still in start-up mode. Nevertheless, they all share a common commitment to helping people improve their lives. The Opportunity Playbook is providing a bridge for philanthropists to reach nonprofits that help people achieve greater economic independence, security and mobility — and fulfill the promise of the American Dream.
This resource would not have been possible without the support and partnership of the Smith Richardson Foundation. Their commitment to ensuring the vitality of our social, economic and government institutions is not only admirable, but it provided the foundation for this project.
Click here to view the Opportunity Playbook.