Ceramicist practices philanthropy, too

Posted by: Michele Cohen

Shannon Jones received a scholarship to attend last month’s TEDxPhiladelphia, a daylong multidisciplinary conference championing great ideas and bringing together engaging speakers to examine the 2014 conference theme “The New Workshop of the World.”

One of the reasons she wanted to attend the conference was to hear a TED Talk by Katherina “Kat” Rosqueta, founding executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy. High impact philanthropy is the practice of philanthropy with the intention of maximizing social good.

Jones, a sophomore Fine Arts major, is already practicing a version of high impact philanthropy on her own through, a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. “The basic mechanics of it is you find someone who is asking for a loan to help their business or to start a business, usually in developing countries,” Jones said.  “You give them a small amount of money, then other people give them money, and they eventually have enough money for their loan. They implement their business plan and then pay the money back. When you get your money back, you can loan it out again to someone else.”

Jones typically lends about $25 at a time. She has made seven loans since last year – or given about $175 – primarily to struggling artists whose stories she connected with. She lent to a woman in Pakistan who needed money for fabric, tissue paper, glue and wire to make and sell flowers. She also gave money to a man in Mexico who builds sculptures out of metal scraps and needed to purchase raw materials.

“You go to the ‘lend’ tab and it pulls up stories of people who need money for their loans,” Jones said. “You can search for something in the arts or by gender, or for an individual or a group that needs a loan. They are all vetted through Kiva, with a loan repayment rate of over 98 percent. I’ve always gotten paid back.”

“I was excited about the site because I don’t have $100 to donate to charity, and this way I have donated a small amount of money, but it keeps coming back to me so I can donate again,” Jones said. “It makes you feel good. It’s nice to think about helping others.”

Jones, who hails from Arizona, said she learned about Moore through a recruiter who came to her high school. “I like Moore because of the small community,” she said. “I went to a large high school where there were some people I had never seen before graduating next to me. I like that we are a small school. I also like that we’re in Center City. We may be an all-women’s campus, but we certainly don’t exist in a vacuum. There’s a lot going on around us.”

Photo: 2014 Thom Carroll Photography