Inspirational Woman Interview: Kat Rosqueta


Katherina M. Rosqueta is the founding executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, the only university-based center with a singular focus on philanthropy for social impact. Before accepting her appointment to launch the Center, Kat was a consultant with McKinsey & Company; a consultant to the founding team of New Schools Venture Fund; founding director of Board Match Plus, a San Francisco program dedicated to strengthening nonprofit boards; and program manager of Wells Fargo’s Corporate Community Development Group. She has held numerous civic leadership positions including board president of La Casa de las Madres (San Francisco’s oldest and largest shelter for battered women and their children), chair of the United Way’s Bay Area Week of Caring, and co-founder and executive committee member of the Women’s MBA Network. Kat received her B.A. cum laude from Yale University, and an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

You are a Founding Member and Executive Director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy (CHIP) at the University of Pennsylvania. Can you tell us about your experiences co-founding CHIP and what CHIP’s impact has been so far?

Kat Rosqueta: 10 years ago, I was on my 2nd maternity leave from McKinsey (we have 3 children) when I was approached by Rich Gelles, then Dean of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice, and the lead benefactor, a fellow Wharton alum. We all saw the same problem and opportunity: That philanthropy was not reaching its potential to achieve social impact, and we saw a way to help change that. In particular, we saw valuable knowledge not being tapped for philanthropic decision-making. That knowledge was inaccessible and silo’d. That silo’ing of useful knowledge is why I always emphasize that CHIP was founded by representatives from 2 schools that people rarely consider together – SP2, one of the country’s oldest schools of social work, and Wharton, the world’s oldest collegiate business school. Look at philanthropy’s goals – increasing educational opportunity, improving health & well being, decreasing poverty, etc. There is no one discipline or school that has the full answer to how we can achieve those goals. I knew from the beginning that CHIP’s team needed to bring multi-disciplinary training to its work.

Since then, we have developed guidance on a host of topics. That guidance has informed donors of all types – from individuals looking to make a $50  year-end gift, to professional program officers looking for new grantees that align with their foundations grant portfolios,  to ultra high net worth families and their family offices who are looking for ways to use their wealth for the greater good.  We are also teaching and coaching current and emerging philanthropic leaders, and have key partnerships with Fidelity Charitable (the largest donor advised fund) and the Giving Compass (a new effort of the Raikes Foundation). Today, CHIP remains the only university-based center with a singular focus on philanthropy for social impact?

Can you tell us about some of CHIP’s programs related to education and women’s issues?

Kat Rosqueta:

  • Educating the next generation of philanthropic and social impact leaders: Our university home has always offered the opportunity to teach and coach students on campus. It started with undergraduate students serving as research assistants at the Center, and since then, CHIP and its team have served as a practicum placement for graduate students, launched a summer associate/fellows programs, guest lectured in related courses across the university, and launched the first of its kids social impact analysis and strategy course open to students from all 12 graduate schools at Penn and advanced undergrads ( .   In response to growing demand outside of Penn, we’ve now adapted our coursework and methodology to help philanthropic leaders outside of Penn and around the world, particularly through funder education and lifelong learning programs (
  • High Impact Philanthropic Opportunities in Education: Our very first public guidance on high impact philanthropic opportunities was ‘Pathways to Student Success’ which identified the in-school and out-of-school factors that affect students’ educational outcomes and the ways that philanthropy can smooth that path so that all children have the opportunity to succeed. It looked at factors and identified philanthropic opportunities at each phase in a child’s development as a student, from early childhood through secondary.  Since then, we have added to that guidance, including adding an early childhood donor toolkit. In this year’s annual high impact giving guide, we’ll include opportunities to reconnect teenagers and young adults to school and employment; intervention at this stage presents an exceptional opportunity to shift life trajectories and potentially break the cycle of poverty. All of this is available for free under our education guidance here:
  • Women’s Issues: This past year, our team developed The XX Factor: A Comprehensive Framework for Improving the Lives of Women and Girls. Many related frameworks (e.g., Sustainable Development Goals, Women’s Empowerment Frameworks) already existed, but none focused on how to improve the lives of the most women and girls globally. The CHIP team built on those frameworks, identifying the evidence-based indicators and strategies that we now know are needed to help women flourish globally.  It has already been used by donors interested in improving the lives of women and girls. We are now supporting efforts to adapt that framework for use by impact investors and their advisors.  That is especially exciting because it means much more money could be directed and aligned towards improving women’s lives.

You are also the Founding Director of Board Match Plus, a San Francisco program dedicated to strengthening nonprofit boards. Can you share some of your experiences with Board Match Plus, and some of your key takeaways about nonprofit practice?

Kat Rosqueta: Like CHIP, Board Match Plus was created to address a problem: Nonprofits need a diverse set of talented people to serve on their boards, but there was no mechanism to identify and support those board members. Nonprofit board members serve as fiduciaries, providing necessary governance for these organizations. They also are expected to serve as critical supporters, often providing financial support and serving as powerful advocates to other stakeholders. At the time, no one was helping match and prepare the right community members to serve as board members for the nonprofits who needed them. That’s what Board Match Plus did and continues to do. It addresses one of the critical challenges of nonprofits: Bringing more and better resources to the addressing the problems nonprofits are tackling.

Moreover, you have served as Board President of La Casa de las Madres, San Francisco’s oldest and largest shelter for battered women and their children. What were some of your most valuable experiences with La Casa de las Madres?

Kat Rosqueta: I was in my twenties when I served as board president for La Casa. At the time, La Casa had a unionized staff, we were going through contract negotiations, our talented executive director left unexpectedly due to a death in her family, and we had to decide whether to accept a large grant from a company whose business practices were known to exploit the kinds of families we served. Long before I got my MBA from Wharton, I had tough lessons in governance, management, communication, and working with a diverse set of stakeholders. It remains one of my most meaningful leadership experiences to date.

Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?

Kat Rosqueta: No woman has impacted my life more than my mother. She immigrated to the US from the Philippines with my father; worked two jobs to afford the best education for my siblings and me; lost her husband, my dad,  and youngest child suddenly in a car accident; as a single mom then sent her surviving 3 kids to college; and is one of the most active, healthy and happy 79 years olds I know. If the world could bottle her mojo, watch out!

What are your favorite books, films, websites and/or resources?

Kat Rosqueta: I am an avid reader and former English major, so favorite book is tough – there are so many! Barbara Kingsolver (Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer) because I get lost in her stories; John Le Carre, Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy because I love mysteries and spy novels and he has an incredible ear for dialogue, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth for the sweeping story and because passages so reminded me of some of my extended family that I laughed out loud. Nonfiction that I’ve recommend most: Tina Rosenberg, Join the Crowd: How Peer Pressure Can Change the World and Barry Schwartz, The Paradox of Choice

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