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An Overview of Philanthropy in Education

Updated: December 15, 2023 | Published: October 13, 2021

Updated: December 15, 2023

Published: October 13, 2021

An Overview of Philanthropy in Education Hero Image

A recent survey conducted by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and Campden Wealth took a look at the global trends in family philanthropy in 2020. After surveying 201 families, with an average net wealth of $1.2 billion, the results were clear — education is the number one area in which families donate across the globe. In fact, 29% of the average philanthropic portfolio is focused on education.

Education philanthropy is a popular cause because most people wish to see the results of their giving during their lifetime. At University of the People in particular, we are able to operate as a tuition-free institution of higher education due to aid from our donors, foundations, and volunteers.

From higher education philanthropy to education charities to personal giving, education is often shaped by the generosity of selfless spirits — here’s how and why.

Source: Pexels 

A Look at the Top Philanthropists

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, donors in 2020 gave to multiple causes, including education. Given the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the donations were spread across issues that were in the spotlight throughout the year, including racial issues, food pantries, homelessness, and the like.

Jeff Bezos sits at the top of the Philanthropy 50. He donated $10 billion to climate change to create the Bezos Earth Fund. Bezos was followed by his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott, who chose 512 organizations and provided them with seven- and eight-figure gifts. The number 3 most charitable giver on the list was Michael Bloomberg, who gave $1.6 billion to education, public health, and the arts, among other causes.

Lessons on Education Philanthropy from the Pandemic

Education philanthropy isn’t always a clear-cut path due to differing opinions and ways to spend the funds. In 2020, the International Education Funders Group held a symposium to look at education philanthropy in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most schools and educational institutions had to greatly shift their operations when they shut down at the height of the pandemic. As institutions moved to either online/remote learning or hybrid setups, the focus on education garnered a lot of attention.

As such, a group of donor-advised funds, private grant-makers, and foundations came together to discuss how philanthropists can help ensure that educational institutions remain resilient.

They ended the symposium with a list of important findings that can work to guide education philanthropy moving forward in uncertain times:

Importance of Data

It’s vital to understand how tactics and educational strategies are impacting learning. In order to do so properly, access to data is key. Ministries of Education need to utilize unified data in real-time for decision-making. This requires an investment in technologies capable of pulling together this kind of data, such as education management information systems.

Meaning of Innovation

The pandemic quickly shifted how education took place, and the use of technology played a huge role in the ability to promote learning. While thinking about innovation, most charitable giving will be aimed towards improving technologies. The symposium urges that education philanthropy also takes into account the various definitions of innovation. Innovation requires diverse perspectives and inputs, which means listening to those who previously may have not had a say in how things go. Technological advancement can only make a difference when everyone is on board and aligned with the vision. The point here is to open the floor to more people to hear what is needed and how technological adoption can take place successfully.

Engagement is Paramount

A lot of the burden of education seemed to fall on teachers’ shoulders during the pandemic. For many, they had to learn new technologies and systems in order to teach remotely, while still creating lesson plans, teaching their students, and grading. All the while, they had to navigate the emotional toll of their own well-being, along with balancing their students’ needs. In order to maximize the effect of education philanthropy, engagement needs to take place on all levels, including governments, education authorities, and key stakeholders.

Collaboration is Necessary

It’s optimal for funders and charitable givers to work together collaboratively to address educational needs and reform. With a shared vision for change and alignment, the maximum results can be achieved when forces of good come together.

Educational philanthropists have played a large role in benefitting education historically. At a time when so much is changing, the need for giving remains as important as ever to provide students with access to education, leaders with data, and institutions with advancements to continue operations.

Source: Pexels

The Importance of Philanthropy at University of the People

At University of the People, we have remained well-equipped to provide students with affordable access to education, regardless of what’s happening in the world around us. This is mainly because we have always existed as an entirely online institution. By doing so, we keep overhead costs low and can offer tuition-free education. 

At the same time, our lineup of eminent instructors hail from institutions around the globe. As such, when they dedicate their time at University of the People and proctor courses, they are doing so as volunteers. In itself, this form of education philanthropy is a key reason why we are able to offer the quality education that we do.

Additionally, for any student who has financial need, donors and foundations partner with our university to provide access to grants which help cover the required fees for exams (and the one-time application fee).

Education Philanthropy Helps All

For any person looking to make a positive difference in the world, education philanthropy is a great way to do so. From donating funds, creating scholarship foundations, or dedicating your time through volunteering, the future generations of the world have a lot to gain from this form of giving.

We’ve already shared how the University of the People would be nothing without its donors, volunteers, and corporate partnerships. If you’re interested in getting involved to provide students from around the world access to quality, affordable, and accredited education, see how you can help!