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President's Blog

President's Blog: Toward a Co-Governance Model

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Dear SCG Community, 

In September, I talked about the need to embrace complexities, support evolving paths toward systems change, prepare for long-term engagement, and cultivate partnerships with our communities. Since then, the complexities that we face have intensified during the election season. What gives me hope today is the tremendous work of organizers striving toward a co-governance model that will hold our elected officials accountable and ensure an equitable future for our communities. 


The 2020 elections were historic in many ways. 

We saw the highest voter turnout in over a hundred years, with a projected 161 million Americans casting a ballot. Our state saw a historic surge in turnout, with 88% of eligible Californians registering to vote. It is inspiring to see so many Americans participate in the democratic process, especially in the face of the ongoing pandemic challenges. 

These record numbers are indebted primarily to the efforts of organizers who have spent the last several years ensuring that countless Americans have the right to vote. In particular, we want to acknowledge the incredible work of community and civic leaders who worked tirelessly to ensure that communities of color — especially those impacted by long legacies of voter suppression — could participate safely in this election. In Georgia, Stacy Abrams’ tireless work to fight voter suppression is a transformative story of leadership, grit, and dedication.

For the first time ever in our country's history, a woman of color has become the Vice President-elect. In 2021, there will be a record number of 141 women serving in Congress, including 51 women of color. 


Let’s take this moment to celebrate these accomplishments, but let’s also commit to ensuring that our communities always have access to the democratic process. After all, democracy means that all voices are heard.

This election cycle has also exposed an America starkly divided and wrought with internal conflict. This increasing polarization poses a challenge to the hard work ahead of us as we refocus on our collective long-term recovery from the pandemic. The truth is, we need to work together to build a better future for our communities; we cannot adequately recover if only half the country is on board. But unity is more nuanced than just positive statements and promises of finding a middle ground. We need to be honest about what’s at stake and who will be most impacted by slow, incremental change. For many communities — especially BIPOC communities who have been disproportionately affected by this year’s crises — security and survival are at stake. We cannot ask our communities to come to the table and compromise while they hurt and carry the weight of our nation’s legacies of injustice. Yes, we need to come together, but we need to do it in the name of justice. 


Co-governance will hold our elected officials accountable and create paths for bold policy change.

Right after Kamala Harris became the first woman of color on a presidential ticket, the SCG team spoke with She The People’s founder Aimee Allison on how our definition of holding leaders accountable needs to evolve. Accountability isn’t a list of demands or empty promises. Accountability in a co-governance model becomes a reality when we elect courageous and justice-driven leaders who are deeply committed to the communities they are serving. Aimee and other organizers are working to close the gap between communities and politicians, abandon our traditional expectations around accountability, and adopt new co-governance models that forward policies and politics in concert with social movements. A co-governance model allows us to move our priorities and agendas that serve the people forward without being entirely dependent on leadership.


We still have a long way to go and a lengthy battle against systemic racism.

The road ahead requires healing. Mending our divided country together will be difficult and uncomfortable. But I believe we can come together through our work’s common purpose: to create an equitable world where every person and community can thrive. As we enter a new era of our country’s history, I urge us to hold this vision close as we reflect on rebuilding and recovery. 

Let us imagine new leadership models where we don’t ask Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and people of color communities to compromise their visions for success. Instead, let’s support them in forwarding the policies and agendas necessary to strengthen movements and catalyze real changes. Let’s take the time needed to heal, but let us not lose sight of the transformative potential of the work ahead. 


In Partnership, 

Chris Essel



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Reimagining Philanthropy: Eight Challenges for Funders to Tackle Today

Thursday, November 19, 2020
To elevate and further the conversations from our 2020 Virtual Conference, Meeting the Movement,  we are pleased to present a series of articles that capture the crucial opportunities for funders to reimagine their philanthropic work.  For SCG members who missed our virtual conference, we are happy to share a special opportunity for you to experience over six hours of our conference content on-demand. Register now to stream our curated keynote, plenary, arts, and mindfulness sessions at a discounted rate. 

The devastation wrought by the triple crises of the COVID-19, systemic racism, and climate change has thrust the philanthropic sector into an existential reckoning. The pandemic has revealed that many of the long-standing practices and ideas we believed to be immutable in our sector are changeable. Not only that, but we also learned that these practices have often been limiting and detrimental to our work.

It is time for philanthropy to become bolder and burn down some of its established philosophies and practices. At SCG’s 2020 VIrtual Conference, Meeting the Movement, Vu Le, Writer at Nonprofit AF, and Sarah Walczyk, Executive Director at Satterberg Foundation, discussed the urgency and necessity of reimagining philanthropy. With our communities and democracy at stake, Vu and Sarah urged philanthropy to ask challenging and uncomfortable questions while considering several paradigm shifts to serve our communities and our sector more effectively. 



During another SCG conference panel, a speaker posed a hypothetical scenario where Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., or another famous movement leader, proposed an idea to philanthropy today. Foundations would likely have asked them for a logic model, a data set, and a theory of change before rejecting their proposal for not aligning with the funders’ priorities. “Spreadsheet culture” with its abundance of processes is exhausting, obstructive, and oppressive for people leading the work on the ground. These practices aren’t inherent, but rather, are a byproduct of white professionalism. The unspoken belief is that if an organization can articulate themselves well via a chart or a budget, they are more qualified to do the work and more worthy of funding than other organizations that can’t ascribe these practices.  

This manner of funding and in engaging with nonprofits is no longer serving the sector. Foundations do not need any more data on who’s not getting funding or what’s happening to Black and brown bodies. The solution isn’t to waste any more time or resources on a common grant application that asks organizations to synthesize their impact in 250 characters. These models are out of touch with the world right now and won’t lead to social change. Suppose a foundation finds an organization with aligned values and feels chemistry. In that case, they should just fund it, especially if it’s an organization led by Black, Indigenous, communities of color, and other marginalized communities. Foundations have the freedom to cut out all the processes and support the change they want to see in the world. Philanthropy needs to move away from its fixation with the minutiae and instead envision a more creative and courageous role for itself. 



According to the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, only 8.5% of philanthropic dollars are currently going to BIPOC-led organizations. Almost always, white mainstream organizations who speak the language of philanthropy receive the foundation’s grants. Instead of aspiring to “level the playing field,” our sector can create new fields that can only be accessed by the people who are most affected by systemic injustice. If funders care about Black lives or Indigenous leadership, then they have an opportunity to create funding intentionally and exclusively for Black and Indigenous communities. We can end the vicious cycle of inequity, where large mainstream organizations receive all the grants and grassroots BIPOC-led organizations who do all the work receive crumbs. 



“Funder Fragility,” a term that closely mirrors white fragility, occurs when funders refuse to engage with difficult feedback or accountability to avoid feelings of failure and discomfort. While critical conversations are never easy, they are an opportunity to do better. It is worth the time for funders to hold up a mirror and ask themselves several intentional questions: Do people want to be in partnership with you? Do your grantees seem to be having a high level of success? Are you any closer to realizing the change you want to see in the world? 

Going back to business demonstrates an unwillingness to grow and do better. If funders want to be in genuine partnership with communities and movement leaders, they need to listen to what people are demanding. Funders should not receive feedback as personal criticism or fault, but instead, view it as an opportunity to change practices to serve communities better. It’s an honest conversation about being in control of processes and systems versus solving problems together and eliminating historic power imbalances that have existed with organizations. 



