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SCG President's Message - April 2019

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Dear Colleagues:

On the heels of last month’s Foundations on the Hill event in Washington, DC and heading into next week’s sold-out SCG Public Policy Conference and next month’s Philanthropy in the State Capitol delegation, I am feeling very energized about our sector’s power to catalyze positive impact at scale through policy. In healthcare, education, homelessness and a multitude of other social issues, public policy affects so much of what we seek to achieve through our grantmaking—even if we’re not directly engaging in what’s often called “systems change.”

Personally, I saw this vividly at last month’s program presented by our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation – Los Angeles (TRHT-LA) initiative. Together with many SCG members, we visited an extraordinary exhibit called Undesign the Redline where we learned firsthand about the connection between intentional and structural racism and the racially segregated housing policies of the 1930s that have led to many of today’s political and social issues. (See more below).

As we in philanthropy aspire to create change in the communities we serve, we have more to give than just financial resources. In March, more than 20 returning and new members joined our Philanthropy California delegation representing our statewide alliance with Northern California and San Diego Grantmakers at the annual Foundations on the Hill event in Washington DC, where they met with members of Congress to share philanthropy’s unique expertise and perspective. We are also working diligently with Philanthropy California and many other partners to fight for a fair and accurate count in the upcoming 2020 Census, including submitting our first-ever amicus curiae brief to the United States Supreme Court. You’ll find more detail below on how you can stay informed and get involved.

We look forward to learning from and connecting with over 350 of you at next Monday’s Public Policy Conference. Inspired by the theme “California: The Road Ahead,” we worked with your philanthropic peers to design a conference agenda and assemble a diverse group of experts and leaders to guide us through a day of interactive and thought-provoking conversations. The fact that the conference sells out and attendance levels set new records every year is evidence that public policy is now integral to the work of the philanthropic sector. 


#SCGPolicyCon19 is finally here next Monday. We look forward to connecting with peers and
gaining powerful ideas and insights to advance our work and lead meaningful change


Finally, whether you are a public policy novice or an experienced pro, we invite you to join us next month in Sacramento for our annual Philanthropy in the State Capitol event. From May 21-22, our members will meet with state policymakers to share our unique perspective on the issues we fund, educate legislators and the administration about philanthropy’s role in civil society, and build relationships with fellow policy-oriented funders and policymakers. (And for those of you who just can’t get enough, don’t forget to sign up for our Public Policy Roundup newsletter!)

Of course, even though these opportunities for policy impact are front-of-mind right now, there’s always more going on here at SCG in our topic-focused programs, professional development, and peer groups. Please read on for updates across the full scope of our work.

From all of us at SCG, thank you for your interest in Southern California philanthropy and your continued commitment to serving our communities.

Christine Essel
President and CEO
Southern California Grantmakers


Philanthropy California Goes to Washington, DC for 2019 Foundations on the Hill

Last month, SCG members joined our Philanthropy California delegation in Washington, DC for the annual Foundations on the Hill gathering. Over the course of two jam-packed days, our delegation met with and educated over 30 lawmakers from both political parties on several topics of importance to our sector, including the 2020 Census, disaster resiliency, early childhood development, and issues related to veterans and people with disabilities.


At the 2019 Foundations on the Hill, Philanthropy California delegation met with the offices of (counterclockwise)
Representative Kevin McCarthy; Representative Adam Schiff; and Representative Alan Lowenthal, among others


These meetings are more than just ceremonial and yield tangible results. Last year, for instance, our delegation was part of the wave of education and advocacy that helped prevent attempts to repeal the Johnson Amendment as a part of an omnibus spending bill, and provided key insights that informed Committee oversight hearings on the 2020 Census.


Philanthropy California Takes Action on 2020 Census

This past Monday, April 1 was an important milestone: exactly one year left until the official start of the 2020 Census. SCG marked the date by joining with Philanthropy California in issuing this statement about the critical importance of the upcoming Census and what actions funders can take to help ensure a full and fair count.

That same day, Philanthropy California jointly led the submission of an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief that was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the citizenship question on the Census, which would undoubtedly discourage participation in the Census. Together with The Bauman Foundation and Funders' Committee for Civic Participation, Philanthropy California coordinated 30 private foundations, community foundations, and philanthropy serving organizations across the country as co-signers. I should note that it is highly unusual for philanthropy to file an amicus brief. We chose to do so because undercounting hurts philanthropy’s ability to have reliable data to drive our assessments, tailor solutions, make data-driven investments and identify outcomes and measure progress in achieving our goals, and ultimately, our mission.

