Fawzia Ahmed, Walton Family Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer

FUNDING AREAS: K-12 education reform

CONTACT: fahmed@wffmail.com, 303-442-3434

IP TAKE: With Ahmed's influence as the senior program officer of the K-12 education initiatives, the organization may be shifting its focus—if only slightly—to zero in on some of the most underserved public school students: Ethnic minorities, especially those in inner city schools heavily populated by low-income students.

PROFILE: The Walton Family Foundation has long been one of the nation's leading private contributors to education reform. In a single year, the foundation doled out a whopping $164 million in systemic K-12 reform alone.

Fawzia Ahmed, a Yale MBA, is no outsider to the world of education. As a tutor in an inner city school in Boston, Ahmed witnessed the dysfunction of schools firsthand, attributing it to not so much the teachers or the pupils, but to the organizational structure and management of the school system itself. That's when she became interested in educational reform. In 2005, she contributed to a publication comparing the educational policy governing ethnic minorities in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Her interest in the management of low-income schools and those with diverse student populations didn't end there, though. As a director at Arabella Advisors, Ahmed consulted with donors in the education space and in 2010, contributed to a brief that advised funders to "look for organizations that hire leaders and effective implementers for every team." Of course, this is a notion that is in keeping with the Walton Family Foundation's overall philosophy as well. In 2010, Walton Family Foundation Executive Director Buddy Phillpot threatened to withdraw funds intended to provide D.C. teachers with raises and bonuses, arguing, "The Foundation reserves the right to discontinue support for this initiative if there is a material change in DCPS' leadership."

The message for grant-seekers is clear: If you're looking for the monetary support for a cause that involves education reform for minorities, low-income students, or inner city schools, then you're more likely to attract Ahmed's attention, so long as you can prove that the leadership is in place to realize the goals for the initiative. Remember, though, that the foundation is currently focusing on select "Investment Sites," which include schools in Albany, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Harlem (NYC), Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Newark, Phoenix, and Washington, D.C.