A Summer with The Broad Foundation

It wasn’t the most conventional interview, but I knew it wouldn’t be when his assistant told me I could “ride with him to the airport”. I was meeting Dan Katzir, Managing Director of The Broad Foundation, an entrepreneurial, grant-making organization that funds innovative efforts to dramatically improve governance, management, and labor relations in the nation’s largest urban districts.

We exchanged a quick greeting, then attempted to catch a cab – a futile effort at 4:00 pm on a Friday. We run-walked for several blocks and talked about The Broad Foundation’s focus and my interests. He’d just finished up a board meeting for the TURN/Broad Project, an initiative the Foundation had recently funded to improve labor-management relations within several large urban districts.

Eli Broad founded the foundation after two successful careers at the helm of KB Homes and then SunAmerica. Known as Los Angeles’s most visible philanthropist – with sizable commitments to the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Los Angeles County Museum of Art – Mr. Broad committed $100 million to start The Broad Foundation. Unlike many business leaders and other change agents, The Broad Foundation believes in engaging unions to become part of the solution.
We finally made it to the airport and I followed Dan to his gate, where he asked me more about how I got interested in education, and the catalysts for my career change. I explained to him that while I spent four years working in investment banking and venture capital, I was often involved with non-profits, both as a mentor and volunteer teacher in public education.

Dan’s background was fairly similar. An HBS alum himself, Dan worked as a consultant for Bain, then moved into operations as COO of Teach for America and also worked with Sylvan Learning Centers. His crossover from “for-profit” to “non-profit” resonated well with my background, and we really hit it off. Before he boarded the plane, Dan told me he would call me on Monday with an offer. I was really excited, although I still didn’t have a really clear sense of what I would be doing at the Foundation.

I accepted the job shortly after receiving the offer. I chose The Broad Foundation for several reasons. First, the people I would be working with came from backgrounds similar to mine – MBAs who had worked in professional services for several years and shared a common passion for improving public education. Second, the foundation was still in its formative stage, experiencing tremendous growth and change. This was a perfect opportunity to both learn from and contribute to an organization that was poised for success.

The internship itself was definitely less crazy than that first interview, but no less interesting. I worked closely with Dan and the three Associate Directors (ADs) who managed the programs that the Foundation invested in, incubated new projects, and made funding decisions about new grant requests that came in from school districts, teachers’ unions, and education focused start-ups.

My projects included: designing an evaluation system to measure the success of the Foundation’s individual investments and the success of the Foundation as a whole; streamlining the Foundation’s due diligence on prospective grantees; and advising grantees on program implementation. This internship gave me a deeper understanding of how public education functions at the district level, and a chance to work alongside incredibly intelligent, committed individuals.

While I still remain undecided about my short-term career plans, I remain committed to my long-term focus on education and my determination to be an agent for change and improve opportunities for all children. The HBS nonprofit summer fellowship provided the introduction I needed to jumpstart my involvement with education at the leadership and funding level, and to draw a parallel that often goes unnoticed: philanthropy as venture capital for non-profits.