A social venture initiative of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Class of 1980
A social venture initiative of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Class of 1980
Why don’t we work together and combine the resources of our class to help make the world a better place?
Carol Head, at the 25th Reunion of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Class of 1980.
Ten years have passed since Carol Head stood up at our 25th reunion and challenged our class to pool together its time, talent, and resources to maximize collective social impact. Who could have predicted how Carol’s challenge would evolve into Project Redwood, the GSB’s only class-financed, class-managed social philanthropy initiative, that has supported 69 projects in 21 countries across 4 continents and improved the lives of thousands of families living in extreme poverty.
Many of us have often wondered what it is about the Class of ’80 that led to the envisioning and launch of Project Redwood. Out of more than 60 GSB classes, why is ’80 the only one to embrace a class-wide philanthropic program? Frankly, we’re still trying to figure this out! At our 10 year mark we now feel the timing is perfect to explore the best way to scale Project Redwood to include other GSB classes, if not the entire Stanford alumni community. More to follow, so stay tuned.
2015 was a landmark year for Project Redwood. We attracted new partners, and we were able to build one of the largest annual grant funds in our history allowing us to award 12 additional grants. The year culminated with our annual meeting that drew over 50 attendees, an all-time record. Held on campus at the Schwab Center just prior to our 35th Class Reunion, the meeting celebrated Project Redwood’s 10th anniversary by inviting many of our grantees, past and present, to describe the impact of Project Redwood’s support over the years. We also heard a presentation by Kiki Karpen, a nonprofit consultant, who shared her views on how to position an organization for growth.
During the ensuing reunion program, we received the opportunity to describe Project Redwood’s work and mission to a standing room only All-Classes audience, sparking interest from many of the alums in attendance. Another highlight of the reunion weekend was GSB Dean Garth Saloner’s presentation of the John W. Gardner Volunteer Leadership Award to Phil Jonckheer, Chair of Project Redwood’s Partner Development Committee, in recognition of Phil’s exemplary work as Class Agent along with his role in representing Project Redwood to the greater Stanford community.
We are very proud to serve as co-chairs of our unique organization. Project Redwood is truly a team effort that has united our class as we work collectively to address extreme global poverty. At the 10 year mark, we can reflect with satisfaction on what we have achieved, but we can also look forward to the next 10 years with great excitement as we pursue a strategy that will ensure growth and sustainability.
Thanks to all of you who have accompanied us during these first 10 years. We hope everyone in the Class of '80 will be part of our future.
To take advantage of the momentum of the 2015 Legacy committee and the decisions from the January 2016 strategic planning session (Pathway to 2020 - see tab above), the group consensus was that hiring an Executive Director would be very useful in helping Project Redwood meet its goals.
I volunteered to fill the position and to focus on fundraising, improving internal communications and procedures, and supporting the co-chairs and all committees as needed. I look forward to working with everyone.
Project Redwood granted $289,271 to 12 projects, directly and immediately impacting tens of thousands of people living in poverty
Hover over the grantee photos to view a summary of the 2015 grant. Click through to the grantee page for more information.
"Girls in many areas of East Africa have no access to secondary education – Daraja changes this."
"Small holder farmers lack resources and technology to boost production and income."
"Dirt floors are a major cause of vector borne and infectious diseases, and malnutrion."
"Girl marriage is both a cause and consequence of poverty, gender-based violence, and inequality for girls."
"The explulsion devastated the Batwa, who quickly became the poorest people in the region."
"Poor babies born with clubfoot face permanent disability even though it is completely treatable."
"Given the frequency of child malnutrition, nutrition assistance is desperately needed."
"Cristo Rey recognized that computer skills training was necessary for their students to be productive in the corporate work environment."
"Unsafe drinking water is one of the leading causes of death in the developing world."
"For many Haitian children, the cost of school is simply out of reach; less than 30% reach 6th grade."
"Expanding health care to eradicate parasitic infections in southern Mexico is Simply Smiles goal."
Dedicated volunteers are the cogs and wheels that keep us going
Project Redwood’s Partner Development Committee continued to engage classmates as Partners throughout 2015. As a result of those conversations, a record amount of donations supported funding for record projects. An integral part of our satisfaction is the return realized from reconnecting with each of you and weaving your intellectual, social, and emotional capitals into Project Redwood's organizational fabric.
Thank you for all your support and contributions.
Grant Review examined twenty preview applications this year during Project Redwood’s ninth funding cycle. Our eleven members invited thirteen that met our criteria to complete full applications. After thorough review and analysis, we recommended twelve projects to our Partners who voted their preferences in August. Our Board funded all twelve through the generosity of our Partners. We thank our classmate sponsors for supporting impactful projects to help people lift themselves out of poverty around the world. Rich Jerdonek and Rick Agresta served as co-chairs for 2015 and continue in this role for 2016.
In 2015, grantee reporting was revised to better track outcomes to the impact goals and measurements they set in their grant applications. We also populated the Resources tab of PRW's website to include management self-assessment tools, guidance on financial controls and governance as well as links to other useful resources.
