SEATTLE - Big charitable foundations that give money to improve education don't always succeed in doing so very effectiely. In a study of more than 670 foundations released by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, many that donate in the Northwest, only 11 percent spent at least half of their education dollars on students in under-served populations. Even fewer focused on long-term solutions to problems in education.
Study author Kevin Welner, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says foundations need to spend more time getting to know the people and communities their grants will be helping,and doing more research on what really works, before they write the check.
"It's a very collaborative effort, and that's extremely important, because we've seen so many examples of philanthropists who sort of have good intentions, and come in with top-down ideas that make no sense at the local level."
Welner says effective philanthropy is more important now than ever, because it helps to even the odds between rich and poor, and not just in education.
"If we have such an extremely unequal distribution of resources, then we pretty much have an extremely unequal distribution of political power. But what philanthropies can do is be extraordinarily powerful in helping vulnerable communities to have a voice."
The Marguerite Casey Foundation in Seattle and the Nike Foundation in Portland were two of only nine in the country that met the study criteria for effective investments in education reform.