Briefly Noted

A record gift to Catholic schools. Paul Allen continues to battle Ebola. Knights rescue the oppressed.

A Record for Catholic-school Scholarships

This past fall, the Inner-city Scholarship Fund run by the Archdiocese of New York City—which provided tuition assistance to nearly 7,000 Catholic-school students in 2015—announced the largest-ever U.S. gift to Catholic schooling. Christine and Stephen Schwarzman gave a record $40 million to an endowment that will provide an additional 2,900 children per year with scholarships.

The Schwarzmans first started contributing money so needy children could attend Catholic schools back in 2001. Since then, says Christine, who serves as a volunteer trustee of the Inner-city ­Scholarship Fund, “we’ve met so many impressive young women and men who have benefited greatly from the values provided by a Catholic school education.”

She’s not the only one to notice this. Hard research on the benefits of Catholic schools shows that compared to similar students in conventional public schools, children in Catholic schools average higher levels of academic achievement, are far more likely to graduate, and also more likely to graduate from college.

Catholic schools do a particularly good job of reducing the achievement gap between disadvantaged children and middle-class children. And there is a striking pattern of “the worse, the better”: the poorer and more disadvantaged the student is, the more his or her life outcomes are improved by attending a Catholic school. (This is true of faith-based schools generally, not just Catholic schools.)

Even more striking than the academic results is the evidence on behavior and attitudes. ­Inner-city children who attend Catholic schools (many of whom are not Catholic but there for the discipline and love and values-based education) have been shown by research to exhibit more constructive and pro-social behavior, to be more generous and more interested in the well-being of others, to be more civically engaged when they grow up, to earn higher wages, to vote more regularly, and to be more tolerant of others.

That last finding of tolerance is interesting, and it was recently reinforced by a 2015 study from Jay Greene and Cari Bogulski, two academics at the University of Arkansas’s Department of ­Education. They surveyed 1,300 adults across the U.S., collecting information on the type of schools they attended and background on their childhood, and administered a series of measures developed by the Anti-­Defamation League to measure anti-­Semitic attitudes. The study controlled for background characteristics like race, age, religion, and parents’ education. And it found that people who attended ­Catholic and other Christian schools when they were young are notably less anti-Semitic.

The Greene and Bogulski finding refutes the portrayal by some organizations of religious schools as potential breeding grounds for intolerance, with public schools as the antidote. In reality, public-school attendees exhibit a good deal more intolerance than students in Catholic and other Christian schools.

Private schools that are secular also yield less tolerance, report Greene and Bogulski: “The benefit of attending private school on reducing anti-Semitism is concentrated among religiously affiliated private schools. Secular private schools are similar to secular public schools in the level of anti-Semitism among their former students. We therefore have some reason to believe that religious, mostly Christian, institutions are playing an important role in restraining anti-Semitism.”

This is something donors like the Schwarzmans figured out a long time ago. For more on the exciting openings for philanthropy in Catholic schools today, see The Philanthropy Roundtable’s new guidebook, Catholic School Renaissance: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Strengthening a National Asset.

 

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Instant, Imaginative Aid

When the Centers for Disease Control called for emergency assistance to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen responded. In about 20 minutes. Part of his $100 million individual pledge transported 500 emergency health personnel and all of their equipment to the three countries where the disease was raging, and built pop-up treatment centers.

The rest of his money went toward a slew of out-of-the-box remedies. For example, it became clear that American medical workers were hesitant to travel to infected areas for fear they would not be medically evacuated if they fell ill. Allen’s solution? Build two portable medevac units and create a fund to pick up the costs of evacuation not covered by a medical worker’s insurance. The cost to the foundation? About $10 million.

As Ebola cases have receded, Allen’s focus on the disease has not. This summer his foundation unveiled, along with the U.S. Department of State and MRIGlobal, a new “­bio-containment system” for medevacs. Resembling a shipping container, this sick-passenger transportation unit can be loaded onto an airplane and delivered to the appropriate medical facility. Once the patients are delivered, only the shipping container will need to be decontaminated, rather than the entire airplane.

