J.B. and M.K. Pritzker have always aimed high on issues they care about. More than a decade ago, they established the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, with a mission of fostering effective solutions in the critical areas of early childhood, community and women's health. And as they continue to shape their philanthropy, they are setting their sights even higher. Core to their approach is a focus on efficiency and effectiveness, as a means to ensure the increased impact and reach of the organizations and causes that they so generously support.
M.K. Pritzker has taken a leadership role in funding women's health in the Chicago area. She serves as a trustee of the Northwestern Memorial Foundation and is also founder of the Evergreen Invitational®, which supports innovative programs and research studies at Northwestern Memorial Hospital that further explore and address important women's health issues. Last year, the Evergreen Invitational® raised $5 million for historically underfunded programs and research for women's health services throughout the Chicago area.
Early childhood development is an arena that's long been overlooked by philanthropy and government. Even programs as large as Head Start cover a very small sliver of the population of at-risk kids. It's an arena attractive for a private philanthropist like me because I see it as a terrific investment.
In another area of deep interest, J.B. and M.K. have established The Pritzker Children's Initiative (PCI), which directs its investments on a single, attainable goal: that all at-risk infants and toddlers in the United States have access to high-quality early childhood development resources, increasing their likelihood of success in school and life.
I've really come to realize over the course of this journey that it's only luck that separates any of us at this table from someone in need. It's really only luck.
M.K. Pritzker, Interview, Today's Chicago Woman
Across all issue areas, J.B. and M.K. seek to both serve people and solve problems. They seek investments where their philanthropic capital can provide leverage, support innovation, and take smart risks. For example, in 2013 the foundation joined with Goldman Sachs' Urban Investment Group, as well as others, in developing a public/private financing package—known as a Social Impact Bond—to help more disadvantaged children in Salt Lake City attend high-quality preschool. Predicated on the idea that students who go through the preschool programs are less likely to need costly special education services later in their academic careers, the bond (or pay for success loans) was the first investment of its kind to finance a public school program. They undertook an even larger similar effort in their home town of Chicago with Goldman and other partners the following year.
Another characteristic of J.B. and M.K.'s philanthropy is their commitment to bringing "more than money" to the issues they care about. For example, in 2014, the Pritzkers were among a small set of philanthropists who helped shape the White House Summit on Early Education. In addition to making a leadership commitment of $25 million over five years to "help build a better nation by expanding high-quality early childhood education programs for children from birth through age five" on the day of the Summit, J.B. and M.K. also supported the planning and execution for the Summit. The Summit was a "$1 billion day" for early childhood, during which other new public and private investments were announced along with the multi-year Invest in US campaign, designed to keep both attention and resources focused squarely on early childhood.
Educare, an early childhood program funded in part by the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Foundation
Preparing young children to learn the first day they enter kindergarten is the single most important step we can take to ensure better K-12 education, healthier kids, lower poverty rates, increased wage-earning capacity, and a stronger, more competitive workforce.
In 2012, the Pritzkers asked The Bridgespan Group to help them develop a long-term strategy for their philanthropy. Bridgespan's work with them has centered on several pivotal components. These include: conducting research on current developments in the field of early childhood education in order to gain clarity on the contributions that philanthropy can make to achieve better outcomes for children and refresh the PCI strategy; developing criteria for selecting both early childhood and community health grantees; and helping the foundation align its structure with its clarified goals.
Bridgespan continues to work with the Pritzkers to develop and execute their strategy and to help them reach the high bar that they have set for their philanthropy.
The Pritzkers are aiming to set a new standard for philanthropy, to raise the bar for excellence and greater impact. It has been our great privilege to help them work towards this goal.
Katherine Kaufmann, Partner, The Bridgespan Group
Photos courtesy of the Ounce of Prevention Fund