How are you going to keep this program running when the grant runs out? Grantees have learned to navigate this all too familiar question, but regardless of the answer, funders know that organizations will have to find another funding source when their grants run out. Sustainability is a significant concern for nonprofits because they have never been designed to be sustainable. Asking them to answer questions about long-term funding is an ineffective use of time and woefully inconsiderate and negligent of historic power imbalances in our sector. If funders want the work to be sustainable, they need to sustain it through multi-year general operating grants. A foundation’s role is to support the long-term work, not stop them in their tracks


Many philanthropic administrators still ascribe to a compliance mindset when it comes to working with grantees. Instead of focusing on how they can help organizations be successful, foundations demand detailed answers on how a grantee is spending every penny of their funds. Compliance is not a healthy or productive partnership; it is an oppressive dynamic built on power imbalances and suspicion-based philanthropy. Compliance also does not make room for building relationships with human beings doing the work. Foundations can still have deadlines and accountability, but they can be rooted in conversations and bringing people along. Start from a place of trust by co-creating what accountability will look like in your relationship. 

Building an authentic relationship with a community requires funders to listen to their wisdom and trust them to decide their priorities. Some funders struggle with bestowing a grant and letting the community decide on what it needs. Philanthropy needs to understand that it doesn’t hold the decision-making power in the communities it chooses to fund. Instead, they are there to redistribute resources to communities and work shoulder-to-shoulder with them. A foundation should build its grantmaking strategies to respond to what movement leaders and community-led organizations determine is most needed.



Many funders are still terrified of participating in advocacy work or publicly stating their support for movements like Black Lives Matter. This lack of action is often rooted in a misunderstanding of the IRS code and the roles philanthropy can play. Foundations need to clarify how they can engage in advocacy and policy work because they can participate and make a difference. Silence, complacency, and denial are the worst actions to take right now. As Vu poses, “Are we just going to keep hunkering down to deal with the symptoms of oppressive systems instead of using our influence to change these systems collectively?“ Leveraging your platforms and acknowledging what is happening in our world is the smallest step funders can take to confront systemic injustice and support movement leaders. 


White settlers accumulated tremendous wealth through the theft of Indigenous land and the forced relocation and enslavement of Black people. This wealth has been passed down through generations and then often hoarded in foundations as tax-havens. This history is where a foundation’s work needs to begin. An essential conversation for foundations to have is what it means to hold on to this wealth level. How can a foundation responsibly steward and return these resources? Philanthropy has the privilege of cutting a check and removing itself from the situation, but that will not bring about an equitable world. If a foundation says they genuinely believe in racial justice, it is time to allocate these funds toward transformative change. Examining wealth through this angle can help philanthropy reimagine what it means to administer grants and funds ethically. 


Funders often discuss the challenge of allocating their limited resources across such high demand. But when foundations say they don’t have enough money to fund organizations, the follow-up question becomes, Are they only giving at the 5% minimum payout rate? If they are, that means 95% of their funds are just sitting there while communities are being devastated. It is almost unconscionable to hoard trillions of dollars while society is burning. The truth, funders are waiting for a moment that may not exist for anyone except affluent white communities who will survive these crises. Foundations have an opportunity to ask important questions about what role a foundation should play in this moment of incredible urgency. How long do you want your foundation to be around? What are you protecting? What would happen if you put more resources into the community right now? These are potent conversations that can lead to actions that ensure that BIPOC-led organizations and communities survive this moment. 


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The Black Equity Collective’s Vision for Racial Justice and Liberation

Wednesday, November 18, 2020
SCG is honored to serve as the fiscal sponsor for the Black Equity Collective, a community-public-private partnership with Black equity as its central, unifying force. The Collective just wrapped its planning phase, which was supported by various SCG members, including WHH Foundation, Liberty Hill Foundation, California Community Foundation, The California Endowment, Snap Foundation, California Wellness Foundation, and Weingart Foundation.
As the Collective prepares to launch in January 2021, we sat down with its Chief Architect Kaci Patterson to discuss its history, its vision of Black liberation, and how philanthropy can get involved.

What prompted the creation of the Black Equity Initiative, and how has it grown into the Black Equity Collective?

KP: The Black Equity Initiative (BEI) is an excellent example of how funders can be inspired by an issue, but that inspiration doesn't automatically turn into control. The BEI was created because the JIB Fund was very concerned about the regularity with which black men were being killed and the lack of justice. They felt compelled to act but weren’t sure exactly which actions to take. 

The JIB Fund hired me to do a landscape analysis to get a sense of where they could have the most significant impact and where their philanthropic dollars would be most meaningful. During my research, my team and I engaged in deep listening and thoughtful community engagement. We interviewed 17 philanthropic, academic, and community thought leaders. Their feedback became the Black Equity Initiative, which supports 15 grantees in Los Angeles in San Bernardino.

The Initiative began to transform into the Collective when it became clear that a vision of Black equity doesn’t stop at funding 15 organizations and one funder. We believe that progress on Black equity and racial justice must be part of any forward movement in the United States and will only be achieved when philanthropic investments, public policies, and institutional practices boldly confront racial injustice.


Tell us more about the Black Equity Collective’s vision of racial justice and liberation.

KP: The BEC emphasizes the need to invest in Black-led organizations, which can no longer afford to get project funding at the expense of building a sustainable infrastructure. This reality is true of all nonprofits but is especially acute in Black-led organizations, which have been deprived of resources for years. There is an urgent need to invest in Black leadership because Black liberation will not happen without Black people in positions of power. With the BEI grants, the 15 community-based organizations were able to build relationships, cultivate trust, try innovative solutions to old problems, then fund their discovery of those solutions. This kind of investment — in talent, future-focused thinking, as well as research and development capital — is vital. And so, the BEC’s vision of liberation is to strengthen the long-term sustainability of Black-led social justice institutions, which are the engines of social change.


How can philanthropy be part of this liberatory vision?

KP: Philanthropy is a sector that has the privilege of taking time to think and consider. Nonprofits do not have that luxury. During this deliberation, we — funders — often stall progress and innovations so that we can get everything right and perfect. Meanwhile, we’re starving nonprofit organizations of the resources they need to do the work. 

The conversations — about mass incarceration, climate justice, income inequality, and other issues — are often the same around both funders’ tables and in communities. However, there is rarely deliberate, intentional efforts to be in strategic relationships and alignment. The BEC seeks to be a bridge so that philanthropy can work more effectively with Black communities

Without having invested in Black-led-and-serving organizations before, a funder needs to cultivate its own capacity to trust Black communities, disarm the power derived from wealth, and be in strategic relationships around issues of justice. We can be part of a liberatory vision together if we can challenge and inspire funders to reimagine their practices. 


How has it been to work on launching the BEC in 2020 — amid a global pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests?

KP: The Collective is currently governed by a 17-member steering committee of Los Angeles-based Black philanthropic leaders, community leaders, and public sector representatives. This group of people has been my teacher in so many ways. When I had the incredible privilege and honor of shepherding the BEC into its launch, I set out to build a committee of folks who are ready to tackle strategic questions and de-silo philanthropy and community from one another. The planning process kicked off in April and just wrapped a few weeks ago.

Now that we are preparing to officially launch the BEC in 2021, I can be honest that, in January 2020, I didn’t know if this was going to work. I knew that the need and grassroots impetus were present, but I wasn’t confident that the will was there in the philanthropic sector. When COVID-19 hit, and we started to see the disproportionate impact on Black communities and people of color, it still wasn’t evident whether philanthropy would see the humanity of Black people. 

It wasn’t until the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer that the world of opportunity broke open. I find this timing extremely difficult to reconcile. 