The foundation also recently announced another $11 million to beat back Ebola. Grants include $1.5 million to Baylor College of ­Medicine to design and build a more efficient and portable triage unit, $2.8 million to Becton, Dickinson, and Company to create a rapid diagnostic test, and $2.1 million to Chembio to create a diagnostic that not only detects Ebola, but also malaria, dengue, and other diseases using one patient sample.

When the CDC dedicated a new emergency operations center near Monrovia, Liberia, in ­September the director attributed much of the agency’s success at controlling the dangerous 2014 outbreak to Allen. As he convened an Ebola Innovation Summit last April, Allen explained that “I’ve been interested in solving how Ebola is transmitted since 2009 when I first funded research to better understand this vicious disease.” He added that “When I saw the early data around the Ebola outbreak in West Africa last year, I knew we were potentially facing a global health crisis unlike anything we had ever seen. I felt compelled to act.”

 

Knights Rescue the Oppressed

For years, nonprofits and foundations have been sending aid to refugees in the Middle East and Europe. After the photo of a drowned Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach went viral, these organizations aiding migrants saw donations soar. Save the Children, which had raised $200,000 for ­Syrian children in eight months, collected $800,000 in eight days after the tragic photo was released. At the United States Fund for UNICEF, donations increased 636 percent.

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Two boys in a Syrian refugee camp (Freedom House)

It is hard, however, for nonprofits to reach the persecuted minorities ISIS is systematically ­killing in Syria and Iraq, like the Christians, Yazidis, and Mandaeans. These minorities are reluctant to gather in refugee camps where extremists could find it even easier to attack and kidnap them and enslave the women among them. Instead, non-Muslim refugees are staying in churches, Christian homes, and the wilderness. Less than 3 percent of the residents of U.N. camps in the ­Middle East are non-Muslims—which leaves these minorities at a disadvantage because the camps are the primary way most countries, ­including the U.S., take in refugees.

Earlier this year when talking about the ISIS-traumatized regions, Pope Francis said “a form of genocide—and I stress the word ‘genocide’—is taking place, and it must end.” One organization that is focusing its efforts on these victims is the Knights of Columbus, who have given over $4 million in assistance to the Middle East. Last fall, the Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief fund raised $2.2 million specifically to help displaced Iraqi and Syrian Christians and other religious minorities. The money went towards building new homes in ­Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, where the ­Chaldean Catholic ­Archdiocese of Erbil owns property. More recently, in September the Knights sent one month’s supply of food, costing $810,000 including transportation, to 13,500 refugees fleeing Mosul and the Nineveh Plains. Each family package contains staples like canned meat and fish, rice, sugar, cooking oil, tomato sauce, beans, cheese, wheat, tea, and pasta.

The Knights also produced a television commercial to increase awareness of this genocidal persecution. The one-minute spot features Father Douglas Bazi, an Iraqi priest who, after having been kidnapped and tortured by extremists himself, runs a refugee camp near Erbil. Father Bazi pleads to viewers to “pray for my people, help my people, and save my people.”

In November, the Knights gave $500,000 to help educate Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan. The money will expand 18 Jordanian Catholic schools to provide a safe place for children to learn and heal from the trauma.

Many other organizations are giving aid, ­promoting resettlement strategies, and advocating for the millions of disrupted refugees in the Middle East and Europe. To help inform ­philanthropists, Charity Navigator has created a list ­of the highly rated charities providing humanitarian aid and services to the region. The list includes ­Samaritan’s Purse, CARE, International ­Medical Corps, Lutheran World Relief, and the Child Foundation.   —Jen Para

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Toy Store Glee 

Carol Suchman was walking in New York City when she came upon a local toy store that had gone out of business. “The toys in there looked so sad, and they were gathering dust,” she said. “It occurred to me we should bring those toys to where they should be going.” To needy kids.

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Carol Suchman bought out a toy store for needy kids. (Carol Suchman)

After negotiating a price for the thousands of toys and school supplies, Suchman e-mailed Antonio Rodriguez, the director of city homeless shelters: “I just bought a toy store, can you help?”

