Katherina Rosqueta Defines High Impact Philanthropy

Her center’s research enables donors to maximize social good.
  • Transcript


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.