Student Perspective: Launching a Nonprofit with the Cohort’s Help

“One percent of the developed world’s income could eliminate the leading causes of preventable death in the developing world,” contended Josh McCann during a Wharton persuasive speaking class.

My classmate, a Wharton MBA student, was trying to convince professionals to donate 1% of their income to fight extreme poverty and was using our class assignment to practice his pitch. Listening to his speech, I was captivated. The 1% figure stuck with me. It was a small enough sum to never be missed, but large enough to save lives.

After class, I approached Josh and asked if I could help and soon a partnership was formed.

Together, we co-founded One for the World, an initiative that encourages Wharton MBA’s and alumni to donate 1% of their income to nonprofit organizations that provide basic health care, water sanitation, and food to people living on less than $1.25 per day in the developing world.

“We believe that no one should die from dirty water, mosquito bites, or other deadly problems with known solutions, and this basic premise drove our entire mission.”

Just shy of officially launching, we have already enjoyed tremendous success that would have been impossible if we had launched this movement outside of Wharton.

Management professor and Wharton Social Impact Initiative Vice Dean Katherine Klein advised us as part of an independent study project – connecting us with her enormous network and helping us think through the fundamentals of our giving model.  We drew on the talents of our classmates to round out our founding team, collaborating with former marketers, finance experts, and non-profit managers. We received priceless advice on launch strategy and brand positioning from seasoned professors like Americus Reed. We also accepted legal counselling through Wharton contacts and selected our partner charities by partnering with Penn’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP).

Perhaps most importantly, we have a community to bolster and build on our idea.  A nonprofit like ours requires scale to succeed. Our classmates have already provided strategic guidance and given passionate commitments to our cause, especially because our charity selection process is grounded in the analytical rigor that fuels Wharton.

Kate Epstein headshot
Kate Epstein, WG’14, has a background in marketing and worked in advertising prior to Wharton. She believes that effective marketing campaigns can dramatically change donor behavior.   

Josh LEK HeadshotJosh McCann, WG’14, has a background in international development having worked for the World Bank, Innovations for Poverty Action and TechnoServe in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia. He is passionate about the efficacy of aid and finding the best implementing partners for One for the World.