I used to believe philanthropy was something for other people. I'd think: Surely, that’s not me. I don’t make or give enough money to be a philanthropist. That’s, you know, for the millionaires.
I didn’t realize that way of thinking kept me from doing what I could to support causes that mattered to me. When we believe that philanthropy is just for the select few, we inadvertently distance ourselves from the causes and outcomes we care most about. In places where we want better results and faster, we have to put some skin in the game.
Education is one of those places.
With the growth of nonprofits founded and/or led by Teach For America alums such as EMERGE, OneGoal, Families Empowered, and DiscoverU (along with a host of others), growing public school options and skyrocketing private school interest, it’s clear that we understand the value of a great education. It is also clear that we aren’t there yet. If we want to equip our children with the skills and knowledge they’ll need to be successful, productive adults, we must invest in the people and organizations doing the hard work to radically improve our education system.
“When we believe that philanthropy is just for the select few, we inadvertently distance ourselves from the causes and outcomes we care most about. In places where we want better results and faster, we have to put some skin in the game.”
And let’s be honest, our motivations for improving our education system can vary.
For some, investing in education is a moral imperative. Donors see the disparity between well-resourced and under-resourced schools as unjust. Their donation is how they see themselves helping right a wrong, helping to provide a path to equality and true freedom. These individuals may attribute their own professional success to attending great schools, or maybe they succeeded in spite of attending under-resourced schools and want to make the way easier for the next generation.
For others, investing in education is the path to economic sustainability. They believe that “no other investment yields as great a return as the investment in education,” and that “an educated workforce is the foundation of every community and the future of every economy,” as Brad Henry, former governor of Oklahoma, said. This philosophy is often heard from executives and companies interested in attracting or retaining talent.
To Get Results, We All Need to Get Involved
Whether we are investing in education because we feel morally compelled or because of our deep desire to ensure Houston’s economically viability, one thing is for certain: it’s going to take more of us investing in education if we are going to get the results we need at the speed we want. No longer can we think of philanthropy as something for other people. It is for every single one of us who have a stake in the improvement of our education system.
It is on us to rally behind the organizations leading the charge for change, to lend our resources and our networks so we realize the day our city’s children have access to an excellent education that much sooner. We can’t all be educators, but by making philanthropy in education a priority, we can all be champions for education.
Aisha Crumbine is the Vice President of Development at Teach For America Houston. If you would like to know more about organizations leading the charge for change in our city, reach out to her directly.