Why I donated
Anne Melvin is a fundraiser at Harvard University and a board member of Ethiopia Education Initiatives, the umbrella organization for the Haile-Manas Academy.
The Haile-Manas Academy is opening its doors to the first incoming class of freshman in this co-educational residential boarding school in 18 months. To operate successfully, we need to raise an additional $5.5 million dollars to add to the $12.5 million that has already been committed. Why did I give? Three reasons, really.
First and foremost, I’ve personally known the founder, Rebecca Haile, for 36 years, and I have great trust in her abilities. She was a classmate of mine at Williams College, and later went to Harvard Law School, followed by a stint clerking for the 9th Circuit in the US, and a career at prestigious law firms in NYC. After that, she and her husband set up a successful mergers and acquisition firm in NYC and continue to run the business successfully. She’s a thoughtful, deliberate and strategic thinker, and she’s gone about setting up this school in that manner, using all the lessons she’s learned along her career.
To make an effort like this successful, you have to have the right team. Rebecca put together the right board to lead this effort. There are educators who run boarding schools, as well as international educational and diplomatic specialists in Africa. She’s consulting with the founding head of school of a girls’ boarding school in Rwanda. Ethiopian diaspora are board members, as well as professionals with deep and significant experience in Africa. This is the right group of leaders. Having worked with them for two years now, I know my faith was well placed. They’re putting in significant efforts to make this school a success.
In eleven trips to Ethiopia to establish this school, Rebecca’s gotten buy-in from local officials, secured $3 million worth of land donated to the school, and met the president of Ethiopia. She has deep family ties and current connections that will pave the way for the kind of communication and collaboration that lead to success.
Secondly, I supported Haile-Manas Academy realizing there was great growth and leverage potential. A philanthropic gift is an investment, and with any investment, you want one with high growth. In 2018, Ethiopia had a growth rate of 8.3%, the highest in the world, and it’s been on the list of the fastest growing economies for the past decade. With half the population of Ethiopia under the age of 18, they are about to enter their most productive work years, ensuring a future upward trend.
With philanthropy, you especially care about leveraging the most change. Plain and simple, your dollar goes further in Africa than it does in the US. Here, a comparable boarding school costs $40,000 to $50,000/year in tuition. Sponsoring a student is expensive. The Haile-Manas Academy will cost full-paying students around $7,500 (note: most students will be on full scholarship). It the US, it costs about six times as much to put up a dormitory as it does in Ethiopia. You can simply do more with less in Ethiopia, so my gift goes further.
Thirdly, I looked at my philanthropic portfolio, and I was ashamed to say, I didn’t have a significant international component. That was shameful. There isn’t a day that goes by here in Massachusetts that I don’t interact with someone born in a different nation. This is a global society and to operate effectively, we cannot afford to be insular. This was clearly the best bet for an international gift given all the factors I’ve stated above.
Put all that together and for me, making a significant gift to Ethiopia Education Initiatives to support the Haile-Manas Academy was a no-brainer.