The same narratives we told after the beating of Rodney King in 1992 are the same painful plea made in June 2020 and every year in between. However, perhaps because the pandemic made it hard to escape the truth, the public decided to listen. And we have seen white people come out of slumber around racial justice in a quite profound way.

People often refer to this mass activation as a moment and ask how to turn this moment into a movement. Instead, I call this moment a window of opportunity— a window that can stay open, close slowly, or even slam shut. Will we love Black people enough to keep this window open?


How can folks get involved with the BEC and help keep this window of justice open?

KP: The BEC is intentional about building philanthropy’s capacity in philanthropy to work more effectively with Black communities while simultaneously sustaining ourselves for the long haul. Having a home with SCG has been extremely important and helped us achieve the effectiveness necessary to plan our operations and build confidence with funders. Our goal is to raise $6 million a year for ten years. We are a little more than halfway toward our first-year target. By supporting the BEC financially, funders agree to acknowledge systemic racism as a critical issue and build their own internal muscle to create solutions. You might not know where to start, but as long as you’re willing and able to take a leap, we would love to work with you.

I also encourage funders to build relationships with and directly fund community-based organizations, such as those who received BEC’s micro-grants. There are also opportunities to sit on organizations’ boards or serve in an advisory role. 


What is giving you hope at the moment?

KP: I appreciate the 2020 election cycle for the clarity that it brought. Is it clear that 71 million people saw the blatant voter suppression, the blatant misinformation, the blatant racism, the blatant misogyny, and the blatant anti-immigrant sentiments, and still voted for more of that oppression.

I am hopeful because, more than ever before, the problem statement is clear: the disease of white supremacy is killing this country. It’s killing our democracy; it’s killing our norms; it’s killing our climate; it’s killing justice. So we have to be honest about whether we are confronting this disease of white supremacy.

At the same time, the solutions could not be clearer. Nonprofit organizations, organizers, movement leaders — those who engage community members, build trust, establish relationships, and are unapologetic about dismantling systemic racism and injustice — are the changemakers. I’m hopeful because we have a critical mass of people who are no longer shying away from the tough conversations and are ready to take bold actions.


Kaci Patterson is the Owner and Principal of Social Good Solutions. She has led the Black Equity Initiative since its inception. Stay tuned for the Collective launch in January 2021. 
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SCG Partnership: Los Angeles County Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

With more than 280,000 veterans, Los Angeles County has the largest population of veterans of all the counties in the United States. Veteran serving organizations (VSOs) have long spoken about the need to reach veterans in need of services before they get to a place of despair. SCG’s Veteran Funders Group had long focused on how it could help support greater coordination between VSOs and other safety net providers and encourage more significant investment in LA’s veteran population. In December 2017, Southern California Grantmakers convened LA’s leading VSOs, local government agencies focused on veterans, and philanthropy to discuss how stakeholders could collectively support veterans’ support in the city. At this meeting, Dr. Jon Sherin from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) proposed creating a veteran-to-veteran peer navigation system to help connect veterans to the services they needed.  

In February 2018, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors passed a motion to study what it might take to establish a countywide peer network for veterans. By May, the LA County Health Agency had proposed a plan and appointed the DMH as the lead agency for this initiative and SCG as a member of the ad hoc Steering Committee. The Veteran Peer Access Network (VPAN) design process began in August and included input from the ad hoc steering committee and SCG’s Veteran Funders Group. Over the next several months, the blueprint and implementation plan for VPAN— the country’s first publicly funded support network for veterans and their families— were created. 

Given the expertise of the SCG’s Veterans Funders Group in both grantmaking and veterans issues, LA County decided that the SCG could play a pivotal role in implementing the initiative. On November 19, 2019, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion authorizing the Director of DMH to execute an agreement with SCG to “create a public-private partnership focused on the implementation of services to veterans using a peer-to-peer model, with a three fiscal year team.” In this agreement, SCG would serve as the fiscal intermediary for VPAN and help foster veteran-focused partnerships and new funding opportunities for regional philanthropy. 

This year, SCG began searching for a VPAN project manager to represent the veteran communities it would be serving. In September, SCG hired Cristina Garcia, a US Army Veteran with 24 years of service, to the VPAN role. Cristina previously served as a Diversity and Immigration Liaison at the California National Guard, where she assisted over 60 service members and their families in obtaining citizenship, work permits, and social security cards. Cristina also worked at US Vets, a national nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive services to veterans, including those at risk and unhoused. Cristina’s extensive experience with veteran communities and commitment to equity, racial justice, and diversity made her the ideal candidate to lead SCG’s VPAN work. Cristina will partner with Nathan Graeser, MDiv, LCSW, DSW, who has been involved in the initiative since the beginning and who currently serves as a consultant to both the SCG Veterans Funders Group and VPAN to ensure that the implementation is successful.

SCG envisions a future where every Los Angeles County service member, veteran, and family members can easily find and access the wealth of support services available to them through the VPAN, enabling them to live and thrive in the community. To realize this vision, SCG hopes to establish VPAN as the coordinating authority for veteran support in Los Angeles County by creating the infrastructure needed to improve veterans’ long-term access to housing, wrap-around services — including health, mental health, substance abuse support, education, training, employment, benefits, and legal. As of November 2020, SCG selected five community-based organizations (CBO) across five Supervisorial Districts to led the efforts to provide services to veterans: 


Today, SCG and its CBO partners are finalizing the search for motivated individuals interested in making a difference in Los Angeles County’s veteran communities. New staff training will begin in December, and the VPAN network will start providing services to veteran communities in January 2021. 

if you have any questions regarding VPAN, please contact Cristina at [email protected]


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"Keep the Momentum Going": Highlights from SCG's Family Town Hall Encore Program

Monday, November 16, 2020


Last month, SCG convened its family philanthropy network for an encore program of our summer virtual town hall encore program. Led by Shawn Escoffery, Executive Director, Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation, and Farhad Ebrahimi, Founder & President, The Chorus Foundation, Putting Your Assets to Work: Using the Power of the Next Generation, focused on helping funders respond to the pressures of our continuing crises while navigating the changing dynamics of family philanthropy. 

With next-gen funders soon to take the reins of family foundations, our speakers encouraged family members to begin familiarizing themselves with the diversity of ideas and perspectives circulating throughout the next-gen arm of philanthropy. In particular, they urged funders to more deeply in conversations around race, capitalism, wealth distribution, social movements, and other ideas gaining traction in our sector. 

To help SCG family members navigate these emerging perspectives, we would like to elevate our speakers' key recommendations for family foundation members interested in challenging the status quo and reimagining traditional family practices. Please note: the following recommendations provide a broad overview of our speakers' conversation. We encourage you to watch the recording above for the full conversation. 



Our speakers asserted that the most significant risk the philanthropic sector can take right now is not funding equity work. Some organizations are reluctant to move resources in the direction of communities most impacted by systemic oppression. This hesitation is directly tied to notions of power and can have dire consequences on our sector’s recovery work. Funders should consider taking risks in the social change context just as they do in the business sector. The truth is that systems change will never be clear-cut and straightforward; if the crises of 2020 have demonstrated anything, it’s that nonprofits need to be ready to adapt to the evolving realities at a moment's notice. Reframing risk requires funders to move away from a deficit lens and toward a positive and generative framework. Funders should allow the work to change and evolve in ways that might go against their expectations. After all, foundations have the power and privilege to manage risks while minimizing the repercussions felt by their grantees. 



