[Related: Why Some Nonprofits Are Getting Bigger]
KIPP—which stands for the Knowledge Is Power Program—was founded by Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin in 1994 to prepare children in underserved communities for success in college and in life. It does so through an academic focus as well as an attention to more holistic aspects of students' development. It was an approach that greatly appealed to Donald and Doris Fisher, co-founders of the clothing retailer Gap Inc., so much so that the Fishers bet big to help bring the schools to more cities.
See a complete archive of videos featuring John Fisher and Doris Fisher.
How big? In partnership with KIPP's founders, the Fishers invested $15 million to establish the KIPP Foundation in 2000 to bring KIPP—which was then just two middle schools in Houston and New York City—to more cities by recruiting and training top-notch leaders to open more schools. Today, KIPP is one of the biggest names in public education. The schools have grown to more than 2,800 teachers at more than 125 schools across the country. Moreover, the KIPP Foundation, through its KIPP School Leadership Programs (KSLP), is responsible for the development and training of more than 250 KIPP school leaders. As for the students, who are the recipients of that attention to leadership, KIPP devotes much attention to measuring results on a number of factors such as college completion.
John and his mother believe that success starts with a personal connection. "It’s so rewarding to...see the affection [the kids] have for their teacher, the affection they have for each other," says Doris. "One of our slogans is 'team and family' and they really are a family."
Says John, "We have gotten tremendous personal satisfaction and enjoyment out of [working] with KIPP."
John and Doris Fisher's Key Insights for Philanthropists
- Do a few things really well. Watch: John Fisher explains his family’s focus on charter schools.
- Think big, act small. Watch: John Fisher says success is proven one school at a time.
- Keep an eye on the report card. Watch: Doris and John Fisher keep their eyes on KIPP’s numbers.
- Find the right leadership. Watch: "Critical to our success": The Fishers say it's having the right leadership at KIPP schools.
- Use advocacy to augment success. Watch: Going to the Hill”: John Fisher says the trick to advocacy is, you can’t stop.