10 Impactful Lessons and Insights from 2020


This year has been one of the most challenging in recent memory. The rise of a global pandemic resulted in millions of people struggling to meet basic needs. The causes and consequences of racial injustice in America continue to be laid bare. Organizations are scrambling to find new ways to meet the needs of those they serve. The quality of student education—particularly for those at the margins—is at stake. And during this time of unprecedented political polarization, our ability to truly listen to one another and engage in nuanced conversations feels like a rarity.

These difficulties have required daily innovation and learning in real-time. By meeting these challenges head-on, our staff and partners on the ground developed effective solutions and learned important lessons that shaped their work. Along the way, they shared their insights and perspectives on our blog with the hope that you can apply these lessons to your own work.

While the road ahead is tough, we can use this moment to learn from one another and remain open to new ideas and opportunities for improvement. Doing so will not only help us emerge from the current crises, but keep us on the road to creating lasting, impactful change. As you plan ahead for 2021, here are 10 key ideas and lessons we shared over the past year.

1. Why We Went to Alabama
By Stacy Schusterman, Chair, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

In 2019, our executive leadership brought our staff of nearly 100 people to Alabama as part of a long-term exploration of the legacy of systemic racism and its impact today. Hear directly from Stacy Schusterman about the intention behind this journey and how this trip affects our work moving forward.

2. Direct Giving: Supporting Struggling Americans Amid Historic Pandemic
By Team Schusterman

The impact of COVID-19, particularly on marginalized populations, required funders to explore new approaches to traditional grantmaking. Learn why we embraced a new philanthropic approach: providing direct cash assistance to those who need it most.

3. How We Collect Data Determines Whose Voice Is Heard
By Rella Kaplowitz, Senior Program Officer and Jasmine Laroche, Program Associate, Evaluation and Learning, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

Many organizations fall short of collecting data in ways that ensure historically excluded communities are appropriately represented. In an effort to fill this gap, we published a guide to help organizations collect demographic data in a more equitable and inclusive way. Get a summary of our guide and learn how you and your organization can start implementing these best practices. 

4. Standing Up for Gender Equity in the Time of COVID-19
By Lisa Eisen, Co-President, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

Through the pandemic, women have been simultaneously fighting disparities on the home front while facing increased pressure and expectations in the workplace. This piece highlights the current state of gender equity across the U.S., as well as an overview of current efforts to tackle the challenges women face.    

5. Our Kids Are Living Through Active Learning. Schools Need to Catch Up
By Julie Mikuta, Co-President, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

Since the rise of the coronavirus, much of the dialogue in the U.S. has centered on how and when to reopen schools. But there’s another conversation we need to have: how to ensure our education system reflects the lived realities of our students as they drive and shape the tectonic shifts taking place in our society. Read more about how school leaders can ensure the classroom experience mirrors what students are learning outside of the classroom

6. Behind the Scenes of Israel Story: The Podcast Changing the Conversation about Israel 
By Rachel Sacks, Communications Associate, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

“The way to get people engaged with or interested in Israel is to complicate the message rather than simplify it.” That’s what Mishy Harman, Israel Story host and co-founder, shared at the conclusion of the fourth season of the award-winning podcast. Get an insider’s look at this groundbreaking show and find out what makes Israel Story stand out from the coverage of Israel we often see in the news

7. Moving Forward From Crisis: Strengthening Jewish Communities During COVID-19
By Lisa Eisen, Co-President, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

The pandemic has brought suffering on a massive scale in the Jewish community and beyond. Yet the current moment presents new opportunities to reimagine how the Jewish community can provide sustainable opportunities that are relevant, meaningful and inclusive for all. Read about four ways the Jewish community can reach more people with more impact during this crisis and for the long-haul.

 8. From Awkward to Awesome: 5 Tips for Creating Effective Online Experiences
By Rella Kaplowitz, Senior Program Officer of Evaluation and Learning, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

We are deep into an unforeseen season of virtual events. By now, we know that truly awesome online engagement opportunities are possible. But we also know that they don’t just happen—impactful virtual events are crafted intentionally, with key ingredients that set them apart. That’s why we want to make sure you have the best practices for creating great virtual events at your fingertips, based on our latest Virtual Engagement Research.

 9. “No” Is Just a Hurdle: Insights for Entrepreneurs of Color
Featuring Heather Harding, Senior Director of Education Grantmaking and Cheryl Thompson, Director of Education Grantmaking, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

As hard it is to break into the philanthropic world, a compelling vision and straightforward strategy will go a long way. That’s just one piece of advice that Heather Harding and Cheryl Thompson, leaders of our Education Grantmaking portfolio, shared with Camelback Ventures, an accelerator for early-stage underrepresented entrepreneurs. Don’t miss the rest of Heather and Cheryl’s tips drawn from their own experiences for how entrepreneurs of color can find success.

10. Meet Two Women Leading the Way on Gender Equity
Featuring Margaret Hempel, Executive Director of the Collaborative for Gender + Reproductive Equity and Elana Wien, Executive Director of the Safety Respect Equity Network

Margaret Hempel leads the Collaborative for Gender + Reproductive Equity, a $100M impact strategy to reshape the national landscape of gender and reproductive equity, especially for low-income women, women of color, and trans and gender non-conforming people. Elana Wien is the inaugural Executive Director of the Safety Respect Equity Network, a network of Jewish organizations committed to shaping safe, equitable and respectful Jewish workplaces and communal spaces. Read an exclusive interview with these two remarkable leaders charting the path toward gender equity.

Our lessons and learnings aren’t limited to 2020. Grow your skill-base with 10 expert insights from 2019.

Rachel Sacks is a Communications Associate at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.