This year’s racial justice awakening pushed funders to reconsider how they could move beyond their pre-pandemic diversity and inclusion efforts and adopt intentional racial justice frameworks into their foundation’s efforts. A place funders can start is by looking inward and identifying any long-standing beliefs and practices that uphold white dominant culture. One example of this is recognizing the implicit bias present in funding only well-resourced, white-led nonprofits that can speak the language of philanthropy. Some funders have recently begun to search for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color-led organizations to fund to address this issue. However, more often than not, funders search for BIPOC organizations similar to the grantees they are used to funding — those who can speak the language of philanthropy and uphold the same norms. In other words, funders continue to look for organizations that operate in ways that they believe are effective instead of funding efforts that depart from the status quo. Our sector should continue to interrogate the power dynamics inherent in the project of philanthropy and root out all the ways they manifest in their biases. 



This year, philanthropy made many bold and decisive decisions in response to the global pandemic and the demands for racial justice. Our sector activated and responded with rapid renewals, general operating support, and reduced reporting tactics to address unprecedented crises. However, while this year’s events have been exceptional, it is crucial to recognize that the root causes have always been present because they are systemic. For this reason, philanthropy should sustain the strategies and adjustments it made this year even after this moment of crisis. Philanthropy has an opportunity to continue funding folks who are closer to the realities of what’s happening instead of going back to their usual suspects and traditional modes of operating. Philanthropy can continue to allocate resources differently, especially as we look toward the looming economic recession. Some funders are already beginning to pull back from their momentary flood of funding under the justification that markets are not doing well. In the months ahead, more funders will likely use the recession as a reason to shut down long-standing programs and end funds right when organizations will need them the most. Our sector cannot lose this year’s momentum, especially when countless funders are activated around systematic change. 



It’s time to democratize decision-making and diffuse the power dynamics in philanthropy. Funders should prioritize getting to know the communities they are working with and building open, honest, and vulnerable relationships. It is vital to sit down with community leaders and members and discuss what partnership means to them. How can the relationship be mutually beneficial? Listen deeply and often. This trust-based approach encourages philanthropy to let go of the steering wheel and allows folks who are the closest to the problems to lead the solutions. Funders can help community leaders unlock their power by supporting their vision for a new world and assisting them in setting determinations around policy and infrastructure. 



Communities should never feel like funders are experimenting on them. Any new ideas or approaches should always be co-designed with community leaders and organizations. Funders shouldn’t randomly implement the latest trends onto their grantees. Funders should engage in sustained conversations to learn about what grantees are interested in and willing to experiment with. Community leaders are already thinking about new ways to address pressing issues or reimagine the grantee/funder relationship. As mentioned earlier, philanthropy should lean into trust and democratize decision-making to design alternative structures and approaches with their grantees. 



How can funders support the kind of infrastructure that can outlive the foundation? Providing grantees with multi-year funding is a step in the right direction. Still, there will be an inevitable funding gap when the grant is gone, especially if a foundation has decided to spend down and sunset. While funders can help grantees access other funder networks, this also fosters dependency on the philanthropic community. An alternative option is for funders to help grantees initiate community-led economic development efforts and enterprises. These efforts include community loan funds, financial cooperatives, establishing grassroots intermediaries for resource allocation, small businesses worker cooperatives, and other wealth preservation strategies. By helping communities change how their economy works, funders can support grantees in building the infrastructure needed to not be dependent on outside resources and private philanthropy. 



Should foundations be designed to exist in perpetuity? It’s useful to question the fundamental nature of how philanthropic institutions operate to answer that question. Most often, foundations are focused on generating wealth by optimizing the performance of their endowments. Maintaining a healthy endowment usually entails giving at the minimum payout rate while 95% of a foundation’s wealth remains untouched. As our communities continue to be devastated by crises and systemic injustice, it is necessary to pose another question: is philanthropy one of the systems that need to be changed? At the moment, foundations are a financial institution that supports social change work as long as it benefits their investment portfolio. If funders want to genuinely address systemic issues such as housing, policing, and mass incarceration, it will require our sector to transform our resourcing system. Foundations have an opportunity to become mission-driven organizations that will support systems change work even if it risks diminishing their endowment and their life-span.


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The Four Pillars for a New Care Economy: Centering Domestic Workers in our Recovery Efforts

Monday, November 16, 2020
To elevate and further the conversations from our 2020 Virtual Conference, Meeting the Movement,  we are pleased to present a series of articles that capture the crucial opportunities for funders to reimagine their philanthropic work.  For SCG members who missed our virtual conference, we are happy to share a special opportunity for you to experience over six hours of our conference content on-demand. Register now to stream our curated keynote, plenary, arts, and mindfulness sessions at a discounted rate. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated long-standing systemic inequities and exposed significant gaps in our social safety net and care infrastructure. Essential workers— predominately Black, Latinx, and people of color—continue to be on the frontlines, taking care of our loved ones and keeping us safe while risking their well-being. In the last several months, BIPOC communities have seen alarming infection and death rates as our country falls short of providing them with the basic social and economic supports necessary for their health and safety. 

What will it take to support our country’s essential workers— primarily domestic and home-care workers— as we craft a long-term recovery plan? At SCG’s 2020 Virtual Conference, Meeting the Movement, our keynote session, A Caring Future: Supporting Essential Workers for an Equitable Economy, elevated a new vision to achieve a just care economy. Session speakers included Ai-jen Poo, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Aquilina Soriano Versoza, Executive Director at the Pilipino Workers Center, Aleja Plaza, Domestic Worker-Leader at the Pilipino Workers Center, and Andre Oliver, Initiative Director at The James Irvine Foundation. Our speakers proposed a new type of care infrastructure that reimagines work as we understand it today and centers our most vulnerable essential workers in economic recovery plans. 



According to Ai-jen Poo, our culture conceptualizes work in two main ways. The first is a romanticized past filled with images of white men in hard hats working in construction and manufacturing. The second is a fetishized future of work where artificial intelligence replaces all workers, and technology rules everything. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that neither of these fantasies is real. Today’s working-class population in America is multi-racial, full of immigrants, and at least half composed of women. There is also a much broader range of industries present for working populations, including domestic care, agriculture, day labor, construction, custodial services, and many others. 

In recent months, the increased use of the term “essential work” has given visibility to many industries that were once invisible to the public eye. This attention has exposed that many of these jobs provide low-wages that keep people in poverty. The pandemic has also shown us the fragility of our economy and the reality that we cannot rely on our social safety net to support our workforce in moments of crisis. Low-wage workers power our service-driven economy, and our collective well-being depends on their health and safety. By reframing our notions of work, we have an opportunity to unite people from different sectors toward a common goal. Additionally, this frame allows the general public to better understand our essential workers and address the low-wage work epidemic. 



Domestic work is among the fastest-growing occupations in the country and one of the industries that cannot be outsourced and automated. And yet,  domestic workers have struggled throughout the pandemic to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy, even as they care for our homes and loved ones. The grim reality is that the labor of essential workers— especially domestic workers like nannies, house cleaners, and home-care workers— is first devalued in our economy and culture and then excluded from labor protections. 

Over the past decade, the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), alongside their sister campaign, Caring Across Generations, has been developing a new vision for domestic workers to achieve the dignity, respect, and professionalism essential workers deserve in the 21st century. The goal is to strengthen the care economy and make childcare, paid leave, long-term services, and other fundamental rights universally accessible and supported by public infrastructure and policy. The National Domestic Workers Alliance believes that we currently have a once in a generation opportunity to move a bold plan around work and care in America. To realize this vision, the NDWA prioritizes four policy and programmatic pillars that center the economic recovery of essential workers. 



Pillar 1: Expand the safety net to protect all workers, including domestic workers, gig workers, and a range of nontraditional workers who have fallen through the cracks. 

