Philanthropy, COVID-19, and Education in 2020

Session Type: Breakout


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact and re-shape the world as we know it, philanthropy has been keeping pace to mitigate the devastating consequences. Education philanthropy, including support for the charter school movement, is no exception. At both the local and national level, organizations have been learning about what the field needs and making necessary adjustments to their giving strategies. This session brings together philanthropic experts to discuss what they have learned thus far and their thoughts on how philanthropy can best support their communities, the future of schools, and promoting equity.

Take Away:
Over the next few years, the philanthropic sector will continue to actively learn and support leaders who are innovating to help address the negative consequences of the pandemic. Philanthropy will serve as a valuable ally during these challenging times for the charter school sector.

Presented by

Dakarai Aarons, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Dakarai I. Aarons is an experienced advocate and policy communications strategist who is a senior program manager for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, where he leads the philanthropy's grantmaking on education policy and advocacy. He previously served as a communications lead for CZI's education and ventures work. Before joining CZI in 2018, he was Vice President of Strategic Communications for the Data Quality Campaign, where he oversaw staff and strategy for a national campaign focused on building public will. Dakarai has directed award-winning media and publicity campaigns and written award-winning news coverage on education policy and practice issues. Dakarai is a board member of the American Youth Policy Forum and chairman of the Wayfinder Foundation's board of directors. A former longtime board member of the Education Writers Association, he's a member of the National Press Club and a former committee chairman of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Melanie Brown, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Melanie R. Brown is a global speaker and writer on philanthropy, gender and racial justice. She began her career as an educator, teaching in Washington, D.C., Beijing, China and Hong Kong, before transitioning into philanthropy. With nearly 15 years in the field, Melanie’s grantmaking has included a focus on accelerating academic achievement for Black and Latinx students, dismantling systems of exclusionary discipline, advancing parent and youth organizing, disarming deficit narratives about Black men in the media and advocating for the rights of students of color with disabilities in charter schools. She is currently a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where her work focuses on constituent engagement across the foundation’s education, economic and health priorities in the United States and Canada. Melanie is an adjunct professor at the American University School of Education and serves on the AU Alumni Association Board and the Harvard Graduate School of Education Arts in Education Advisory Council. Melanie is the current Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Women’s Funding Network, the largest philanthropic network of foundations, funds and organizations dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls around the world. A native of Pittsburgh, PA, Melanie earned degrees from American, Harvard and Carnegie Mellon universities. She resides in Washington, D.C.

Ash Solar, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

Ash supports the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation’s efforts to improve K-12 education across the U.S., with a focus on place-based partnerships. Ash began his career in the classroom and has worked at the school, district, and state leadership levels. Prior to joining the Schusterman Foundation, Ash served as the Executive Director of GO Public Schools in Oakland, where he and his team were dedicated to cultivating and convening community leaders in service of all Oakland public schools and students. Before joining the GO Public Schools team, Ash helped launch the TN Achievement School District, where he served as the founding Chief Talent and Strategy Officer and then the Executive Director of the Achievement Schools—a network of 5 turnaround schools in Memphis dedicated to ensuring that every child in Frayser can attend an excellent neighborhood school. Prior to joining the ASD, he worked in the Oakland Unified School District leading various human capital initiatives, including facilitating the development an effective teaching strategy in collaboration teacher and union leadership, and managing the principal selection process for the district. He began his career as a 4th grade bilingual teacher in Houston through Teach For America. Ash has also served as an Education Pioneers Summer Fellow, a Broad Resident, and Pahara NextGen Fellow. He has a BA from Dartmouth College, and an MBA and ME from Stanford University.

Kristin Todd, Daniels Fund

Kristin serves as Executive Vice President for the Daniels Fund, one of the largest foundations in the Rocky Mountain region, with assets of approximately $1.5 billion. With a steadfast commitment to honoring the legacy of Bill Daniels, Kristin oversees the strategic distribution of more than $45 million annually to nonprofit organizations throughout Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Utah. Whether it’s helping youth receive a high-quality education or helping homeless individuals rebuild their lives with dignity, Kristin’s strategic vision has helped the Daniels Fund achieve its mission of making life better, one individual at a time.