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SCG President's Message - March 2018

Monday, March 5, 2018


California's Call for Inclusion

Coming Up

Highlights of the Federal Spending Agreement

SCG Staff News

Program Round Up


Dear Colleagues,

I have to be honest. Starting another President’s Message with reflections on yet another horrible tragedy is exhausting and disheartening. So instead, I’m going to focus on something that gives me hope: the emerging generation of youth activists who are speaking out on the issues that matter to them and our collective future. Out of this tragedy, we are seeing the beginning of a civic-engagement movement that is lasting more than just one news cycle.

Have you seen this incredibly moving speech by one of the students from Parkland? This remark, in particular, resonated with me:

"Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see."

Students across the country are appearing at rallies and on news programs. They have announced plans for a massive rally against gun violence in Washington, D.C. on March 24, with smaller rallies and protests in cities around the U.S.

(Image source: YouTube)

To be clear: youth activists have been around for a long time and they have always made their mark on the conversations of the day. In fact, 50 years ago this month, Chicano student activists walked out of their classrooms to demand a better education right here in East Los Angeles. That youth activism sits within a history of important moments that have shaped our nation. But there is something about this particular youth movement that seems different. Maybe it is because we are living in a time when civility seems to be missing from our civic spaces. Where it feels like the “adults” in the room tend to call each other names, point fingers and avoid dealing with the hard issues, leaving a leadership gap bigger than in years past. Seeing students like these stand up to fill that gap gives me hope. I look forward to finding ways to support our next generation to stand up, speak out and fight for our collective future.

This connects so closely to Bill and Melinda Gates’ recently released annual letter for their foundation, in which they make the case for optimism despite all of the doom and gloom in the world. And sure enough, one of the reasons they “see a world that’s getting better” is that they are meeting “brave and brilliant individuals all over the world who are imagining new ways to transform their communities.” I believe that student activists across the country can indeed transform our communities.

Of course I am proud of the work each of you individually and all of us together are doing to tackle a wide range of problems. But I am really excited about what the next generation will bring to the table.

Please continue reading below for updates and news from our membership. You can also check our News Page for the latest on SCG and philanthropy in Southern California.




Last month I was proud to co-author a statement on behalf of Philanthropy California, an alliance of Northern California, Southern California and San Diego Grantmakers, about the upcoming 2020 Census. Together we affirmed our shared belief that “We all count. We all deserve to be counted.” Our statement goes on as follows:

“The California of today is heralded by many as a shining star of our times. We are the 6th largest economy in the world. We are home to 10 million immigrants, the largest immigrant community of any state. While experts predict that the US will become a “majority-minority” country in 2044, California already is.

It is also true that California is facing profound challenges. We have a higher poverty rate than the U.S. average. We rank 41st in the nation in public spending per K-12 student on education. There are stark racial disparities from the criminal justice system to representation in the C-suite. And housing costs have made the dream of home ownership unattainable for a large percentage of the population.”

If we are to tackle these challenges effectively, California must receive its fair share of Federal resources and political representation. We risk losing more than $2.5 billion annually in federal funds and even a Congressional seat if there is an undercount. As such, all of us need to do whatever it takes to ensure a fully inclusive 2020 Census. Read the full statement.
In February, Congress reached an agreement on a federal spending plan. Our Public Policy team put together a brief summary of the agreement.

The agreement would lift spending caps on defense and non-defense spending, put off a raising of the debt ceiling to March 2019 (after this year’s November elections), put the annual deficit over $1.2 trillion and push the nation’s debt over $20 trillion. The following chart summarizes some of the major reductions in spending in the agreement in interest areas of SCG’s members.

Non-Defense Discretionary Funding Increases Under Bipartisal Deal
Yet Remains Below 2010 Level

Note: All amounts exclude funding for disasters, emergencies, program integrity and Overseas Contigency Operations (OPO)
Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of Data from the Congressional Budget Office, Office of Management and Budget and announced agreement for 2018 and 2019.

You can view the entire summary here. Members can also sign up anytime for our monthly public policy roundup here.
  • At the “Where Trauma Meets Ethics” program on February 12, Los Angeles County Director of Mental Health Dr. Jon Sherin and other special guests discussed the complexities of Moral Injury and addressed the important role philanthropy can play in understanding and addressing trauma across a spectrum of experiences and populations.
  • On February 13, SCG partnered with the Building Movement Project to discuss the findings from its recently released Race to Lead report which explores the nonprofit racial leadership gap in California. Even in California, we have a lot of work to do. To view the report, please click here.

Race to Lead Panel (l-r): Sean Thomas-Breitfeld, Co-Director, Building Movement Project; Mari Riddle, Executive Director, Grand Performances; Alberto Retana, President & CEO, Community Coalition; Kafi Blumenfield, Trustee, The James Irvine Foundation and Tides; Wendy Chang, Director, Dwight Stuart Youth Foundation






Before I close, I’d like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to my longtime assistant and colleague Cheryl Thomas, who is leaving SCG to move closer to her family. Cheryl has been my right-hand woman for more than two decades across several roles, and I have been so fortunate to partner with her for all this time. Please join me in wishing her the very best in her new adventures!

As always, thank you for being on this journey with us, and please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.


Christine Essel
President and CEO
Southern California Grantmakers