HBS Charity Auctions Bridge the Education Gap: Sections Build Sustainable Schools through Pencils of Promise

While ECs are already beginning to trickle out the door, a long held RC tradition is in full swing: RC Section Charity Auctions. Raising anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 per section in a single night, the auctions support great causes near and dear to the hearts of fellow classmates. From health to hunger, the organizations supported range widely across the NPO sector, but one that has become a mainstay in recent past is education.

For the second year in a row, more than half of  RC sections have chosen Pencils of Promise (PoP) as one of their charity recipients. We sat down with PoP board member, Libbie Fritz (OE), to learn more about how this unofficial partnership in bridging the education gap has taken root.

Who is Pencils of Promise?

Pencils of Promise is a nonprofit organization started in 2008 to build schools and increase educational opportunities in the developing world. There are 75 million children that live today without access to preschool education. We founded PoP with a mission not only to close that gap, but do so with the belief that every person, regardless of age, ability or money, has the potential to create good.


What makes it different from other education nonprofits? replica breitling

Instead of donating to communities or building schools for them, both historically unsustainable models, we work with the education ministry and local leaders to decide which villages need our help the most. The process of building schools is based on a threefold partnership between PoP, the local ministry of education, and the local communities. We pick where to build by evaluating communities based on the following metrics: need, sustainability, cost efficiency, impact, and local commitment. Once we choose a village, they provide most of the materials and labor needed to build the school, and we provide the rest. Locals’ participation in building their school ensures sustainability through ownership–it becomes something that each village helps to create and own. Finally, we train and empower our primarily local female coordinators who work with each school to help its students succeed through our SHINE program, and provide supplemental funding for school materials and maintenance for three years.

Why did you think PoP would be a good fit for the HBS Charity Auctions?

What excited me about pitching PoP to the 2011 sections last year was how relatable it was to everyone in the room. The founding members are representative of students in the HBS classroom in age, professional background and rigor. For example, the founder and Executive Director, Adam Braun, 27, is a former Bainie.

Additionally, the metrics around education really hit home. Without access to preschool education during the most critical cognitive years of development (ages 2-5), one in three children will not graduate high school. We point to one-third of a section and tell them they wouldn’t be here today. Schooling at that age is something most of us were lucky to take for granted growing up. It hits home.

Last but not least, the part that students really engage with is the ROI.  Because of the sustainability model I mentioned earlier, our classroom build cost is half of what most educational nonprofits pay, and we have an 87% programming to overhead cost ratio. Additionally replica watches uk, we can have a school up and running in three months that you can go visit and literally see your impact. When you can promise HBS students a school with their section’s name on it that they can visit together before they graduate, you’ve got their attention.

What were the results of last year’s charity auctions?

Across the six sections that selected PoP, OC, OE, OF, OH, OI, and OJ, HBS donated over $40,000 to the organization. We are so grateful to Henoch Senbetta (OC), Ashley Bennett (OF), Nicole Pereira (OF), and Diana Dosik (OI) for pitching PoP to their sections and making this incredible momentum possible. We would have been thrilled if one section had chosen PoP, but to have six was surreal. And the ROI is tangible; the 2011 PoP schools are fully operational in communities in both Laos and Nicaragua, closing the education gap.

And how has the momentum sustained itself in the Class of 2012?

The 2012 sections have been unbelievable in their support of PoP.  I thought we would lose momentum this year given most sections choose nonprofits to which someone in their classroom is closely linked. But for the second year in a row we were left speechless. Seven, not six, sections chose PoP. I owe 100% credit and thanks to the RCs that took PoP into their sections on pitch day: Matt Mandel (NA), Priya Srivastava (NA), Lisa Cousins (NB), Lauren Baum (NB), Rebecca Menges (NE), Julia Morton (NF), Emily Tyson (NF), Jeremy Haber (NG), Freya Zaheer (NH), Elizabeth Trongone (NI) and Maria Kurenova (NI).

How much will be donated to PoP this year?

All of the charity auctions distribute funds differently across causes on a percentage basis, so we won’t know until each of the auctions is held how much will be donated in aggregate, but my guess is it will amount to at least one if not two schools.

Actually, there’s a PoP campaign happening right now with Justin Bieber. He’s a big fan of our organization and has agreed to visit a school of choice for the individual or group that fundraises the most money by June 30th, 2011. HBS has a great mentoring program with a local middle school that would be so deserving of this award. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the 2012 sections win and Justin pays us a visit!

But regardless of the donation level, what is so important to PoP is the level of awareness that has been raised in the minds of so many inspiring and influential future leaders here at HBS. Knowing that over 1300 people in the two graduating classes combined support PoP’s mission in closing the education gap is a huge accomplishment for us as such a young organization.

You’re graduating. Is this the end of the road for PoP at HBS?

One thing HBS really hammers home is the importance of succession planning. Parker Woltz is a PoP Fellow working with our community base in Nicaragua via a pre-business school externship from her consulting firm. She will be matriculating to HBS in the fall with the Class of 2013 and is excited to take the lead in engaging the Classes of 2013 and 2014 while she’s here.  There’s also already been a lot of buzz from the Class of 2012 about visiting their completed schools during J-term of their EC year.  So this definitely isn’t the end of the road, but rather one I envision getting longer.

I’m raising the bar to hope for a future state where this becomes a section tradition, with each section building and visiting a school before they graduate, which I hope for some will mark the beginning of a life-long connection with their partner community and its future leaders.