Throughout the COVID pandemic, essential workers have continued working in high-risk work environments to continue receiving their wages. However, working in these environments increases their risk of infection and the possibility that they might miss work, lose their income, and endanger their housemates and families’ health. The truth is, low-wage workers are making an impossible choice every day because they know they cannot rely on a safety net that will do little to support them. To this day, impacted workers urgently need basic support such as food, shelter, and health services. Expanding the social safety net by providing benefits like sick days, paid leave, portable benefits, access to healthcare, and more would help ensure our most at-risk workers’ safety and health. 


Pillar 2: Achieve a Workers’ Bill of Rights at the federal, state, and local levels. 

The National Workers Bill of Rights would advocate for a higher quality of work for domestic workers and address unfair conditions such as long hours, low wages, diminishing benefits, and lack of job security and rights. As Ai-jen notes, foundational labor laws have deliberately excluded domestic workers for many decades. A national bill of rights would provide them long-overdue protections. This federal bill would require employers to provide a written agreement with clear expectations about pay, duties, schedules, and time-off policies, in addition to protecting domestic workers from any forms of discrimination based on sex, race, religion, or national origin. NDWA hopes to realize this pillar at the federal level first, before seeking opportunities to enact it at the state and local levels. 


Pillar 3: Push for domestic worker protections to address the specific challenges of working inside private homes. Support employers who hire domestic workers by proposing guidelines to help them navigate the pandemic context. 

The COVID pandemic and California’s wildfires have exposed the variety of hazards domestic workers face in the unregulated environments of employer’s private homes. Some domestic workers have reported that they’ve had to clean up toxic ashes from the wildfires without any protective gear. Not only are domestic workers being exposed to severe health risks, but many workers also do not have access to adequate healthcare. As domestic workers continue to navigate the hazards present in private homes, they deserve the rights to occupational health and safety. 

To support this effort, NDWA supported Bill SB-1257, which would include California’s 300,000+ domestic workers in the state’s occupational health and safety law, CAL/OSHA, and provide them with the necessary protections given to other California workers. Governor Newsom vetoed the bill in late-September, citing that “a blanket extension of all employer obligations to private homeowners and renters is unworkable and raises significant policy concerns.” The Governor also mentioned that his administration is committed to developing solutions to “protect domestic workers and the privacy of an individual's private residence.”


Pillar 4: Advocate for significant investments in our economic recovery plan to make childcare, paid leave, and long-term care more affordable and accessible for everyone. 

NDWA believes this a unique opportunity to push for investments that strengthen the country’s caregiving infrastructure and support all families and workers alike. Caring Across Generations released a report showing that “expanding access to quality childcare and community- and home-based care will create jobs quickly, spur job growth in other sectors, and ensure financial stability for professional and informal caregivers.” Learn more about Caring Across Generations Policy Agenda and what it will take to realize this pillar on its website


California has one of the most robust state coalition of local organizations working to change policy, change the culture, educate voters, and move America closer toward a new care economy. With Los Angeles’s dynamic community of active workers centers, Southern California has the potential to be a unique hub of innovation when it comes to strengthening care infrastructure, reimagining the safety-net, and determining the future of jobs in California. Philanthropy has an opportunity to participate in the reimagining of our core infrastructure by engaging in advocacy and by supporting the initiatives of organizations working directly with essential workers. 

To support these efforts, our speakers provided a list of initiatives and resources for funders interested in supporting domestic workers in their COVID recovery efforts. 

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Honoring the Legacy of Richard Atlas (1943-2020)

Monday, November 16, 2020

It is with sadness that we share with our friends and partners that Richard Atlas passed in the early hours of November 13, 2020. He leaves behind a legacy of love beyond measure, respect, hard work, devotion to those he held close, and a commitment to the very youngest in our community.
When he retired from Goldman Sachs in 1994, Rich spoke with dozens of philanthropic and nonprofit leaders to understand how he could give back to marginalized communities in Southern California. Rich was also a long-time, very dear member of the SCG community. 
Rich reached a simple, profound conclusion: by investing in infants and toddlers, he could help change the life trajectory of thousands of vulnerable children in Los Angeles County. Over the past 25 years, Richard and his wife Lezlie created a legacy of long-term, focused investment in the most at-risk infants, toddlers, parents, and public policy with the highest commitment, partnership, and due diligence. He founded the LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment and has collaborated closely with national Early Childhood leaders and community programs.

To honor Rich’s legacy, the family has established The Richard Atlas Early Childhood Fund. If you would like to donate to the fund, please make checks payable to The Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund with The Richard Atlas Early Childhood Fund in the memo and mail to:


The Richard Atlas Early Childhood Fund
c/o The Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund

2121 Avenue of the Starts, Suite 2700
Los Angeles, CA 90067


Thank you for helping to keep Rich’s beautiful and impactful vision alive to create a loving, healthy future for all families. In respecting the family's expressed wishes for privacy, please feel free to send emails to Janis Minton ([email protected]) or Parker Blackman ([email protected]), or letters directly to JMC Philanthropy office (2444 Wilshire Blvd, Suite #622, Santa Monica, CA 90403). Janis and Parker will be sure to pass along any cards or notes to the family.



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President's Blog: A Message on the 2020 Elections

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Hello SCG Community,


As much as we had hoped for a decisive outcome in the presidential race, it’s not a surprise for us to wake up this morning without one. Elections are high-stakes moments with long-term implications. The 2020 elections have been more uncertain and challenging than most due to a worsening pandemic and a divisive political climate. We are proud of how our sector has mobilized to advocate for issues vital to our California’s future, promote civic engagement, and protect our democratic processes. 


Democracy means every vote counts.

As state officials across the country work tirelessly to ensure that every single vote is counted, we strongly condemn false claims of a final result of the presidential race. As we continue to wait for the outcomes of ballot measures and elected positions, the SCG team urges you to be kind to yourself and engage in beneficial wellness practices. We must remain resolute and hopeful and be prepared to take action in the days ahead of us. 

Our partners and governmental officials are confident that fair and accurate results will emerge but have made it clear that we might not know the results for days or weeks after the elections. The pandemic has resulted in millions of votes cast by mail instead of in-person and different states have varying counting timelines. With hundreds of thousands of ballots left to count and key states too close to call, getting every vote counted is crucial. 

We also urge you to remain vigilant and be ready to speak out against any attempts to suppress or weaken people’s voices. If significant challenges emerge, we are prepared to advocate for voter rights and support our members and partners in protecting our democratic processes.


Last night wasn’t just about the presidential election. 

Beyond the presidential race, the 2020 elections are important and consequential for a plethora of national, state, and local candidates and issues on the ballots, which will profoundly affect all Americans. For now, we would like to elevate the leadership of women across the country, in addition to having a woman of color Vice President nominee

  • Record numbers of Native American women, Black women, Latinx women, and LGBTQ people who ran for offices in 2020.
  • Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter organizer, became the first Black congresswoman from Missouri. 
  • In Delaware, Sarah McBride made history as the first transgender woman elected to a state senate. 
  • According to the U.S. Elections Project, more than 10.5 million Californians voted early, which is 72% of the total voter turnout in 2016. Our state is part of a historic surge in turnout across the country, with 88% of eligible Californians registered to vote. 


Whatever happens, we will keep fighting for an equitable and thriving society. 

We still have a tremendous amount of work to do in confronting the pandemic and systemic racism. Our local and state elections’ outcomes will have a more direct impact on California’s philanthropic work. We must remain agile and adaptable. We must continue advocating for our democracy and the issues important to the communities that we serve. As we face the uncertainty and possibilities of a new political term, SCG commits to continue mobilizing our sector to take bold actions in ensuring equitable opportunities for every Californian to thrive.