A venture capitalist, wife, and mother of three, Suchman purchases hundreds of toys every year for distribution to foster children in the city’s system. Those donations have always been anonymous. This time—at Rodriguez’s insistence that “one story often inspires others to take action”—she agreed to let her name be released.

Suchman and other volunteers organized and bagged up the toys for easy distribution over the holidays. “There will definitely be a lot of smiles and happy kids,” Suchman remarked.  “If it brings them some joy and they realize there are people looking out for them, then my job is done.”   —Jen Para

 

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Tackling Dementia

Currently, there is no known prevention, cure, or effective treatment for dementia, a malady that includes Alzheimer’s and other age-related diseases. Dementia affects nearly 48 million people worldwide, and this number is expected to double every 20 years as the world population gets older. The global cost of dementia is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2018.

Hoping to soften these losses, Atlantic Philanthropies recently announced a $177 million gift aimed at understanding and reducing dementia. The recipient was the Global Brain Health Institute, a program co-led by the University of California, San Francisco and Trinity College Dublin. This donation is the largest non-capital grant Atlantic has ever made, and the biggest philanthropic donation in Irish history. GBHI plans to train 600 leaders over 15 years, and spread across borders solutions to mental decline that are effective regardless of wealth or culture.  Jen Para

 

The 99 Percent

The news in December that Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have decided to give away 99 percent of their Facebook stock by the end of their lives impressed many Americans. The couple are in excellent company. Before he died, John ­Rockefeller gave away 95 percent of the largest personal fortune ever accumulated. George ­Eastman, who created Kodak, and Julius ­Rosenwald, who built Sears, ­Roebuck into a merchandising powerhouse, had both handed off the vast portion of their wealth before they took their eternal rest. Many others could be cited on this front.

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Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan with their daughter, Max. (Mark Zuckerberg)

And consider the case of Bill and Melinda Gates. Their net worth is roughly $80 billion at present. They have said that they intend to leave their three children $10 million each as their inheritance. Three x $10 million = $30 million kept in the family. Thirty million is less than four hundredths of one percent of $80 billion. So the Gates family appears to be on a course to give away something like 99.96 percent of its wealth.

 

Charity Brought Us the Father of Finance

The Broadway smash musical that tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton has important veins of philanthropy rippling through it. The storyline describes how Hamilton’s American experience was initiated by charity. As a destitute teenager in the Caribbean he survived a devastating hurricane and wrote a letter to the editor about it. Even in the midst of ruin and many other pressing needs, readers struck by his literary talent “passed a plate around—total strangers moved to kindness by my story raised enough for me to book passage on a ship that was New York-bound.”

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Alexander Hamilton, brought to the U.S. by philanthropy! (Joan Marcus)

Thanks to this generous intervention, ­Alexander Hamilton found himself in a place and time ­bursting with opportunity, in a nation that needed his talents, and that continued to lift up generations of others after him. The closing moments of the musical capture another philanthropic twist: New York City’s most successful orphanage was created by Hamilton’s widow as a tribute to her husband—the illegitimate orphaned foreigner who became our first Treasury Secretary. This incident is captured in The Almanac of American Philanthropy (excerpted in the feature section of this magazine).

Thanks to the Rockefeller Foundation, 20,000 low-income New York high-schoolers will get to see this exciting story play out on stage. The foundation donated $1.5 million to send students to Broadway and provide educational materials that will help teachers offer follow-up lessons. The students’ tickets are subsidized, not free—to encourage personal involvement, students will be charged $10 each (that’s the greenback that, for now, bears Hamilton’s face). Meanwhile, the show’s composer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, was recently awarded a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to recognize his fresh retelling of a classic American story.

 

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Q&A with Mitch Daniels

He was CEO of the Hudson Institute, directed the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, and served as governor of Indiana for eight years. But some of the most interesting work accomplished by Mitch Daniels has been during his time as president of Purdue ­University, a position he assumed in 2013. He’s focused hard on bringing affordability and value to his storied land-grant university—and in the process showing other universities how to stop burning money. Hard-headed measures of how much various Boilermaker diplomas contribute toward a satisfying career and productive life are the kind of thing that gets his pulse racing. Philanthropy recently interviewed Daniels about his new initiatives, how to protect donor intent, and data, data, data.

