Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Norma T. Mertz

Committee Members

Pamela A. Angelle, Karen D. Boyd, Patricia K. Freeland


More than $500 billion of funding went to public education in 2005 to support educational programming and instruction. At the same time, some of the most prominent, nationally-organized private foundations have sought to influence education by using high-leverage venture philanthropy grants. However, little research has been done to assess whether more local foundations have been following the lead of these national foundations with regards to increasing investments through high-leverage venture philanthropy to education. Being closer to local educational policy makers, the local foundations have great potential influence on local education.The purpose of this study is to analyze the philanthropic investments of local education foundations in Tennessee in order to identify if a shift toward high-leverage investments has taken place in their giving, as it has nationally, and, if such changes were present, to assess what models and programs those HLVP investments supported.This study utilized a quantitative study to collect historical documents about and survey data from local educational foundations about their granting trends. The study was a replication of previous national studies and focused on the top 15 private foundations giving to education in the state of Tennessee. First, IRS 990PF filings were analyzed from the cross sectional years of 2005, 2010, and 2015, and each grant to educational initiatives was coded according to Greene’s (2005) taxonomy of high-leverage giving. Additionally, survey data from four participating foundation executive directors was used to triangulate with the historical documents to determine consistency between the recorded data and the espoused data.The key findings of the study include the following: (1) though high-leverage venture philanthropy was steady for all of the 15 foundations studied, a “top three” foundations emerged similar to national studies and had steadily shifted educational funding to more high-leverage initiatives, (2) educational support directly to public educational models has dramatically reduced over the decade of study, and (3) the popular choice for giving in a high-leverage manner is to give to external models of education which could be competing with public education.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."