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President's Message - February 2018

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


TRHT-LA and the National Day of Racial Healing

Program Round Up

Register Now for SCG's 2018 Public Policy Conference on 4/23

Coming Up

SCG Staff News


Dear Colleagues,

The first month of 2018 is behind us, and oh, what a month it was; so please bear with me in my slightly longer-than-normal message. Whether it was mudslides in California, the contentious debate about immigration and the government shutdown or the growing chorus of #MeToo and Time’s Up, not a day goes by that major events don’t capture the headlines and launch us into renewed challenges to which philanthropy traditionally responds.

Now more than ever, we are having tough but needed conversations on issues of equity, power and privilege. At the recent Women’s Marches worldwide, entertainment awards shows, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day events (especially since this year marked the 50th anniversary of his assassination) and now as we are in the midst of Black History Month, many of us are feeling a greater sense of urgency to address the laws and behaviors that have led to systemic racial and gender inequities. 

More and more clearly, SCG recognizes that inequities based on these and other identities are fundamental drivers of many of the challenges that funders are trying to solve. In recent years, we have started to address these topics through our ongoing programming and conferences and through our growing public policy education and advocacy efforts. Increasingly, as we did at our 2017 Annual Conference, we have shared our stage with speakers who take on equity and racial justice in their work as grantmakers, community leaders, government officials, researchers and artists.

As you will read below, on January 16 SCG co-led a cross-sector collaborative of partners to commemorate the National Day of Racial Healing as a part of our partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) work in Los Angeles. Not only was this an inspiring and impactful day that engaged people in genuine efforts to increase understanding, communication, caring and respect for one another, but this kind of work is helping us to learn about many of the issues underlying the work of philanthropy and to see how we can leverage what we’re learning to increase the value of the programs and support we offer to our members.

This growing focus on equity is clearly important to our members. Last year, we worked with the Center for Effective Philanthropy to conduct our first member survey in many years. As a member-driven organization, it was very compelling for us to see that 87% of respondents thought “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” should be one of SCG's highest priorities for our work over the next three years—the highest of any other choice.

As we move into 2018 and beyond, I want you to know that SCG is deeply committed to the crucial work of equity—within our own organization and across our programming, policy initiatives and partnerships. We won’t change the breadth of our programming—but across everything we do, we’ll be more aware of how our work is intertwined with questions of equity and social justice.

For SCG, this is about systems and policies, not politics. We will continue to lift up a variety of political viewpoints and grantmaking approaches in our community and to offer a wide range of opportunities for learning, connections and action. Using our equity lens simply means that we will think about whose voices and perspectives we are hearing internally and externally—or not hearing—as we consider what topics to cover, speakers to invite, policy positions to support, people to hire, venues and vendors to select, words and images to use in our communications and so on.

Across the political and ideological spectrum, grantmakers share a deep commitment to improving people’s lives. That’s where we can come together. We don’t believe that there is a one-size-fits-all requirement that funders should universally become “systems change” grantmakers or policy advocates. Each of us has a part to play in our own way, from doing crucial safety-net grantmaking to investing millions in long-term community organizing.

As we begin the year together, this feels like the right time for me to share these thoughts on SCG’s journey with you, knowing that our vision of the path ahead will continue to change as we learn together. In fact, learning and inclusion are two of SCG’s core organizational values. We hope that as we include our members in this work and learn to apply our equity lens, we will gain more clarity on what each of us at SCG can do individually, organizationally, within our membership and beyond to achieve our mission of creating meaningful change for our communities. As always, I strongly encourage our members to share with me your thoughts, learning and resources on issues of equity.



In 2017, we were honored to be selected by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation as the lead partner for a broad cross-sector collaborative that will bring a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) framework to a multi-year initiative here in Los Angeles.

I am so pleased to introduce the new Director of the TRHT-LA work and the newest member of the SCG team, Sonny Abegaze

Sonny Abegaze, SCG

Our TRHT-LA team helped coordinate events and resources for the National Day of Racial Healing, which took place on January 16. If you missed it, fear not. We created a recap of the day here (including Community Circles and an official proclamation issued by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors), captured photo highlights and created a list of things you can do individually and organizationally to advance equity and help heal Southern California that can be used year-round.

(left) Participants at a Community Circle during the National Day of Racial Healing; (center) Keving Fong, facilitator of the Community Circle, along with participants; (right) Christine Essel, SCG; Pamela Perry, Days of Dialogue; Adele Lee, SCG; Dave Sheldon, SCG; The Reverend Alvin Herring, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Robin Toma, LA County; Francisco Ortega, City of LA; Nike Irvin, The Riordan Foundation



Registration is now open for SCG’s 2018 Public Policy Conference. We will once again partner with the California Budget & Policy Center and are thrilled to announced keynote presentations by:




The Honorable Alex Padilla
California Secretary
of State


Ashley Swearengin
President and CEO, Central
Valley Community Foundation


Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor of the California State University

The Conference is the perfect opportunity to connect with public officials and grantmaker colleagues to explore relevant public policy issues impacting our region. This year’s theme of “California Counts” will engage participants in a discussion about the impact of the 2020 Census, higher education policy changes and the implications of the new federal tax law on California.
We hope you will join us on April 23rd. Register now before the Conference sells out.



I am pleased to announce that several of our wonderful staff members have been promoted in recognition of their growing responsibilities and contributions to the SCG team.






Charlotte Ahles
Director, Statewide
Online Technology


Rachel Doria
Senior Associate, Membership & Grants


Adele Lee
Senior Manager,
Strategic Initiatives


Karla Mercado
Manager, Public Policy & Philanthropy California


Here are some additional highlights of SCG events held in the past few weeks:


John Kobara, California Community Foundation; Dave Oppenheim, State Controller’s Office; State Controller Betty Yee; Christine Essel, SCG; Jamie Merisotis, Lumina Foundation; Allison Holmes, Annenberg Foundation

  • Feb. 12: Join SCG, LA County Director of Mental Health Dr. Jon Sherin and other special guests to discuss Where Trauma Meets Ethics: Exploring Moral Injury as a Compelling Issue for Public Health. Moral Injury is a concept coined to describe the impact of war on service members required to engage in behaviors that betray their values, which can also be an instructive framework for the public as we work to reintegrate people traumatized by a range of circumstances as healthy and productive citizens.
  • Feb. 13: We are partnering with the Building Movement Project to discuss the findings from its recently-released Race to Lead report that explores the nonprofit racial leadership gap in California.
  • Mar. 12-14: SCG members are invited to join this year's California delegation to Foundations on the Hill (FOTH) in Washington, D.C. FOTH is the one time each year when philanthropy speaks with a strong, collective voice on Capitol Hill.
  • Apr. 30 – May 2: Join us at the soon-to-sell-out Grantmakers for Effective Organizations 2018 National Conference in San Francisco. SCG members receive a discount and can register before other non-GEO members on February 13. Also, SCG and our Philanthropy California partners will be hosting a reception at the conference.


More than ever, I am so grateful to each of you for your leadership during this crucial time in our grantmaking community and in our society. It’s an honor to work alongside you as we all seek to heal what divides us and build the most effective solutions together.

Christine Essel
President and CEO
Southern California Grantmakers