Denny Sanford donates $28 million to education, philanthropy programs

Denny Sanford

Denny Sanford has donated $28 million to further education and philanthropy programs connected to three South Dakota universities.

Sanford made the donation Tuesday to the California-based private nonprofit National University System to support its role in leading national adoption of three initiatives: Sanford Harmony, Sanford Inspire and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy.

The three Sanford education programs are research-based and designed to address critical needs in teacher education, preK-12 instruction and nonprofit fundraising.

It’s the largest donation ever received by the National University System and supports the following programs:

  • Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, a program launched at Augustana University to train nonprofits to increase their fundraising capability and better impact society.
  • Sanford Harmony, a social emotional learning program for students in grades kindergarten through sixth. The program is in various stages of implementation in 126 schools, including more than 7,000 students, and involves a national collaborative of universities that includes SDSU and USD.
  • Sanford Inspire, a movement and a resource to help preK-12 teachers create inspiring classrooms for students. With new resources being developed monthly, the Sanford Inspire program offers 60 video training modules developed in collaboration with Arizona State University. SDSU is directly involved in developing the initiative in South Dakota.

“We’re dramatically excited about these programs and the difference they are making in the education world, which will affect the entire world,” Sanford said.

More than 500,000 students from coast to coast are being reached through phased implementation of Harmony and Inspire.

The Sanford Institute of Philanthropy has directly impacted more than 12,000 frontline nonprofit fundraisers. The research and development was done at National University, and Augustana was the first to offer the training. It’s being expanded to a national network of affiliated institutes at universities nationwide including John F. Kennedy University, and City University of Seattle, both affiliates of the National University System.

“It is absolutely taking off,” Sanford said. “One of the greatest spots is Augustana. They’re offering it exclusively in eastern south Dakota and have put thousands of people through that. It’s meant for adults working with or as part of nonprofit organizations, so Augie has done a great job. Just a marvelous job. We’re excited about what’s happening in South Dakota.”

Thanks to Sanford’s philanthropy, the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy at Augustana University, in collaboration with the South Dakota Association of Fundraising Professionals recently launched a series of free, online professional development videos designed for fundraising professionals.

“Today’s announcement of Denny’s additional support for educational programs is another illustration of his belief in the human spirit. Denny knows and understands that in order to truly create change, we need to provide change-makers with the right tools and resources at the right times, in the right places. His vision is inspiring and Augustana University is simply honored to be a partner in these exciting endeavors,” said Dr. Pam Homan, executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Augustana University.

The goal with Harmony is to ultimately reduce divorce and abuse rates by promoting inclusiveness and anti-bullying at an early age. Early research showed a nearly 9 percent drop in class disruption in one of the nation’s largest school districts – Clark School District in Nevada.

Inspire is taught at SDSU but available through video lessons to teachers anywhere.

“Teachers absolutely love them,” Sanford said. “They’re all exciting programs.”

Both Harmony and Inspire are offered to schools and teachers for free.

In addition to continuing to support the programs, Sanford’s latest donation will fund continued research into the efficacy of the programs as well as 45 ambassador positions. The ambassadors will travel the country helping implement the programs with schools and universities.

“We’re very excited about this wonderful gift and thankful to Denny for his generosity,” said Dr. Michael Cunningham, chancellor of the National University System.

“When you start programs like this you don’t know how they will take off, and we did not expect the wonderful results we’re having. We can’t keep up with demand. And this wonderful gift will help us get into more classrooms. Our commitment is to be in every school in the U.S. and beyond.”

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Denny Sanford donates $28 million to education, philanthropy programs

Denny Sanford is donating $28 million to further education and philanthropy programs connected to three South Dakota universities.

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