News & Features


A Venture Philanthropy Endeavor: Equal Opportunity Schools &
The Margoes Foundation

In 2011, the board members of the Margoes Foundation began to explore new ways to leverage their giving for maximum impact. They were inspired by the work of venture philanthropists and decided to implement their own venture philanthropy program (in addition to their traditional grantmaking areas).  Venture philanthropy, based on the business concept of venture capital, aims to build a long-term relationship between a funder and a nonprofit in order to build the capacity of the nonprofit. As a result, the Margoes Foundation decided to invest a three-year grant in an early stage nonprofit that works to improve college preparation, access, and success for disadvantaged students. The Margoes Foundation invited interested applicants to submit business plans and after a rigorous selection process decided to invest in Equal Opportunity Schools.

Founded in 2010, Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) partners with schools and school districts to find who EOS terms, “missing students” and enroll them in their schools’ Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) college preparation classes. “Missing students” are students, often minorities or from low-income families, who possess the aptitude to succeed in advanced courses like AP and IB, but are not enrolled because they are often overlooked by their school system. Currently, EOS has targeted its efforts in schools throughout the Bay Area, Seattle Area, and Mid-Atlantic regions. To date, EOS has identified over 3,900 “missing students” and upgraded them to classes that fit their ability level. The theory of EOS is based on the belief that when these students take more rigorous classes, they will be more likely to succeed in and graduate from high school and college.

Jodeci, a student impacted by EOS, explains how enrolling in AP classes changed his life.

EOS was a solid match for the Margoes Foundation venture philanthropy program because EOS is an early stage nonprofit with capable leadership, plans for growth, and a compelling theory of change. The executive director of EOS, Reid Saaris, received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, and an MBA and Masters of Education from Stanford. He developed the idea for EOS while teaching in rural South Carolina. While there, he became aware of many students who were enrolled in classes below their ability level. He began enrolling these students in the school’s AP and IB classes. Seeing the success of this simple and inexpensive intervention inspired the EOS model.

EOS has a bold expansion goal to, “close race and income enrollment gaps in AP and IB classes in America’s public schools within a decade by upgrading at least two-thirds of a million low-income students and students of color to advanced academic levels.” These plans for growth are backed by proven successes. After EOS partnered with the San Jose Unified School District, minority student participation in AP courses increased from 522 to 800 students and low-income student participation increased from 381 to 616 students. Despite the dramatic increase in participation within these groups, the AP pass rate data showed no deterioration in the number of students succeeding on college-aligned AP exams. Thus, the work of EOS in San Jose prepared hundreds of minority and low-income students for college simply by changing which courses they were taking.

Two educators describe how EOS improved their schools.

As part of the venture philanthropy model, the Margoes Foundation meets regularly with EOS staff to evaluate completion of goals and milestones. Additionally, the foundation wants its long-term early-stage support to signal its confidence in the leadership and theory of change at EOS. The foundation’s aim is to help EOS attract additional funding early on and allow them to capitalize on growth opportunities.

Check out the Equal Opportunity Schools website to learn more about what they do.