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President's Message - August 2017

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Dear Colleagues, 

As I watch the news—from yesterday’s DACA announcement, to the ongoing hurricane recovery efforts in Texas, to the continuing impact of Charlottesville—I’m filled with renewed resolve. Seeing neighbors helping neighbors and strangers alike in Texas gives me reason to hope that we can as a society live up to the promise of the American ideal that all men (and women) are created equal. Like all of you, I was appalled by the racism-fueled violence perpetuated by the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and similar groups that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia this past month. That's why, in response to Charlottesville, I joined the leaders of Northern California Grantmakers and San Diego Grantmakers in condemning hatred, embracing diversity, and working toward just communities across the country. You can read our message, along with statements from national philanthropy leaders and a compilation of resources and action steps for funders, here. Then just yesterday, our three associations joined together again to stand against the administration’s DACA decision, as you can read in our statement . 

Many of us wanted to believe that the forces of racism and hatred in American culture had weakened and died out long ago. Charlottesville was a stark reminder that this is not the case, and that philanthropy has its work cut out for itself to speak up, speak out, and take action right now against all forms of intolerance and violence. As ordinary people in Texas are showing in their response to the tragic flooding, we can treat each other with respect and dignity. This gives me hope, but hope doesn’t mean that we close our eyes or stay quiet. And California, where we pride ourselves on having an incredible array of diverse communities, is not immune. This year, Southern Poverty Law Center shared that our state ranks number one in hate groups in the nation, with a shocking 79 active hate groups. Now more than ever, the philanthropy community needs to be creative, collaborative, and brave.

I hope you will join us at the Annual Conference on September 26 to think broadly about how your work can help build a more just, equitable world. You can also join a livestream of Northern California Grantmakers' September 12 program on fighting intolerance. Please continue reading below for more on the conference and other learning opportunities and news from the SCG community. 

Philanthropy California (an initiative of Northern California Grantmakers, San Diego Grantmakers, and Southern California Grantmakers) joins our partners in philanthropy, advocates, and immigrant communities in standing against yesterday's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The decision to rescind DACA threatens the well-being of thousands of our young people who have relied on this program for safety and stability. California alone has over 200,000 DACA recipients – more than any other state. To learn more about what you can do, join the webinar Dreams in Limbo: A Look at the Future of DACA, Young Immigrants, and How Funders Can Respond hosted by our partner Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) and co-sponsored by NCG, SDG, and SCG on Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 1:00 pm PST. You can also visit GCIR’s website for the latest updates and recommendations. Read Philanthropy California's full statement here.

Over the past week, we've all been closely following the devastation and disaster response efforts taking place in Texas and Louisiana following Hurricane Harvey. There are a variety of resources available to funders interested in supporting relief efforts, and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and United Philanthropy Forum have some of the most comprehensive lists for philanthropy, including response funds and vetted national and local nonprofits working on the ground. 

Closer to home, several service providers have taken action. Among them is the LA-based organization Team Rubicon, which deployed highly-trained units of military veterans from across the nation with first responders to aid in rescue work across Houston and surrounding areas. In addition, Santa Barbara-based SCG member Direct Relief has been highly active in the areas impacted by Harvey's destruction. To learn more about how funders can be responsive and effective in the face of natural disasters, I encourage you to join the SCG program coming up next week on Philanthropy's New Role in Responding to Humanitarian Needs. During this 9/14 session, we'll explore how philanthropy can respond to crises around the world, including a special look at how funders are supporting communities impacted by Harvey (more details later in this message). 

SCG's 2017 Annual Conference, Philanthropy at a Crossroads, is happening in just a few short weeks! We are nearly at capacity, so please make sure to register as soon as possible to secure your spot.

You'll have access to an incredible variety of leaders and thinkers in sessions covering the arts, health, economic development, hunger, education, transgender communities, homelessness, and displacement/gentrification, not to mention special sessions on corporate philanthropy/CSR, how to shift organizational culture, and powerful new demographic data to help your work in SoCal communities. Join more than 500 of your philanthropic colleagues to hear from these thought leaders and many more changemakes in our region!

>> Check out the agenda
>> Learn about speakers
>> Read about plenaries, breakouts, and performances

>> Register now

Special thanks to our Presenting Sponsors: Annenberg Foundation, California Community Foundation, and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. You can see all of our generous sponsors here.