It is crucial that we all take care of ourselves and each other in the coming days. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need a community to lean on. You will always have a partner in SCG. 
In solidarity and hope.


Christine Essel
President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers


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Preparing for the November Election: Voter & Advocacy Resource Guide for Funders

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Hello SCG Community,

We know that the 2020 General Election will be different than any election we have ever experienced. Not only are significant decisions being made across all levels of government, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges that must be overcome to support a fair and safe election. With much at stake, Philanthropy has a role to play in protecting our democratic principles and ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard. 

At Southern California Grantmakers we believe that philanthropy can make a difference to:

  • Protect democracy by preserving essential public services;
  • Support efforts to guarantee a full and accurate Census count;
  • Ensure every eligible Californian votes;
  • Diversify representation among redistricting delegates; and,
  • Fund to win: plan for the long haul, and invest in partners who are breaking new ground for a stronger and more equitable California.


SCG's Public Policy Team would like to assist funders in making informed decisions around California’s ballot measures and in preparing a voting plan for the election. In California, eligible voters will decide on local elections’ outcomes and statewide ballot initiatives that can advance racial equity and social justice in our state. We encourage you to take the time necessary to review all of the items on your ballot and make an effort to cast your vote early. 

As we enter this election season, please be prepared to exercise patience at many levels of the process. Due to the new election methods and other probable voting and counting delays, we will not likely know the election results for several days or even weeks after November 3. SCG, our partners, and government officials are confident that a fair and accurate election result will emerge, albeit somewhat slower than what we are accustomed to experiencing. 

Take time for yourself, practice wellness, be patient, and trust that Democracy will prevail as it has throughout the history of our great Union. If you have any questions regarding the General Election or the 2020 Census, please feel free to reach out to us at any time

In Partnership,

The SCG Public Policy Team 



2020 Ballot Measures: What, Why, and How to Advocate

Philanthropy California hosted an informational program on Propositions 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, and 25 which are important measures for nonprofits and foundations. Our panelists also discussed how exempt organizations and funders can support or oppose measures while remaining legally compliant.  



California Election 2020 Voters Guide

This election, Californians will have their voices heard on twelve statewide ballot propositions ranging from rent stabilization, reinstating affirmative action, amending commercial property taxes, and many others. CalMatters has produced a voters guide breaking down all twelve propositions below. 



The SCG Public Policy Team has curated a comprehensive list of resources for foundations and grantees interested in engaging in advocacy activities this election season. These resources will help 501(c)(3) organizations remain nonpartisan and legally compliant under IRS guidelines. 


Register to vote

California voters will have multiple ways to engage in the general election. All voters will have the option to vote by mail. In-person voting locations will still be made available, including for early voting.

Vote by Mail

  • In order to receive a mail-in ballot, you must be registered to vote by Monday, October 19. All registered voters will receive a ballot mailed to their address.
  • Be sure that your selections are marked clearly and consistently. The envelope must be sealed and signed with the signature on your voter registration card, which is typically the signature on file with the DMV. 
  • Drop it off at your nearest polling dropbox, a secured box where vote-by-mail ballots can be dropped off. Or return your ballot by mail, postmarked before Tuesday, November 3, 2020. 
  • Track your Ballot: The Secretary of State launched “Where’s My Ballot”, a new tracking tool to help voters track and stay up to date on the status of their ballot.  

Vote in Person

  • In-person voting locations will still be made available on Election day. Find your nearest polling place.
  • You can also vote in person before Election day from Saturday, October 31, 2020, to Monday, November 2, 2020, with alternate hours of operation. Find your nearest early polling place

Support a Safe and Fair Election

Amid an unprecedented amount of misinformation, false claims, and voter suppression tactics, it is more important than ever for voters to revisit their voting rights. When We All Vote has collected crucial information and resources to help voters ensure their voices are heard in every election.



SCG's Primer on Advocacy for Funders

Foundations, both public and private, have the ability to engage in nonpartisan, election engagement while staying within the IRS guidelines. Nona Randois, California Director of Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy work, has authored a Primer on Advocacy for Funders interested in entering public policy work and who need legal guidance on remaining compliant with their 501(c)(3) status. 


Voter Engagement Toolkit for Community Foundations


Voter Engagement Toolkit for Private Foundations 


Participate in Vote Early Day 2020


Convening and Commenting on Debates: The Bolder Advocacy Podcast



Bolder Advocacy Checklist for 501(c)(3) Public Charities: Ensuring Election Year Advocacy Efforts Remain Nonpartisan


Ballot Measures and Public Charities: Yes, You Can Influence That Vote 


Supporting or Opposing Ballot Measures in California: What You Need to Disclose


Ballot Measures Activities Exempt from California Disclosure Laws


Provoc's #TOGETHERWEVOTE Campaign



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President's Blog: Becoming a Courageous Sector

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

At the start of the year, the team at SCG envisioned a very different Annual Conference, one that recalled our past full-day convenings in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. But as the pandemic wore on and the global demands for racial justice intensified, we knew that our annual gathering of grantmakers and community leaders needed to reflect and respond to the urgency of our collective moment. We knew that SCG, like the entire philanthropic sector, needed to reevaluate our responsibility to our hurting communities. 

Our 2020 Annual Conference, Meeting the Movement, was a reflection of the leadership and dialogue we firmly believe is needed to move our sector forward. Across three mornings, leaders — from movements, government, nonprofits, and philanthropy — pushed us to address the long-standing inequities that threaten our recovery, democracy, and future. 

At the heart of each of our panels, one reality became increasingly clear: if philanthropy is truly committed to eradicating systemic injustice, we must become a more courageous sector. 

In the plenary conversation, Breaking Through and Building Power for Social Movements, I was deeply moved and challenged by the sincerity of our speakers Melina Abdullah, Vijay Gupta, Lateefah Simon, and Eryn Wise. These leaders highlighted the distinction between nonprofits and movements and philanthropy’s historic lack of support for leaders on the ground. Our panelists urged us to examine the ways nonprofit culture and its modes of operation often do more to uphold white supremacy than combat it. 

I know that this conversation was difficult for many of us to hear, and I appreciate your willingness to lean in and listen to our community leaders when they share their experiences and pain. In moving past our discomfort, we abandon the practices that perpetuate injustice. 

The truth is that our communities can no longer wait for us to take action. By investing in movement leaders now, we can support their liberation so that we are not complicit in their oppression.

To inspire us to move in a courageous direction, I would like to elevate some of the most urgent lessons shared by the movement leaders


Nonprofits Play a Part, but Movements Change the World

From the abolitionist movement to the Civil Rights Movement, our panelists made it clear: movements are the forces that transform the world. Nonprofits are often tethered to the same systems that intentionally target and disenfranchise Black, brown, and Indigenous communities. The truth is nonprofits cannot reform a system built on oppression. Movements, however, are historically rooted in challenging colonialism, heteropatriarchy, and all of the other structures that disenfranchise people of the global majority. Building power requires our sector to decenter itself and uplift the wisdom, needs, and solutions of those most directly impacted by systemic injustice. Only then can we move beyond the constraints that prevent us from dismantling systems of oppression.

Moving Beyond Structures that Shackle Movement Leaders

It is time for philanthropy to move away from a grant culture founded on a retributive model. More often than not, our sector operates from a hierarchy of finances that reflects capitalist structures. This mode of operating reinforces itself through white-dominant norms of professionalism, outcomes, and paperwork that do nothing to serve leaders or scale movements. Instead, these norms demand time and labor from individuals already operating with limited resources. As Vijay Gupta stated, “I want to stop tricking myself into believing that if I twist language that the work of my heart will be funded.”

