2023 Simon-DeVos Prize Winners: Laura and Jeff Sandefer

WASHINGTON – Philanthropy Roundtable is pleased to announce the selection of education entrepreneurs and philanthropists Laura and Jeff Sandefer as the winners of the 2023 Simon-DeVos Prize for Philanthropic Leadership. Each year, the award is presented to a living philanthropist who has shown exemplary leadership through charitable giving. The Sandefers’ notable accomplishments include founding Acton Academy, a cutting-edge, global network of K-12 schools that encourage students to be “curious, independent, lifelong learners” and the Acton Children’s Business Fair, which supports young entrepreneurs from hundreds of communities across the globe.    

“Laura and Jeff Sandefer have helped provide pathways to opportunity for countless children through their education and entrepreneurship programs—inspiring young people from all backgrounds to pursue excellence and become change agents in their communities,” said Philanthropy Roundtable President and CEO Christie Herrera. “Their commitment to innovation has supported the individual freedom and scholarship of thousands, making them truly worthy recipients of this year’s Simon-DeVos Prize.”  

“Jeff and I are honored by the DeVos and Simon families’ recognition of Acton Academy’s learners, parents, guides and owners,” said Laura Sandefer. “Our Acton Academy communities believe each person who enters our doors deserves to find a calling that will change the world. We’ve been amazed by what young heroes can accomplish, if provided with the freedom and responsibility to solve problems, self-manage and self-govern.” 

Laura and Jeff Sandefer founded Acton Academy in 2009 with the core belief that each child is a genius with a gift that can improve society. The network of schools, which blends a one room schoolhouse, the Socratic Method and 21st century technology, has since expanded to 325 affiliates globally and over 18,000 applications from parents who want to launch a campus.  

In addition, the Acton Children’s Business Fair, which hosts businesses created and launched by children, has helped over 87,000 young entrepreneurs in over 425 cities and 21 countries. The business fair model, much like Acton Academy, was inspired by the Sandefers’ two sons, Charlie and Sam, and was founded upon the belief that children learn best “in the trenches.” 

Beyond these platforms, Laura Sandefer, who is also an author, pursues philanthropic efforts that underscore her belief in hands-on impact, including self-sustaining water projects in Burundi, local children’s theater and summer camps for children with incarcerated parents. Jeff Sandefer, who founded a number of businesses including Sandefer Capital Partners, a successful energy investment firm, also has been recognized as a top entrepreneurship and business professor by BusinessWeek and The Economist.   

As the 2023 Prize recipients, the Sandefers will receive a $200,000 award, payable to the charity of their choice, and will be honored during Philanthropy Roundtable’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, in October.   


Philanthropy Roundtable is honored to partner with the William E. Simon Foundation and the DeVos Family Foundation to administer the annual Simon-DeVos Prize for Philanthropic Leadership, which seeks to advance the principles of personal responsibility, resourcefulness, volunteerism, scholarship, individual freedom, faith in God, and helping people help themselves. The purpose of the Simon-DeVos Prize is to highlight philanthropy’s powerful and unique role in tackling society’s greatest challenges and inspire others to strive for excellence in their charitable giving. Learn more about the Prize at: SimonDeVosPrize.org


Let’s Keep in Touch

Our Values-Based Giving Newsletter helps philanthropists and charitable organizations apply their values to their giving and follow the best practices for success.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.