When donors align their investments with their values, the impact of their giving becomes even more meaningful.
Thurman V. White, Jr., retired chairman and CEO of Progress Investment Management Company, and his wife, Eileen, are a prime example of donors who engage in thoughtful, values-driven philanthropy. Thurman -- a former Silicon Valley Community Foundation board member who also served on and chaired SVCF’s investment committee and maintains a SVCF donor advised fund (DAF) -- and Eileen are committed to education. Through their DAF, Thurman and Eileen have made transformational investments in Raising A Reader, a national organization that for over 20 years has been helping children improve their literacy and develop a love for reading at an early age.
Approximately 60 percent of children in the United States fail to read proficiently by third grade due in part to lack of books in the home and family engagement. Research indicates that if a child is not reading at grade level by the third grade, the risks of long-term academic failure will increase exponentially.
Raising A Reader formally began in 1999 within a partnership of the San Mateo County Library and Peninsula Community Foundation – one of the two community foundations that merged to become SVCF – with a mission of addressing these disparities in education and literacy. Raising A Reader is affiliated with SVCF as a “supporting organization,” and over the years it has grown into a national social enterprise.
Inspired by the success of the program in San Mateo County and throughout California, Thurman and Eileen White brought Raising A Reader to Thurman’s home state of Oklahoma. Beginning in 2018, the couple made a multi-year investment through their DAF to launch Raising A Reader’s programming in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Their investment supports three schools serving 1,100 children from pre-K to 2nd grade.
“Readers are leaders. Investing in the next generation by building early reading habits and engaging families in book-sharing opportunities can literally change their futures by strengthening bonds between children and the caring adults in their lives,“ said White. “50 or so years ago I graduated from Oklahoma City’s Douglas High School. OKC Public Schools and their teachers gave me their best. My initial investment in the kids in Northeast OKC elementary schools was my way of saying ‘thank you’ and giving back to hopefully break the cycle of poverty and provide these students with enhanced reading and supplementary educational opportunities. I am thrilled that our initial investment has been leveraged to expand the Raising A Reader program in Oklahoma City.”
The Whites’ investments in Raising A Reader in Oklahoma City demonstrate the power of philanthropy to transform lives and build thriving communities. Their investments also provide a perfect case study for other donors who are interested in evidence-based investments that can improve educational outcomes, create local impact and bolster organizations that are capable of rapid scale.
“Thanks to their financial support and commitment to literacy, Thurman and Eileen White are making a measurable difference in the lives and success of Oklahoma City's children. This initiative will create a long-lasting legacy that will impact children for generations to come,” said Michelle Torgerson, president and CEO of Raising A Reader.