The Right Partners

 In customized giving, grantmaking, grassroots, PVF Donors, PVF News

Guest Post by Sheryl Young, San Mateo County Program Director

How does PVF work with a donor?  It’s all about feedback, trust and the right partners!

A year ago, Mike Heffernan and I met with the staff at Foundation for a College Education (FCE), a nationally recognized college access and college success program. FCE works with students of color, most of whom are the first in their families to attend college, to support their education from as early as the sixth grade through college graduation.


Mike and his wife Jo wanted to give locally in the San Francisco Peninsula and asked how they could help.  FCE proposed funding a pilot program to help high school students improve chemistry grades and confidence. The participants were sophomores and juniors from nine different high schools, selected by their teachers as standing to benefit the most from the program. Over the year, a unique partnership developed between Mike and FCE to allow them to learn together how to tackle FCE’s toughest challenges, including finding the right teacher, curriculum and homework assistance from nine different schools!


Mike and I recently met FCE in East Palo Alto to review outcomes of this innovative pilot project. The results were mixed, with attendance and personal challenges noted as strong factors in students’ chemistry grades. Staff reflections concluded that students should be targeted earlier in their academic career in order to build a strong foundation of Math and English skills needed for success in Chemistry. They proposed a new method for next summer: target graduating sixth grade students to better prepare them for middle school.

Mike was impressed with the staff for the execution of this pilot and the learnings from this endeavor. He was also enthusiastic with the new direction of the proposed revised pilot.  While Mike and Jo’s goal is to address skill gaps for low income children, they appreciate the importance of encouraging learnings from failure just as much as from success. Together they talked about the methodology, budget, timeline and possibility of a control group for comparison to evaluate their success on this next pilot.

Mike and Jo are extraordinary donors who are passionate about education and seeking data driven results. They understand that strategies are dynamic with pilot programs and not fixed.  They also know that diligence and patience are needed to find ways for underserved kids to succeed.

We at PVF are proud to be partners with Mike and Jo, and non-profits such as FCE to create new pathways for children who would be left behind if not for these opportunities. It’s all about feedback and trust – and the right partners!

Recent Posts