OVERVIEW: The Doris & Donald Fisher Fund (previously the Doris & Donald Fisher Education Fund) has given grants to support a select group of charter projects, including schools, advocacy/policy groups, and training programs. It focuses on K-12 education reform, especially for underserved children, particularly through high-quality charter schools. The fund's late founder, Donald Fisher, emphasized the importance of scaleability, and the fund shares this commitment.
IP TAKE: Fisher will be a tough nut to crack: the fund's giving strategy has recently been tightly focused on a small number of long-time grantees. This is also a funder that must come to you; the foundation isn't online and doesn't publish funding application guidelines.
PROFILE: After leaving his position as CEO of The Gap, Donald Fisher turned his attention to education reform. Hard information about this funder is in short supply. However, a revealing article in Philanthropy Roundtable reports that Fisher began his K-12 public education philanthropy by looking for effective models that could be copied and scaled to reach a large number of students.
He found that inspiration in the Knowledge in Power Project (KIPP), and the Fishers were instrumental in helping KIPP schools scale and expand into an urban education powerhouse.
PR futher reports that through KIPP, the Fishers saw the impact the network could have — and more broadly, that charter schools could have. The fund has also been a major supporter of Teach for America and the KIPP Foundation, which supports the KIPP charter school network. Fisher has also given past support to charter advocacy and public policy groups.
The Fisher Fund has additionally supported a number of charter networks, albeit indirectly, through the Charter School Growth Fund (read the Fund's IP profile here). Based in Broomfield, Colorado, the Growth Fund provides grants and low-interest loans to charter networks across the country to use for expansion. Along with the lasting impact Fisher Fund investments have had on the charter school debate, the Growth Fund remains a reliable funding source for top-performing, expanding charter networks.
The Fishers' youngest son John is a key link to this foundation. In addition to being the majority owner of the Oakland Athletics baseball team, he remains an adviser to the Fisher Fund, is active in a number of influential charter groups, and speaks publicly in support of public education reform. He also co-chairs the Charter School Growth Fund, chairs the KIPP Foundation, and is on the board at Silicon Schools Fund.
John Fisher is also a proponent of "blended learning," using technology in the classroom to give a personalized learning experience. He also has stressed the importance of effective leadership, saying, "If we have a great principal, that great principal hires great, great teachers, motivates those teachers, [we] can create a great school."
The Doris & Donald Fisher Fund still makes grants, but of late the pool of grantees has dwindled to include just a few. The fund has remained a consistent supporter of the Growth Fund, KIPP Foundation, and Teach for America. Consequently, very few organizations can hope to receive an award from this funder; the Foundation Center notes that the fund only supports "pre-selected organizations." Fisher's online presence is limited as well - with no official website, information about the fund is limited to news reports, interviews, acknowledgments from grantees, and tax filings.
Doris & Donald Fisher Fund
One Maritime Plaza, No. 1550
San Francisco, CA, 94111