The world changed in 2020 and we were all forced to change with it. Philanthropy had to re-evaluate its role in the wake of the pandemic and rising social justice movements. For the Michelson 20MM Foundation, it meant finding innovative ways to deploy funding for maximum social impact. Luckily, we found such an opportunity in the Los Angeles Post Secondary Education Funders Collaborative (LAPSEFC). 

What is the LAPSEFC?

The LAPSEFC is a group of foundations that recognizes the central role that postsecondary education can and should play in building a more equitable and just society. The coalition seeks to leverage the resources and knowledge of its members in creating meaningful systemic change and driving equity outcomes that are beyond the capacity for any individual philanthropic organization. As a learning and action community, the collaborative supports the piloting, scaling, and sustaining of innovative programs and policies for the benefit of Los Angeles County students. 

Why Did Michelson 20MM Join the LAPSEFC?

Joining the collaborative gives us opportunities to learn new insights, build community and trust among our philanthropic colleagues, and amplify our efforts by working in conjunction with other funders. We want to discover what other foundations are doing in the postsecondary education space and inform them about what we’re working on as well. It’ll prove beneficial to lend our voice to discussions about the best practices for helping students, while also listening to others as they describe their approach. In response to the pandemic, a subset of the group initiated a pooled fund focused on COVID-19 recovery for postsecondary education in Los Angeles. Taking part in the LAPSEFC gives us the chance to support the fund and achieve greater impact. 

Pivoting to Scale Our Impact 

Historically, our foundation has not joined pooled funds, but the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic and the overwhelming need that we saw in the community compelled us to pivot. LAPSEFC members conducted due diligence and decided that the best collective action that we could take was to materially help L.A. County postsecondary education recover from the pandemic. Specifically, we decided to improve transfer pathways between eight L.A. County community colleges and two California State University campuses.

California State University-Northridge and California State University-Dominguez Hills are the first two grant recipients from the pooled funds, receiving $300,000 and $250,000, respectively. The money will go toward helping community college students transfer to the schools and earn their bachelor’s degree. Currently, 80% of community college students indicate their desire for a bachelor’s degree, but only 30% ever transfer to a four-year institution and just 13% of those successfully obtain their diploma in six years. Unfortunately, data reveals worse outcomes for students of color, and the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened these challenges for all students.   

A Multiplier Effect

Pooling resources allowed Michelson 20MM to have an impact 28 times greater than we would have achieved through an individual donation. The joint investment will help thousands of students who would have otherwise gone unassisted in the absence of this collaboration. COVID might have separated us physically from our philanthropic partners, but our desire to effectuate positive change has brought us closer together. This collective effort shows that when philanthropy is done right—in community, for community—it promises to achieve great things.