The time for funders to act on the Census is growing short, and the stakes are high. We are working with so many of you to help ensure a fair and accurate count of all Californians because Census data also informs how more than $76 billion for federal programs is allocated and how political districts are drawn in the state. Going forward, Philanthropy California is convening funders interested in the Census in Oakland on April 9 to learn about state and funders’ investments to-date, on-the-ground outreach efforts, and how to get connected to this statewide movement. And on April 16, we at SCG will make the case about the importance of a fair Census count to our corporate members.


Learning from the Past in Our Undesign the Redline Program

On March 18, SCG and TRHT-LA, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners and Designing the WE, hosted a private, docent-led tour and panel discussion of Undesign the Redline—a one-of-a-kind interactive exhibit exploring the history of race, class and U.S. housing policy, and how this legacy of inequity and exclusion continues to shape our communities.

The docents and panelists did a wonderful job of explaining redlining and engaging us in a spirited discussion about how to consider equity in our grantmaking strategies. For me, a central lesson from this program was that we must explicitly and directly address equity—specifically racial equity—if we want to effectively address political and social problems in our society. Otherwise we will perpetuate the very systems and structures that originally created these conditions and that continue today.

While the exhibit has moved on from Los Angeles, I encourage everyone to learn more about redlining by visiting the Undesign the Redline site or by reading The Color of Law, an excellent book by Richard Rothstein that several SCG staff members and I have read.




Undesign the Redline docents (L to R) Mary Lee, PolicyLink (former) and Braden Crooks, Designing the WE


(L to R): Mary Lee, PolicyLink (former); Beatriz Solís, The California Endowment; Fred Ali, Weingart Foundation; Jacqueline Waggoner, Enterprise Community Partners; Braden Crooks, Designing the WE


Welcome Debbie McKeon to the Philanthropy California Family

 Next week, Debbie McKeon will start her role as President and CEO of San Diego Grantmakers.

As Executive Vice President and COO of the Council of Michigan Foundations for over six years, Debbie brings a wealth of experience in public policy that will serve SDG and the Philanthropy California alliance well.

We at SCG and Philanthropy California are excited to welcome Debbie to California and look forward to working closely with her as she takes the helm of the excellent team at SDG.



Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation – Los Angeles Releases New Video About 2019 National Day of Racial Healing

In January, our TRHT-LA team observed the 2019 National Day of Racial Healing with a multi-day series of programs grounded in truth-telling, movement, dialogues, workshops and musical performances. Whether or not you were able to attend one of these events, I encourage you to check out this outstanding video chronicling the week’s events.

Check out this great new video about the 2019 National Day of Racial Healing from our TRHT-LA team.


SCG News

I am pleased to welcome a new staff member to the growing SCG team and recognize another staff member on a well-deserved accolade.

 Alexis Smart is the new Associate, Membership and Grants at SCG.  Alexis supports our membership team with grants, conference sponsorships, member renewals, and new member development and engagement. Welcome, Alexis!


 SCG’s Director, Public Policy and Government Relations Seyron Foo has been selected to participate in the American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit, which brings together 80 emerging social purpose leaders with representatives from the American Express Leadership Academy partners for continued professional development, relationship-building and collaboration. Congratulation, Seyron!


Program Roundup

At the recent LA Arts Funders Meeting at the Center Theatre Group (CTG) on March 14, we took a behind-the-scenes look at the CTG’s Block Party initiative, an investment in the LA County theater ecosystem through the sharing of audiences, ideas and resources.

On March 19, we hosted Dr. Lucy Bernholz from Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) Digital Civil Society Lab at Digital Impact for Grantmakers, an action-oriented workshop uniquely designed for grantmakers to examine, build and improve their organizations’ digital data governance practices and policies. One of the key takeaways from Dr. Bernholz: “If an organization can’t protect data, it shouldn’t collect it!”

At the March 20 meeting of the Foundation Aging Network, we explored the Master Plan for Aging for California. SCG member The SCAN Foundation and the West Foundation have been working with gubernatorial candidates and now the new administration around this issue. 

Finally, on March 26, presenters from the Southern California Capacity Building Collaborative showed funders how they could help address the targeted capacity building needs of Southern California nonprofits by building a regional collaborative that will focus on nonprofit sustainability in an innovative new way.


Coming Up

We hope to see you at these upcoming events:

View Full List of Upcoming Events

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