Panelists implored philanthropy to abandon its fixation with performance and evaluation. Our sector cannot continue asking movement leaders fighting for Black Lives or Indigenous resistance to produce outcomes for their work. In the last decade, the protest chants that have emerged from these movements have become the national conversations and policies that elected officials must face. As Melina articulated, “We see the promise of democracy because of these movements.” It is time for philanthropy to disentangle itself from white-dominant practices and instead fund liberation. 

Sustaining Movement Leaders 

Funders have the resources to invest in the real and urgent needs of our leaders on the ground. Movements don’t always have grant writers, designers, or a research team; they often lack essentials like office supplies and technology. Movement work happens through the contributions of volunteers and individuals who have dedicated their time to the cause. Instead of asking them to complete more paperwork, grantmakers can provide the unrestricted funds needed for these groups to function and hire needed staff and support. Moreover, movement leaders are exhausted and carry the weight of confronting systemic violence daily. Funders can support leaders personally by funding their rest, their therapy, and their nourishment. Philanthropy has a crucial role to play in creating the conditions for community leadership to thrive. 

Having the Freedom to Dream

Our panelists challenged us to have the courage to abandon the structures that do not serve an equitable world. Philanthropy needs to shift away from models built on lack and bureaucracy and instead focus on practices grounded in love and restoration. I urge our sector to dream big and to have the courage to step away from what is and what continues to constrain all of us. As Dr. Abdullah said, “Systems will never change themselves. We need to create new realities.”


Thank you to the 600+ philanthropic and community leaders who joined our virtual convening. As a reminder, all Meeting the Movement registrants can continue to access Swapcard and watch all of the conference content on-demand. We look forward to sharing more conference lessons inspired by the rest of our sessions and panelists in the coming weeks. 

Additionally, SCG will be hosting a series of programs designed to deepen our learning and further the conversations prompted by our Virtual Conference. These events will include new workshops for our Full Cost Project, a continuation of our Trust-Based Philanthropy series, an encore event for our Family Philanthropy Town Hall, and many others. Please keep an eye out for registration information soon. 

We are incredibly grateful to each of you who supported Meeting the Movement, to all the sponsors who believe in our work, and to our team, who will always innovate to bring the SCG network together. We hope you left our annual conference invigorated to take bold actions, embrace trust-based partnerships, and center equity in every aspect of your work. 


In Solidarity,

Christine Essel
President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers


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Reframing Disasters: Decreasing Natural Hazard Risks through Vulnerability Reduction Efforts

Monday, October 5, 2020

By Alan Kwok, Director of Disaster Resilience at Philanthropy California

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use this moment of focused attention and commitment to social justice and invest in communities hit hardest by the triple crises of racism, COVID-19, and California's wildfires. In conjunction with the governor's office, philanthropy's nimble capital can prevent nature's hazards from becoming human disasters. 


Natural Hazards vs. Human Disasters

Wildfires, viruses, and other natural hazards do not cause disasters. Natural hazards have long been here. We – individuals, organizations, governments – have made decisions that put specific communities in vulnerable conditions where they cannot adequately prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural hazards. For instance, COVID-19 is a natural hazard but the socio-economic and public health crises that followed are a disaster created by decision-makers long before the pandemic. Decades of under-investment in communities of color in health, housing, educational, and workforce access have created the conditions that make Black and Brown folks more susceptible to contracting, spreading, and suffering from the disease. 

The U.S. philanthropic sector spends two-thirds of its total disaster grantmaking to support disaster relief. Currently, significant charitable dollars are going to emergency relief for COVID-19 and wildfire relief. However, investing solely in disaster relief preserves power in the hands of the funder. Disaster relief doesn't address or resolve the root causes of vulnerability, such as racial, gender, and economic inequities. Disaster relief generally reinforces the imbalances that preserve wealth in the hands of people with the most significant protection from harm and leaves communities of color to cope with disaster without proper resources. Philanthropy can do better. Even as we rise to meet these immediate challenges, we must shift our funding to center people closest to the harm to prevent wildfires and other natural hazards from becoming disasters.


Rethinking Disaster Investments

Natural hazards in California will continue for years to come. As a sector, our role in tackling vulnerabilities and hazards-induced racial inequities requires us to rethink how we invest in climate change and disasters. We must increase our investments upstream – before a disaster – through vulnerability reduction efforts and reducing natural hazard risks.  

Building power to advance economic justice 

Our existing economic policies are stacked against people of color. Decades of divestments in communities of color mean zip codes determine the ability to attain financial security. Turning policies around that truly advance economic justice requires philanthropic support to build community power. Power building is about shifting influence and resources to those who are most at risk of natural and other types of hazards. It is about ensuring decisions that impact communities have their best interest. It is about making governments accountable to them. People of color need to be at the decision-making table and have connections to those with power. Research shows that building community power leads to long-term policy and structural changes that are accountable to the communities most at risk of and affected by any hazards, whether it is a financial downturn or a wildfire. Every foundation can build community power through supporting advocacy efforts and building the capacity of POC-led organizations.

Reducing natural hazard risks

Wildfires have affected over two dozens of counties and millions of people across the state. Philanthropy California and our partners at the Moore Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Resources Legacy Fund, Vibrant Planet, and Smart Growth California recently hosted the Building Wildfire Resilience series of programs to educate funders building wildfire resiliency in the West. The programs identified several key investment streams: 

  • Building diverse state- and federal-level coalitions for a policy change that centers on prescribed fire, tribal leadership, land use planning for WUI (wildland-urban interface) community resilience, and wildfire prevention funding.
  • Advancing technological solutions through early fire detection, evacuation planning, alert systems, real-time air quality monitoring, smart grid, etc.
  • Ensuring land use planning and building retrofits support reduces wildfire threats to existing communities and directs development pressure toward less risky environments. 
  • Implementing solutions to address long-standing social inequities, including vulnerabilities to wildfire smoke, access to health care, access to home hardening resources, access to community-based electricity, and more.
  • Harnessing market mechanisms in building wildfire resilience such as forest restoration bonds and opportunities to influence the insurance industry so that wildfire risks are pre-written into development costs.
  • Creating workforce and economic transition opportunities for job creation that pay well and that are sustainable. 


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Meet David J. Carroll, SCG's New Vice-President of Public Policy & Government Relations

Friday, September 11, 2020
SCG is thrilled to welcome David J. Carroll to our team as the new Vice President of Public Policy & Government Relations. In this role, David will provide strategic leadership in developing, enhancing, and implementing SCG’s policy advocacy and legislative agendas and leading the public policy and government affairs portfolio of Philanthropy California.

Below, David has shared a reflection on his personal and professional journey leading up to SCG and his long-term aspirations for the nonprofit sector.

By David J. Carroll 

In the community where I grew up in St. Louis, a child was more likely to end up in jail than graduate from college. This reality was especially true for a child coming from the foster care system and living in a single-parent household— a child like me. I often reflect on the forces that guided and protected me as a youth; sports, academic opportunities, entrepreneurship, mentoring through Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and specialized education as a student in an all-Black college preparatory high school. With the support of my community and my incredible mother, I graduated from Harris-Stowe State University, a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) with a degree in business administration and accounting. 

