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President's Message - July 2017

Friday, August 4, 2017

Dear Colleagues,

The SCG team and I recently returned from a truly inspiring convening with peers from funder associations across the country. Formerly known as the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, SCG's longtime membership in this national network has allowed us to bring our own members the best ideas, strategies, and tools from our association peers. I am happy to share with you that this network—with the newly minted name United Philanthropy Forum—is expanding beyond regional groups to include an array of national philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs), such as the Center for Effective Philanthropy and Funders Together to End Homelessness. So, what does the new Forum mean for you? It means SCG is now able to bring our members not only rich regional knowledge and best practices, but also an incredible breadth and depth of issue expertise from our national PSO partners. I was honored to co-chair the Forum’s Vision Design Group that led this expansion, along with Kathleen Enright of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. And with SCG's own Vice President of Operations and Government Relations Karen Freeman continuing her leadership role as Board Treasurer, it’s thrilling to see the "new" Forum come to fruition.

This moment of philanthropic collaboration is also reflected in the just released NonProfit Times "Power & Influence Top 50" list, which I’m honored to say includes me and several of our national partner organizations again this year (more detail below). As we strengthen our connections—our networks of networks—and break down silos with government and nonprofit partners, our sector has an unprecedented opportunity to leverage shared strengths and promote real community solutions and systems change on crucial issues. I believe this is an opportunity for all of us to be “radically collaborative” leaders—locally, statewide, regionally, and across the country—and I’m eager to see what we will accomplish as we continue this journey together!  

Please continue reading below for more on the SCG team's experiences at United Philanthropy Forum, and for exciting updates on our events and services. 

In This Post: 

SCG Annual Conference Early Bird Ends 8/18  /   Nonprofit Times Power & Influence Top 50   / SCG at National Philanthropy Convening   /   SCG Member Collaborative Drives Progress on Government Cost Reimbursement to Nonprofits   /   Join SCG and Partners in Opposing to AB 1250  /  Fundamentals of Effective Grantmaking  /  Program Round-Up  /  Looking Ahead


In philanthropy, we work across an incredible spectrum of issue areas, but much of what we do boils down to access to opportunity. Opportunity for an excellent education. A healthy life. Fulfilling work. Cultural enrichment. In this way, our sector shares an underlying value of inclusivity, as we work toward ensuring every child and family has access to opportunities to grow, prosper, and thrive. So how can we utilize this common language of opportunity to increase our impact and empower our grantees to be as effective as possible? To find out, register now for our 2017 Annual Conference, Philanthropy at a Crossroads. Make sure to get the early bird discount by registering before Friday, August 18! 

In one of our featured plenaries, an all-star panel of community leaders and thinkers—including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen—will share how they have each sought to change the narrative for the communities in which they work. We'll also take a broader look at how social movements and public policies intersect to reveal unlikely partners and create more inclusive conditions for civic and political participation.

Our closing plenary features: Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, Professor, Political Science and Gender Studies, USC; Funmilola Fagbamila, Playwright, Activist & Professor, Pan African Studies, Cal State LA; Marisa Franco, Director & Co-founder, Mijente; and Viet Thanh Nguyen, Author and Professor, American Studies and Ethnicity, USC

Special thanks to our Presenting Sponsors: Annenberg Foundation, California Community Foundation, and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation!  Visit our conference site to learn more about speakers and special performances, and to register now. 


I am honored to share that The NonProfit Times has named me and several other SCG strategic partners among the top 50 nonprofit executives in the country. The “Power & Influence Top 50” are chosen for their ability to balance sustainability and change, and I'm humbled to be included again in a list of philanthropy and nonprofit leaders that I admire so greatly.

When I traveled to Washington, DC last year for a gathering of the 2016 cohort of "Top 50" leaders, I was proud to represent Southern California philanthropy among such notable national figures. I believe this year's recognition once again reflects the bold path our SCG community has taken together to strengthen our sector and region. I'd like to thank you all for your individual and collaborative leadership, which is clearly having an impact here in Southern California and well beyond!


As I shared above, the SCG team and I recently traveled to San Francisco for the 2017 United Philanthropy Forum Conference, the biggest gathering of regional and national philanthropy-supporting organizations in the field. I believe this new and unique kind of network is not only relevant for today’s philanthropy sector, but essential to increasing impact in our communities. Together, we can be a more formidable force here in Southern California and throughout the country. After all, our resources and connections now cut across geography, issue areas, and political divides. Your SCG membership connects you to more than 7,000 funders in the Forum network, who each bring an incredible array of knowledge and expertise to the table. 

