There's a saying in Washington that you should "never waste a crisis."
At The Motley Fool, we are taking last year's financial crisis as a call to fulfill the "educate" part of our mission statement. And so today we are excited to kick off the 13th year of our Foolanthropy program.
Over the first 12 years of Foolanthropy, you -- members of the Fool community -- have helped us raise more than $3 million for a wide range of deserving charities. This year, we have hand-picked an incredible partner right here in our backyard: Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School.
We are "adopting" Thurgood Marshall Academy, which is located just 20 minutes from Fool HQ in one of Washington, D.C.'s most impoverished neighborhoods.
It is a remarkable school, serving nearly 400 students from low-income communities in which high school and college graduation rates are the lowest in the city and among the lowest in the nation. The school's mission is to prepare students to succeed in college, and it's doing impressive work -- its first five graduating classes have a 100% college acceptance rate.
Thurgood students have achieved test scores three times higher than the scores of students from neighboring public high schools. And taking a page from the business world, the school uses a benchmark assessment system that allows teachers to make data-driven decisions.
How Foolish. It's no wonder the school was recently nominated for the Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Schools Program.
Focus on financial literacy
We will begin our campaign pledge to support Thurgood students and teachers today. (To find out more about the school, and how to contribute, click here.)
Foolanthropy 2009 will also have an emphasis on volunteerism. In researching this year's campaign, it did not surprise us to find that in 2008, charitable giving suffered its largest drop in four decades. So throughout the next year, Fool employees will be volunteering their time at Thurgood by offering seminars and other financial-preparedness workshops to students and their parents.
There's a Chinese proverb that goes, "If the roots are not removed during weeding, the weeds will grow again when the winds of spring blow."
And we believe that the best way to tackle the root problem of financial illiteracy is to educate -- and educate early. The research certainly suggests that it will take a grassroots movement to effect change. A 2008 survey by Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW ) revealed that only 34% of parents taught their teenagers how to balance a checkbook. Only 29% managed to explain the basics of credit card interest and fees.
How to get involved
We're asking for your help with Foolanthropy in three key ways:
1. Donate. Make a tax-deductible monetary contribution and help an innovative school serving an underprivileged community. Just click here to help. Over the coming months, we will report here on Fool.com the changes our community helped bring about.
2. Make noise on Fool.com. For every article comment, blog post, blog comment, and discussion board post from today until Jan. 8, 2010, The Motley Fool will donate $0.10 to Thurgood Marshall Academy (up to $20,000). Make your voice heard -- early and often!
3. Volunteer. Spend some time helping out a local school, a friend or relative, or an organization focused on educating kids about all matters financial (Jump$tart, Junior Achievement, NCEE, or Operation Hope, to name a few).
The goal is impact. There are plenty of generous corporate donors in this area, including Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM ) ; The Washington Post (NYSE: WPO ) ; GEICO, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B ) ; Marriott International (NYSE: MAR ) ; Pepco Holdings (NYSE: POM ) ; and General Dynamics (NYSE: GD ) .
Those organizations make an impact in their philanthropy, and we believe our community-level approach can make an impact, too -- and we hope you'll join our campaign. With an innovative, deserving partner in Thurgood, we're focusing our efforts where Fools can make a real difference.
In fact, you can start right now by posting a comment in the comments section below. As Henry David Thoreau wrote, "One is not born into the world to do everything, but to do something."
Wishing you and your families a safe, happy, and Foolish Thanksgiving,
Tom Gardner and Marthe LaRosiliere
Neither Tom nor Marthe owns shares of any companies mentioned. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire and Schwab are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Berkshire is also an Inside Value pick. Read up on the Fool's disclosure policy here.