In addition, the majority of Cycle 9 grantees benefited from active support from their PRW sponsors. This typically was in the form of strategic planning or coaching, often focusing on how to measure and evaluate the impact of grantee programs, as well as facilitating networking with other grantees and funders.
We’re here to keep partners, other classmates, our grantee network and the broader public in the know about Project Redwood. That means everything from updating the website, posting blogs and articles, supporting assorted class mailings that go out over the course of the year, and pulling together the annual report.
For most of the year, we recount numerous stories about our classmates, share grantee news, and get the word out about Project Redwood meetings and future plans. We consider the Project Redwood website the cornerstone of our communications efforts, so that’s the focus our efforts. To keep the site fresh and interesting, we increased blog postings and added more stories that shine the spotlight on the adventures and accomplishments of our classmates and grantees.
We contribute articles and class news to Stanford magazines to build more awareness of Project Redwood, and share timely news and invitations to our meetings with mailings throughout the year. We also work closely with the Board to produce the Project Redwood Annual Report. And accompanying each of these efforts is an invitation to visit our website and engage with us even more.
We’re a small team of 4 (DJ Crane, Laura Power, Joan O’Connell Agresta and Susan Silver) and each of us thoroughly enjoys what we do. How else do you explain our willingness to give up a weekend morning every few weeks to regroup and plot out our activities. New members are welcome; we will gladly share our join.me meeting information!
During 2015, the Technology Committee continued to enhance our on-line presence and improve our internal communications.
The PRW webpage contains a wealth of information about grantees and the work that they do. The Blog has included more stories of classmate involvement with Project Redwood and in non-profits around the world. We are working on options to incorporate more social media capability.
We continued to improve our use of the on-line collaboration platform, called Teamwork. This platform allows the Board and various committees to exchange and manage messages, files, and tasks more conveniently. In addition, it allows better access to the Project Redwood archives, grant applications and reports.
I’d like to thank those who have been working on the technology and the broader group who are using Teamwork for helping to improve the platform.
In 2015, Project Redwood again committed $10,000 to the annual funding pool to support DEA teams that wanted to take their projects beyond the classroom. The decisions about how pooled funds would be distributed began in early June when Project Redwood board members attended ‘pitch’ presentations by the student teams. Following the presentations, Project Redwood members, the DEA staff and other funders met to evaluate and determine which teams should receive grants to further develop their projects over the summer. Those chosen for funding focused on a variety of work including specific medical applications (Negative Pressure Wound Therapy, Clubfoot treatment, burn treatment: skin bank), water filtration, sanitation, and farming.
We're always scouting out ways to do things better
Understanding our impact on extreme poverty is helping us to better focus our funds and support. The Impact Team continues to review grantee reports to identify best practices, improve our focus on impact, and gather impact results. At our annual meeting we reported that 42 of our 46 completed projects met or exceeded goals and 12 significantly exceeded them. Four fell short, but only one has had no benefit to date. Our grantees alleviated poverty conditions and increased income for 250,000 people with our support. We featured CTI, DIG, Educate, and Village Enterprise’s impact and best practices at our October meeting. We continue to see more impact as our Cycle 8 and 9 grantees complete our projects.
In 2015, we continued to work with our pilot organization, Haitian Educational Initiatives; to assess our ability to provide assistance in the areas of strategic planning, financial controls, board governance, and fundraising; and to determine if these findings can apply to other grantees of similar levels of development. This cooperative relationship between Project Redwood and HEI proved beneficial to both organizations’ future operation and ability to have an impact on poverty – helping us to more clearly define methods of non-financial assistance and helping HEI to strengthen their organizational structure.
In 2015 the Legacy Team focused on defining a strategic direction to ensure the continued growth and sustainability of Project Redwood. To help guide the process, we retained a nonprofit consultant, Kiki Karpen, who launched her research by conducting a series of in-depth interviews with virtually all of Project Redwood's board members and active partners. Kiki's findings, which she presented at the Annual Meeting in October, informed our subsequent decision to convene The Pathway to 2020, a leadership retreat to map out Project Redwood's strategic plan over the next five years.
More than 85% of donations went directly to projects that serve the most needy
Highlights of 2015 Fund Activity
Opening Balance: $186,762
Closing Balance: $112,831
Transition to TIDES Foundation
Through September 30, 2015, Project Redwood was organized as a special project fund of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA). On October 1, 2015 PRW transitioned its fiscal sponsor relationship to Tides Foundation. Project Redwood now operates as a Collective Action Fund of Tides. All assets related to PRW previously held by RPA were transferred to Tides effective October 1, 2015.
RPA and now Tides Foundation have provided us with invaluable support in consulting and final vetting of grant applications. In addition, under their umbrella 501(c)3 designations, this agreement has allowed Project Redwood to receive tax deductible donations and operate as a grant-making organization. For more information about Tides, go to: https://www.tides.org