Katherina M. Rosqueta is the founding Executive Director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania. Before to this, Rosqueta spent five years as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, serving clients in strategy development, capability-building, and post-merger management. While at McKinsey, she led several employee volunteer initiatives to support consultant involvement on nonprofit boards.
Prior to McKinsey, Rosqueta worked for ten years in community development, nonprofit management, and venture philanthropy. She served as a founding team member of New Schools Venture Fund; founding executive director of Board Match Plus, a San Francisco program dedicated to strengthening nonprofit boards; and program manager of Wells Fargo’s Corporate Community Development Group. She has held numerous volunteer and civic leadership positions including board president of La Casa de las Madres (San Francisco’s oldest and largest shelter for battered women and their children); chair of the United Way’s Bay Area Week of Caring; and co-founder and executive committee member of the Women’s MBA Network.
Question: What is high impact philanthropy?
Katherina Rosqueta: It's less about a particular organization or a particular activity, it's about whether or not you've given the money in a such a way that you can actually have some confidence that's it's going to make the change in the world you want. And that change can be having another student at risk of dropping out actually being able to graduate on time. That change could be getting an existing cost effective drug for malaria to a child in time that you save that person's life.
I distinguish between high impact philanthropy and other types of philanthropy because some philanthropy isn't practiced in such a way that it can assure those kinds of results. And, in fact, many philanthropists don't necessarily give with the idea of trying to maximize the social good of the philanthropy.
So for those folks who are giving out of a sense of obligation or reciprocal giving. "My buddies on the board, he gave money to my fundraiser so I gave money to his fundraiser." Or, "I don't care so much about"--I'm speaking from the point of philanthropist--"I don't care so much about whether or not I am really maximizing the impact of my gift but I'm really happy that my name's on that big building." High impact philanthropy is different from that kind of social or reciprocal philanthropy in that. It's squarely focused on improving the lives of others.
All philanthropy, especially high impact philanthropy where people are really focusing on results, it starts with a personal commitment. It's a personal commitment to making a change in the world. And how people got to that commitment is a very unique and personal journey. I don't think you want to disrupt that journey.
Because one of the things with high impact philanthropy is you have to have a commitment to ongoing learning. There are no silver bullets so you have to be able to care enough about the issue, to learn when you goofed up, and to redirect or add more resources than you thought you needed in order to achieve your good.
And what's exciting is when a philanthropist says I'm committed to making a change in this area, whatever that area is, once you get to that point, then you say, great, how can you translate that commitment and those good intentions and whatever resources you're bringing to the table to actually making the difference you want to make? That's where, hopefully, our work plays, is to translate those good intentions and that commitment to actual impact.
Recorded on: April 23, 2009.