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Q:  What role does private philanthropy play at a state university like Purdue?

A:  It’s no secret that traditional sources of support for public universities are under differing degrees of pressure. Indiana has maintained its total spending for higher education, I believe at the third-best rate in the country, last data I saw. But still, Purdue receives fewer dollars today than it did several years ago. So if a university like ours wants to be careful about what it charges students, it’s forced to look elsewhere to make ends meet. We work hard on efficient spending, we work hard on corporate partnerships for research and other work that we can do, and we make our case to philanthropists. In the last year we got the largest single grant in the history of our university, for a variety of things ranging from growth of our engineering college to transformation of our school of technology.

Q:  Philanthropists often worry about giving to large universities, specifically in regard to having their donor intent ignored. Do you have any suggestions?

A:  We’ve all seen abuses of donor intent, and it offends me almost as much as it offends the donor in question. Donors can be careful and specific in their original gift, but to some extent it comes down to the integrity of the school in question. I’ll just say that at Purdue we take it very seriously, and would view it as a failure on our part if a donor saw his or her money spent for purposes he or she didn’t intend.

Q:  What role can donors play in improving college affordability?

A:  Probably larger than they think. Donors and foundations should politely inquire: “What’s your tuition policy, and your recent record of increases? What is your university doing to promote efficiency in the use of resources?” Simply ask those questions as one of the requirements in applying for a grant. It would introduce a new note of discipline in the system. I think you’d be surprised how much impact it might make in raising the consciousness of people for whom this hasn’t been a high enough priority.

Q:  You’ve frozen tuition at Purdue for the last couple and the next couple years. How are you making that up?

A:  Well, it isn’t appropriations. And although donations have set some records, most of that doesn’t come in right away. So mainly we’re being more careful on the expenditure side. We’ve asked the entire campus to participate. We have what’s called a Student Affordability Fund. Many of us in administrative positions have forgone any raises; money saved has gone to that fund. We struck a deal with Amazon which is saving students a lot of money on textbooks, and as part of that deal Purdue gets a small commission—all of that money goes into the Affordability Fund.

Thanks to cost cutting, this year we were not only able to hold tuition, but raise salaries. I made a portion of the raise contingent on creation by each university unit—there are about 20 in total—of a plan for improving their efficiency in spending, reducing fixed expenses, and making better use of space. I’m happy to say all the units came forward and more than met the goal.

Q:  Can you tell me more about the survey that you’re doing with Gallup?

A:  The Gallup Purdue Index is the largest survey ever taken of college graduates: 30,000 every year. So it’s a very big database. It allows for slicing and dicing in all kinds of ways that haven’t been possible before. It began out of our interest in being able to prove the value of a Purdue education, something else that higher ed hasn’t been called on to do.

We’re learning a lot about college graduates in general, as well as a subset of Purdue graduates too. By comparing the general and ­Purdue samples we’re able to calculate the positive outcomes of a ­Purdue education—which turn out to be extraordinary. Not just material, by the way. Purdue students do well in things like jobs and income, but Gallup also measures five “domains of well-being.” Taken together, these are highly predictive of a great employee, a great citizen, and a successful life. So we have something reliable and authoritative to say about the product that we’re providing. At Purdue we travel under the little catchphrase, “higher education at the highest proven value,” and each word matters. “Proven” is the one that we’re discussing here.

Q:  What’s the age range of the survey? Recent graduates?

A:  All ages. The survey results yielded a huge batch of headlines about significant percentages of alumni not sure their college was worth it. To me, the most significant finding was a big drop between those who’ve been out at least ten years and those who’ve come out more recently. The younger graduates paid a lot more for their degrees—a lot more. And in some cases, it’s not clear what rigor of education they got; it appears that rigor had been diluted. This treasure trove of data started with Purdue wanting to prove what up to that point we could only suspect and assert—that our service, our education, is highly valuable. That’s a question all colleges need to explore honestly.