The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

One nonprofit organization might be getting a $100,000 bonus for its exceptional social impact work in the near future.

Last week, three social impact organizations — iDE, MedShare and KOMAZA — were named finalists of the inaugural Lipman Family Prize. They were honored for their contributions to social impact, innovation and leadership.

The winner will receive $100,000 to further develop their organization and all three finalists will be part of a one-year knowledge partnership with the University, which will allow for potential collaboration on resources, faculty and research.

“My vision for the prize is to make social impact organizations better through competition,” said Barry Lipman, a 1970 Wharton graduate and founder of the prize. “We are looking for innovation, great impact and whether what these organizations are doing is transferable for other organizations to learn from.”

Wanting to make an impact in philanthropy, Lipman realized a competitive cash prize was the best way to motivate social impact organizations to improve.

Lipman said he spontaneously decided to partner with Penn. “I just woke up in the middle of the night, at four in the morning, and thought, what about Penn?”

The Wharton Leadership Program led the process, but choosing finalists involved students, faculty and members from all four of Penn’s schools.

Students did the bulk of the research on applicant organizations. “We wanted to engage students in the social impact arena,” said Kate FitzGerald, the Wharton Leadership Program’s senior associate director of marketing . “We were interested in developing [student] leaders as part of our commitment to the social impact space.”

The selection committee received 290 applications, an unexpectedly large volume. The committee selected the finalists for their representation of the Lipman ideal of leadership and innovation in the social sector, said Umi Howard, the director of the Lipman Family Prize.

One finalist, KOMAZA, is a nonprofit organization focused on introducing tree farming to Kenyan farmers.

KOMAZA, which means “to promote development and encourage growth” in Swahili, helps underprivileged farmers become part of a larger, more profitable industry through ‘micro-forestry.’ In this new business model, farmers plant their own small tree farms and profit from the wood products they generate. The trees provides them with a sustainable source of income.

Tree farming is the ideal source of income for the farmers because it requires very little labor but yields a high profit per acre per year.

The model is both effective and environmentally sustainable, turning the farmers into entrepreneurs, said KOMAZA founder Tevis Howard. “We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel,” he said, “we’re finding the bright spot of potential that already exists and making it available to everybody.”

iDE, another finalist, shares that same vision. “[Its] main inspiration is to fight poverty at the grassroots level,” said Andrew Vermouth, iDE’s director of marketing and communications. “We’re interested in finding the best way to bring people out of poverty — not through aid, but through creating opportunities.”

iDE’s two current main projects are in agriculture. One works to create food security for small farmers in West Africa and the other to manufacture latrines in Cambodia.

Vermouth said a prevalent challenge iDE faces is being aware of the unique situations underprivileged people are in. “Even after nearly 30 years, we are still approaching each situation with assumptions from previous work that failed. We are still relearning and applying throughout time.”

MedShare, the third finalist, ships over $100 million worth of medical supplies and equipment to 88 countries all over the world. It is dedicated to recovering and redistributing surplus medical equipment in support of underserved health care facilities.

“We’ve saved countless lives and over two million cubic feet of landfill space in the U.S.,” said MedShare CEO and President Meredith Rentz.

Founded in 1998, Medshare has been nominated for numerous environmental and social awards for their contribution to the health care needs of underserved populations around the world and their efforts to address the environmental threat of discarded medical supplies and equipment.

“With the support of world-class institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School, MedShare can continue to persue geographic and programmatic expansion that will enable us to take our recovery and redistribution model to scale, resulting in even greater social impact,” said Rentz.

The winner will be announced during a ceremony and conference held in April.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.