SCG corporate members and members of LA Community Leaders are invited to a special joint reception next week in downtown Los Angeles at the Hilton Checkers rooftop. This will be a great opportunity to reconnect with corporate colleagues and strengthen your professional network. At the reception, we'll be honoring SCG Board Member Antonio Manning, former Vice President and Senior Relationship Manager of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Jonathan Weedman, former Senior Vice President of the Wells Fargo Foundation. 

Join us in celebrating Antonio Manning (left) and Jonathan Weedman.

For decades, Antonio and Jonathan have been leaders in our region’s corporate philanthropy sector, and they have been friends and mentors to many SCG and LACL members! Join us in thanking them for their service to our community as grantmakers and celebrating their new roles working directly in the nonprofit sector. This reception is open only to the corporate community. Register online here.


The Funders Alliance of San Bernardino & Riverside Counties and SCG invite you to experience the realities of life in the City of San Bernardino and the larger Inland Empire. Not long ago, San Bernardino was an All-American city with prosperous people and a robust civic infrastructure. The Recession tipped the city into bankruptcy and one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, but even before the Great Recession, San Bernardino was struggling with public safety issues and high unemployment. How did this decline happen? Our tour will outline the extent of San Bernardino’s challenges and introduce you to nonprofit and civic leaders who are confronting and overcoming issues impacting quality of life in this region. These leaders are San Bernardino’s core assets, who are starting and revitalizing organizations and institutions—and doing so with significantly less philanthropic support than in neighboring cities. Register for the funder tour now.

From natural disasters to wars, the philanthropic sector is being called upon to respond to an overwhelming frequency, scale, and magnitude of humanitarian emergencies here and abroad. Funders who focus on disaster preparedness and response, international issues, and environmental challenges are invited to join a 9/14 discussion with Shaheen Kassim-Lakha from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Thomas Tighe from Direct Relief. We'll explore a study commissioned by the Hilton Foundation that outlines opportunities for grantmakers to catalyze meaningful change in the current humanitarian landscape and insights into how philanthropy can respond in a coordinated and holistic way. You’ll walk away with actionable lessons that funders of any size can apply here at home (particularly in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's devastating impact) and around the globe. Register now.


SCG members recently joined Congresswoman Linda Sanchez in Pico Rivera for a grant workshop—with over 90 nonprofits in attendance—which provided attendees with a funder perspective on designing and awarding grants. SCG members Ellah Ronen (California Community Foundation), Eric Medina (Weingart Foundation), Julie Lytle Nesbit (Whittier Trust), and Suzanne McGarry (BCM Foundation) shared their insights on a panel moderated by Congresswoman Sanchez. After the panel, the Center for Nonprofit Management led a robust discussion on grant strategies with the organizations in the room. 

Left to right: Michelle Ito, SCG; Seyron Foo, SCG; Ellah Ronen, California Community Foundation; Suzanne McGarry, BCM Foundation; Rep. Linda Sanchez; Julie Lytle Nesbit, Whittier Trust; and Eric Medina, Weingart Foundation.

We are thrilled to be part of programs like this, which help SCG members build relationships with policymakers throughout the region and strengthen the work of our nonprofit partners. In other policy news, SCG members are invited to join the next event in our Public Policy Speaker Series, featuring a conversation with California State Senator Ricardo Lara on 9/20.


Last month, SCG members joined a special summer celebration at Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles in MacArthur Park. After a private, pre-concert reception, we enjoyed a lively performance by the Latin fusion band Buyepongo. This event was made possible by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation and held in partnership with Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy and Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy. Special thanks to Elizabeth Levitt Hirsch for another wonderful summertime opportunity to socialize with friends and colleagues!

Left to right: Amanda Byrd, SCG; Elizabeth Levitt Hirsch, Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation; Chris Essel, SCG. Next photo: Buyepongo performs in MacArthur Park.


Here are some highlights from recent SCG events:

I hope to see you at these upcoming events:


Alex Atienzo (left) and Bethanie Milteer.

And finally, I'd like to welcome two of our newest staff members: Alex Atienzo and Bethanie Milteer. Alex and Bethanie are supporting SCG programs and conferences, and are already indispensable members of the SCG team! To learn more about our staff, click here

Christine Essel
President and CEO
Southern California Grantmakers

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