Philanthropy at Penn Charter is thriving. It thrives because it engages a large and representative cross-section of the community. It thrives because through the How Far? campaign thousands of past and current parents, faculty and staff, and OPCs across generations have taken part in transforming our school. In this past decade, more than 4,700 individuals have stepped forward to make nearly 30,000 gifts.
Why Does it Matter?
“We believe that every gift matters,” explained William F. MacDonald Jr. OPC ’62, P ’05, co-chair of the How Far? campaign, “This understanding is helping more OPCs and parents recognize that the Annual Fund supports excellence and innovation every year in the here and now, and it must continue to do so after the campaign closes.” Throughout the How Far? years, the growth in annual giving has been fostered by greater donor education, cultivation and stewardship. New ways to participate have appealed to the wide audience that is the Penn Charter family, including those who differ in age, career stage, motivation, connections and capacity. Great Day to Be a Quaker, an interactive day of giving instituted in 2016, has inspired annual giving every year since then—not to mention bringing us together around all that we love about PC.
As illustrated in the chart below, Annual Fund support of Penn Charter has grown 61 percent since the campaign began in 2013, and the total for the fund increased from $1.1 million to $1.8 million for 2021-2022. In addition, though PC had no $50,000 Annual Fund donors at the start of the campaign, we now have seven. That is the power of philanthropy. That is the power of community.
A Decade of Growth
The Penn Charter Annual Fund supports all students, all faculty and all programs every day of the year, and it is stronger today than in 2013, when school leaders and key donors created the How Far? campaign. That growth translates to increased financial sustainability, a key goal of the Strategic Vision and an integral component of the school’s continued success.
Every gift to Penn Charter lights the way forward. Together, we find joy in supporting educational excellence and sending into the world graduates prepared to live lives that make a difference. The following testimonials illustrate how donors who share a commitment to Penn Charter have found ways to express gratitude while supporting their individual priorities and passions.
Making Their Best Gift
Penn Charter parents Reshma Rangwala and Benjamin Wilkins, already leadership donors to the Annual Fund, increased their recent gift in response to Penn Charter’s Make Your Best Gift appeal during this last year of the How Far? Campaign.
Their “best gift” reflects gratitude for Penn Charter’s exceptional effort and execution during the pandemic, which began in 2020, when their son, Ramzi, was in fourth grade. “
We were aware of the struggles other schools had in maintaining in-person education and have been very grateful for what Penn Charter was able to provide despite the challenges,” Rangwala said. “I applaud the school as a whole, the leadership team, and obviously the teachers who made it possible for learning to continue.”
As scientists and physicians, the couple welcomed the “pragmatic and data-driven” approach Penn Charter used to create an environment in which the risk of Covid-19 was minimized and students were able not only to learn but to socialize and maintain relationships.
“Ramzi is an only child, and during Covid the school environment served as one of the few organizing elements in his entire life,” Rangwala said. “Ben and I are grateful he was in an environment where he was protected but still thrived emotionally, socially, academically and physically.”
Ramzi is now in seventh grade, and his parents see an array of opportunities before him. “We are learning what Penn Charter has to offer through him,” she said, “and the opportunities at school are vast.”
Taking the Lead
Established in 2014, the William Penn Society recognizes leadership gifts to the Annual Fund, with giving levels named for leaders and milestones in school history. Several of the levels have grown significantly during the How Far? campaign.
An Intentional and Pragmatic Gift
In 2016, when Sue Brennan OPC ’04 transitioned from teaching to fundraising at Swarthmore College, she mapped a plan for her personal philanthropy that included Penn Charter. Brennan came to PC in ninth grade from a school that prized rote learning and memorization, and Penn Charter opened her eyes to inequities in education. “My Penn Charter education focused on critical thinking and values,” Brennan said. “It challenged me and shaped me as a person. My giving is a celebration of how much that means to me.”
Brennan directs her Annual Fund gift to the Grace Fund, which provides assistance to financial aid recipients who cannot afford the extra costs of a PC education. The designation of her gift has special meaning because Brennan received financial aid. “The cost of things like field trips, shoes required for a sports team—these can make students feel very othered,” Brennan said. “Having a fund that makes it possible for students to live in the opportunity without feeling this inequity is powerful.” Brennan, who describes her giving as pragmatic, decided a “recurring gift” was a reliable way to follow through on her intention to give: Penn Charter divides the amount of her annual gift into smaller monthly payments and bills her credit card each month. “I never have to wonder in June if I remembered to send in a yellow envelope,” she said, “and thinking of my gifts in smaller monthly amounts allows me to imagine how I can have a greater impact annually.”
It Takes a Village
Brendan McNally OPC ’06 recalls the teachers, administrators, coaches, students and families who welcomed him from the beginning and throughout his two years at Penn Charter.
“There are so many names to list, so many people who took an interest in me, took a bet on me,” he recalled. McNally enrolled for his junior year and traveled to PC from Downingtown—no easy feat, especially before he had a driver’s license. But people pulled together to help with the commuting, and families invited him to spend the night in bad weather or when a sporting event ended late. “I think of the sacrifices my parents made and also the support I received from the entire Penn Charter community—it took a village.”
McNally credits faculty for teaching him to think critically and accept differing opinions, and his coaches and teammates for helping him develop a strong work ethic and leadership skills. Welcomed himself, he was aware of a “culture of acceptance” that opened students’ eyes to different peoples and worldviews. “I wish all students had the opportunity to learn in an environment like Penn Charter,” he said.
McNally has made a career in commercial real estate finance and is newly married and living with his wife, Caroline, in Greenwich, Conn. He believes his Penn Charter education “opened doors of opportunity to help me achieve my potential.”
Years ago, when McNally was first asked if he would make a gift to Penn Charter’s Annual Fund, the answer was easy: He gave a generous gift for a young OPC and continues as one of PC’s youngest leadership donors.
“I’m so appreciative that I had the opportunity to attend Penn Charter,” McNally said, “and if a gift from me can help someone else have that same opportunity, I find that extremely fulfilling.”
“... the Annual Fund supports excellence and innovation every year in the here and now, and it must continue to do so after the campaign closes.”
Gratitude and Goodwill
Alexis Lo OPC ’12 served as a student representative of the group that helped develop the Strategic Vision that has guided a decade of exciting curricular innovation and, financed by the How Far? campaign, the transformation of our campus.
Her time is at a premium now—Lo is in her third year as a resident doctor in a demanding, six-year plastic surgery residency at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center—but she remains active as an OPC and was excited last year to tour campus.
What struck her about the new Graham Athletics & Wellness Center was the idea of balance and wholeness. “We now have more spaces for academics, an amazing arts center, plus a new athletics and wellness center—and they are all connected, not isolated from one another. I thought that was awesome and reflected that PC is an incredible school committed to helping students grow as well-rounded individuals.”
Lo said she tries to assist Penn Charter when possible by helping with OPC reunions, volunteering with the Senior Comprehensive Project, and supporting the Annual Fund and How Far? campaign. She has been a member of the Clock Tower Society, a giving society established in 2016 for OPCs within 10 years of graduation. OPCs 0-5 years from graduation lead with a gift of $16.89 or more, annually. OPCs 6-10 years from graduation lead with a gift of $168.90 or more, annually.
“Penn Charter’s Annual Giving is a convenient way for younger OPCs to stay engaged with Penn Charter and to feel connected to the community,” she explained. And it’s another way to give back. “The school was crucial in helping me grow as a person, which is why, any time I see something from Penn Charter, my first gut reaction is one of gratitude and goodwill. Anything I can do to give back to a school that helped create who I am today, of course, I’ll do it!”