Scott Krase W’89 and Wendy Prager C’89 are injecting connectivity and humanity back into philanthropy.
The pair help run one2one USA Foundation, a nonprofit that matches donors directly with handpicked donees. The connections they facilitate extend far beyond a check or a scholarship. Aid recipients are encouraged to keep in touch through letters, emails, and even reunions.
This commitment to humanity, something often sanitized from business, represents a stark contrast to the duo’s previous careers. Krase, a former senior partner at an investment firm, developed a laser focus on building one2one after seeing the immediate impact of financial aid donations. Krase wanted to create a platform that incentivizes meaningful charity by allowing donors to follow their funds every step of the way. Thus, one2one was born.
Prager joined the team a little later, after running into Krase at Penn’s Engaging Minds 2016 in New York City. Some may call this encounter kismet, as she had just transitioned from the demanding, data-driven, and often impersonal world of financial law into philanthropy. Krase’s idyllic vision of a clear and customizable charity model resonated with Prager, who spends much of her free time mentoring or providing pro bono legal assistance. Together, they pair empathy with a finance-bred eye for detail.
Currently, one2one USA partners with more than 51 charities, large-scale corporations, and financial institutions to input charitable programs into their company structures. What started simply as a channel for directed and intentional giving has quickly transformed into a revolution.
I caught up with Prager, one2one’s co-executive director, to discuss the company’s foundation, expansion, and the new shape of corporate culture—one that doesn’t forgo giving for skyrocketing profit margins. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. —Beatrice Forman C’22
Can you provide a brief overview of how the one2one matching process works?
One2one USA connects individuals directly with those most in need. Donors come to us with a cause in mind, a person they’d like to help, or just a global desire to help needy people. When a donor funds an amount to one2one establishing a program in a certain area of interest, our team immediately begins a search to obtain a suitable pool of donees through our trusted partners and targeted research. Once a match is made, one2one uses the funds to assist the donee directly, either by paying a service provider, like a school, or by making purchases for them, like buying a prosthetic. The donees are incredibly grateful, staying connected with their donors through one2one with more than just thank-you notes.
What was the first charity that partnered with one2one? How did their support shape the vision of the organization?
In my attempt to switch careers from law to the world of philanthropy, I joined a board committee at New Jersey SEEDS. Given my familiarity with them, they became one of our first partners, especially since education would be important to our donor base. They’re the perfect partner because they have firsthand knowledge about the merit and neediness of each scholar and information from universities about the gap in funding necessary to attend their scholar’s desired school. In the past year, one2one has provided gap funding for seven New Jersey SEEDS scholars.
This was pivotal in the beginning stages of one2one when we were concerned about scaling. New Jersey SEEDs helped established a trusted partner network, and now, our partners run the gamut from charities to service providers. Currently, we work with existing infrastructures, like New Jersey SEEDS or a New Hampshire opioid program, to help them achieve their own mission when they have gaps in funding or to assist everyone they connect with.
Why do you feel making a more direct relationship between donor and donee improves the giving experience?
From experience, we noticed personal connections between donors and donees can be wholly life-changing. One2one has never been about limiting the money donated to typical nonprofits. Rather, it’s about providing an additional means of personalized charitable giving—one that connects people to each other in a meaningful way. This connection incentivizes more giving and more communication with the donor’s inner circle about how the experience has touched them. Donors no longer need to set up their own charity or family office. They can utilize one2one to establish a curated program and engage their loved ones in the selection process.
What is the most challenging part of the process and how has working through it helped one2one grow?
The most challenging part of the “matching” process was scaling the work needed to assist individual donors to customize their experiences. When we implemented our partnership network with companies like HBO, this helped significantly. When HBO came to one2one as our first corporate donor in 2018, we recognized that our model was tailored to corporate philanthropy.
HBO sought employee engagement following a rash of California wildfires. In less than a month, one2one developed and completed the program, which eventually included a separate youth initiative. Through strategic partnerships and other due diligence, one2one provided HBO with compelling donee stories, guiding them through the application process. In the end, we helped the HBO team fund six individuals, providing them with personal anecdotes from the donees so their employees can see their impact.
How did backgrounds in investment banking and law help establish one2one? In what ways is working in the financial sector different from working at a nonprofit?
My background as a hedge fund and private equity attorney helped me look at the start-up process of one2one more critically. While we were infatuated with aiding others, we used our past experiences to revolutionize charitable giving. Scott, Gardenia [Cucci]—my co-executive director—the team, and I spent a lot of time adjusting our model to adapt to the various challenges of being a start-up nonprofit.
Nonprofit work differs vastly from what both Scott and I used to do. The ultimate goal of one2one is to merely do more charity, not yield profits. The kernel of our mission is to spread kindness, above all else. This specifically resonates in the corporate sector, as companies consistently struggle with engagement, ethics, and competition.
With this in mind, what advice would you give to someone looking to make the transition from the private sector to working in philanthropy?
My advice would be to attend events and to join organizations and groups in your area of interest. Network with people and try to join a nonprofit board to learn more about the inner workings of philanthropy. In addition, for me, using the incredibly widespread and diverse Penn network has been invaluable both for allowing me to transition my career by putting me back in touch with an old college friend, as well as for reaching out to prospective donors and partners.
By the end of 2018, we recognized that one2one is poised to be an amazing resource for financial advisors as they try to incorporate profound charitable experiences into corporations to create a new “culture of giving.” We are incredibly excited to implement our model and have found ways to ensure that the experience can be customized and personal as we expand.
Over time, one2one hopes to be a part of everyone’s “charitable portfolio” and inspire more giving. We believe that donors will always support big causes and favorite organizations but also remain part of one2one’s compelling stories.