TITLE: Chairman, KIPP Foundation; Co-Chair, Charter School Growth Fund; Board member, Silicon Schools Fund
FUNDING AREAS: Charter management organizations, KIPP Foundation, charter schools
IP TAKE: Aside from owning a majority stake in the Oakland A’s, Fisher is an influential charter school funder, serving on the board of several prominent charter organizations.
PROFILE: In charter school funding, the six degrees of Kevin Bacon might not apply, but the six degrees of John Fisher might be appropriate.
For the last 20 years, Fisher has been involved with plenty of influential charter organizations—from the Alliance for School Choice and the Charter School Growth Fund to, more recently, the Silicon Schools Fund, a brand-new education funder in the Bay Area. And as the youngest son of Donald and Doris Fisher—founders of the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, a major charter funder—charter school funding and development might just be in his blood.
As a funder, it might be best to look first at Fisher’s involvement with the Charter School Growth Fund, which has become a national leader in the space, providing grants and low-interest loans to charter management organizations across the country. In 2011, CSGF provided $28 million in grants and $15 million in low-interest loans to a variety of leading CMOs, including YES Prep and Rocketship Education.
Their focus is fairly simple. They select charter management organizations that provide high-quality education to underserved student populations, and priority is given to organizations with solid leadership, measurable results and a strong growth plan. In fact, CSGF has been praised for their ability to pick the highest performing charter schools; a recent Stanford University study found that CSGF-funded schools were some of the highest achieving schools.
As far as their application process, Fisher and the rest of the board play an important role, as they have final say in all grants. It’s important for interested fundraisers to really dive into CSGF’s past grants to get a true sense of the board’s funding priority. As of now, the fund supports more than 30 charter management organizations, but they’ve been expanding their reach. CMO fundraiser take note.
In the Bay Area, Fisher’s influence is clear. He sits on the board of the KIPP Foundation, which was founded by Donald and Doris Fisher in 2000, and the foundation has become instrumental in expanding that network across the nation. KIPP is also a major grantee of many leading community and independent foundations. As far as leadership of the organization, Fisher has a prominent voice when it comes to the direction of the organization.
The most important function of the foundation is recruiting and training leadership to expand the local impact of the KIPP brand, and they also provide leadership and oversight for the organization as a whole.
More recently, Fisher has been involved with the Silicon Schools Fund, a recently launched fund that seeks to build a network of blended-learning schools in the Bay Area. The organization provides seed funding for charter networks to open new schools or redevelop existing schools to embrace technology-first, personalized learning. Since launching last year, SSF also already provided $1.7 million in grants to two networks, and their goal is to open up to 25 new schools in the next five years.
Simply put, their giving is going to accelerate, and it’s important to get this funder on your radar. As for Fisher’s role in SSF, he sits on the board, but it’s not exactly clear how hands-on he is in SSF’s grant-making strategy.