Chris Essel and SCG team members Seyron Foo, Dave Sheldon, Adele Lee, Karen Freeman, and Rachel Doria

Throughout the conference, a theme emerged around the growing national movement in philanthropy to advance racial equity, diversity, and inclusion—and the exciting potential for organizations like SCG to play a role in this work. From the opening plenary to the closing luncheon, our conversations often came back to two questions. What can philanthropy do to improve equity, and how can we get there together? Opening speaker and Harvard Professor David Williams stressed the importance of philanthropy partnering with others to help build awareness of, and public support for, the need to address racial inequalities. This was echoed by Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment (and SCG member), who gave us this call to action: "Whatever you're doing to engage young people, double it. If you're not doing anything, start." I also took to heart the address delivered by SCG member and President and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation, Judy Belk, who stressed: “If you don't have actions behind the voice, all you have is noise.”

With so many luminaries in our field encouraging us to be fearless, get organized, and take action with our unique resources, the SCG team and I returned home more energized than ever to continue this effort. Equity has been a thread through much of SCG's work, including last year's Annual Conference and this year's gathering coming up in September, as well as through our programming, advocacy, and public policy efforts. I believe that in order to create real change in this area, we must engage not only with colleagues in philanthropy, but also with leaders from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and with less-often-heard community voices. The SCG team and I are excited to help raise up Southern California as a leader in this growing equity movement. 


As part of SCG’s work to support a healthy nonprofit ecosystem, we recently concluded a year-long initiative to educate California state government and local officials about new federal contracting rules on indirect cost reimbursement, known as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Uniform Guidance. You can read the report from our partner California Strategies regarding our work in leading this collaborative effort in and beyond our sector.

SCG served as the fiscal sponsor and project manager for this initiative, which was funded by the Weingart Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, PIMCO Foundation, California Community Foundation, and The James Irvine Foundation. This flexible structure enabled us to coordinate between funders and partners including CalNonprofits and the California State Association of Counties, and provided a platform for me and other leaders of this initiative to meet personally with the State Controller. As a result, the Controller issued a letter to local governments about compliance with these rules so that our nonprofit partners can be reimbursed for their indirect costs. Additionally, following the report's recommendations, Weingart, SCG, the California State Association of Counties, and CalNonprofits are co-sponsoring an implementation training/dialogue for county and nonprofit leaders on 8/24 in Riverside County. I encourage you to contact your grantees to attend! 

Please note: SCG currently has several fiscal sponsorship initiatives in progress with our members. We provide a variety of services such as administration and office support, payroll, insurance coverage, and passthrough of tax-deductible donations to non-exempt organizations. Feel free to contact Karen Freeman, Vice President of Operations and Government Relations, for more information about SCG’s ability to serve as fiscal sponsor for member projects that are consistent with our mission and organizational goals.

SCG recently joined United Ways of California, the County of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, California Association of Nonprofits, and more than 60 organizations in opposing Assembly Bill (AB) 1250 (Jones-Sawyer). The bill would impose significant obstacles for counties to partner with nonprofits in delivering crucial services to California communities, particularly in the health and human services arena. As written, AB 1250 would interrupt thriving partnerships between government and the private sector and burden nonprofits with onerous, non-reimbursable overhead costs like performance audits. To read our letter of opposition, click here.

In other news, our most recent Public Policy Roundup went out to members this week. The policy team and I are thrilled to provide this valuable monthly briefing to so many SCG members interested in how their work intersects with public policy. Members can sign up for this benefit here or view the latest Roundup here.


Philanthropy has its own language, challenges, and ways of doing business that are unique from any other sector. So how can you hit the ground running with all the skills and knowledge you need to ensure your philanthropic career and your organization thrive? SCG’s signature Fundamentals of Effective Grantmaking course is designed and taught by some of the most prominent philanthropy leaders in our region, providing knowledge and connections for an unparalleled professional development opportunity. 

This interactive, three-day series (October 11, 12 & 26, as well as a site visit the week of October 16) introduces foundation staff to core grantmaking skills and procedures and provides opportunities to interact with new and veteran colleagues in our community during a series of engaging sessions. For more information and to register now, click here.


Here are some highlights from recent SCG events:


I hope to see you at these upcoming events:

Thank you to all of our members and partners for your commitment to making our communities better in so many ways. And remember to check our News Page for the latest on SCG and philanthropy in Southern California.  

Christine Essel

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