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Building the Expertise of the Next Generation of Philanthropic Leaders Through Competitive Evaluation

May 26, 2020

Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors and Columbia Business School partnered to create an educational opportunity for students to assess the 100&Change Top 100 and select one proposal for a $100,000 award.

In philanthropy, more often than not, those seeking funding are engaged in a competition—even when the process is not explicitly categorized that way. A well-designed and well-run philanthropic competition creates value for all parties, from the clear benefit of additional funding for the “winners” to the learning opportunity presented to those who do not win to better hone their story, articulate their impact, and possibly even improve their programs for the next go-round. What rarely gets discussed is the benefit of the competition for the proposal reviewers—the evaluators, the decision makers—who should also be affected by and grow from this process.

This spring, we had the opportunity to test this proposition and view growth first-hand. Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors partnered with MacArthur-affiliate Lever for Change and Columbia Business School’s Tamer Center for Social Enterprise to bring a funding competition to MBA students. The students, enrolled in a course on Global Philanthropy for which Melissa Berman was the professor, were called upon to review some of the Top 100 contenders from MacArthur’s 100&Change competition, ultimately selecting one proposed initiative to receive a $100,000 award.

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