After college, I joined the corporate sector as an account manager for major consulting firms, including a division of Ernst & Young. In these roles, I participated in worldwide projects, including the Year 2000 remediation and the early stages of the “dot com” boom. I enjoyed a successful corporate career for ten years, but ultimately could not help but feel unfulfilled in my daily routine. I began to seek out opportunities to engage with youth outside of work. I started volunteering with the Special Olympics, coached youth in multiple sports, and became a mentor through the same Fraternity that supported me as a young person. 

I started to realize that my true calling was to serve others. I wanted to provide youth with the same support and opportunities I had benefited from during my upbringing. As life would have it, just as I began to contemplate a new career and purpose, I was victim to an armed robbery and carjacking committed by two teenage boys. Instead of allowing this unfortunate and violent event to crush my resolve, I fortified my commitment to helping others. I knew I had to be a part of the solution facing my community or recognize that I was merely a part of the problem.

I decided to change careers and joined the nonprofit sector as a manager for a community-based organization. I also returned to school and earned a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management, which allowed me to understand our sector’s challenges and opportunities deeply. I quickly recognized that the communities we were serving were vastly underfunded and could only achieve minimal improvements with the resources available. To realize meaningful change, I knew we had to change policies and systems. I shifted course and entered the public policy realm by building relationships with elected leaders. I began advocating for additional targeted resources, new policies supporting equitable resource allocation, and legislation that could provide long-term, sustainable impact in historically marginalized communities. The force of my advocacy reached my home state and captured the Mott Foundation’s attention, where I eventually became a member of a National Public Policy and Advocacy cohort.

I’ve learned that programs are a vital and immediate solution for our communities most impacted by structural inequality. However, I envision a time where these programs are no longer needed because policy and legislation have removed the systemic barriers that push vulnerable populations to society’s margins. Change takes time, but I am ready to join the collective forces fighting for a more equitable and inclusive future.

I am excited to help strengthen the SCG network’s voice and influence in public policy for a more equitable and vibrant California. I look forward to meeting and collaborating with all of our members passionate about policy and systems change work. I hope you always feel free to reach out to me directly if you’d like to connect. 

Yours in service, 

David J. Carroll
Vice President, Public Policy & Government Relations

[email protected]


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Remaking the Case for Funding Systems Change

Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Because of the dual reality of remarkable strides in racial justice and seemingly insurmountable inequities, we must work harder than ever to achieve authentic systems change.  

The past few months of worldwide Black Lives Matter protests have forced the largest scale of police reforms since 2013 — after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager. Across the country, there are new bans on tear gas and chokeholds, new requirements of body cameras, and new ways to protect communities without police departments. And yet, less than two weeks ago, Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer; this week, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Dijon Kizze in South LA.

In the past and present, every time our society inches toward progress, we are reminded that inequities persist and that our lifelong fight against racism cannot stop at small victories. 

This dual reality is omnipresent in the philanthropic sector, government, the corporate world, and our individual circles. 

Yes, we have witnessed an unprecedented momentum toward positive changes: funding is flowing to Black-led organizations; institutions are recommitting to equity; conversations are taking place among lawmakers about reparations; our friends and family members have all declared themselves to be anti-racist. We can’t help but find ourselves hoping that the world is finally changing for the better this time.

Despite all the signs showing a societal breakthrough, the criminalization of Black people continues, the racial wealth gap doesn’t get any narrower, and Black people still get killed. The Committee for Greater LA highlighted gaping inequities in our backyard. While Black Angelenos represent about 8% of the total County population, they constitute over a third of the population experiencing homelessness. And according to a report by the Institute for Policy Studies, it would take Black families 228 years to amass the same amount of wealth white families have today. 

I am feeling strained, anxious, and frustrated by this dual reality. You might be feeling the same. And that’s why I want to remake the case for systems change, which was articulated in a report published by McKinsey & Company in partnership with SCG member Ashoka and other systems change leaders. 

We can’t deny the amount of progress we have accomplished or the truth that we are nowhere close to ending racism. At this moment, if we don’t push for the most urgent and bold actions, we will, at the best, stand still, and at the worst, risk generations of Black people living in anguish and fear.

Recognizing that Black Lives Matter is a must. However, this recognition that Black people deserve the same opportunities to thrive is the bare minimum, not progress. It means that we are not digging deep enough to address the fundamental causes rather than symptoms of racism.

According to Embracing Complexities, “systems change approaches address root causes rather than symptoms by altering, shifting, and transforming behavioral structures, customs, mindsets, power dynamics, and rules, with the intent of solving societal problems – with lasting effects on a local, national, and global level.” 

As the SCG team prepares for our annual conference Meeting the Movement, we are more committed than ever to not only meet but sustain racial justice movements. And to do so, we are grasping the long-term, uncertain, and complex nature of systems change. 

As a sector, philanthropy needs to embrace complexities around us: we must learn from community resiliency while building our own; we must support movements without co-opting them; we must be aware of how much space we take in public discourse while centering the voices of people of color; we must simultaneous wield and cede our power to let communities lead.

Systems change work is hard work. And it’ll take every single individual and institution to accomplish sustainable results. I hope that you will join me in embracing a systems mindset, supporting evolving paths to systems change, preparing for long-term engagement, and engaging in true partnerships with our communities.


Christine Essel

President & CEO

Southern California Grantmakers

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Claiming Our Personal Power: A Conversation with Aimee Allison on Supporting the Leadership of Women of Color

Thursday, August 27, 2020
SCG is a nonpartisan organization. As a 501(c)3 organization, we do not endorse or oppose political candidates. Opinions expressed in this piece belong to our guest and are a commentary of women of color in leadership, not of the qualifications of political candidates. For more information on how 501(c)3 organizations can engage in advocacy before and after elections, please check out resources from our friends at Alliance for Justice on how to hold elected officials accountable and how to respond during an election year.


On August 11, 2020, California Senator, Kamala Harris, was announced as Joe Biden's pick for the Vice-President nomination. Senator Harris' selection was historic as she became the first woman of color to be nominated for a major party's presidential ticket. On August 19, Kamala accepted the Democratic Party's nomination, solidifying her place in the 2020 general election and our nation's history. 

SCG spoke to Aimee Allison, President & Founder of She the People, a national organization dedicated to advancing the political voice and leadership of women of color to transform our democracy. Amid She the People's continued work to elevate the leadership profile of women across the country, Senator Harris' nomination was a spark of hope and a testament to how far our culture has come in recognizing the electoral power of women of color. Not only do women of color make up 20% of the nation's population, but they are also the largest voting block among any group in the country. This year alone, 38 million women of color will become eligible to vote in this upcoming election. 

During our conversation, Aimee discussed the political potential of "women of color" as a collective identity, discussed new models of community-led governance, and outlined She the People's efforts to protect our democratic institutions during this election year and beyond. 

In April, you and dozens of other African-American women signed a letter urging Mr. Biden to choose a black woman as his running mate. What does this historic moment mean to Black women and women of color?

Aimee: It's a spark of hope. We cannot overstate the significance of this appointment in American culture. Racism and sexism have infected American politics and hindered women of color's hopes and dreams since the beginning of this country. And now, here comes Kamala Harris, who is officially on the presidential ticket. But to call Kamala Harris a Black woman isn't quite right. She's a child of immigrants — her mother is from India and her father from Jamaica — and is Asian American. She holds multiple identities proudly together as a woman of color. And I mean the term "women of color" not as racial identity, but rather, as a term of political solidarity. Kamala's personal story has the potential to speak to people across many different lived experiences. It's a remarkable achievement for women of color to be seen and heard in a new way. 

She the People was one of the loudest and most persistent voices calling for the Vice Presidential nomination to be a woman of color. When we heard it was Kamala, we were astounded at how far the culture had moved. To us, this nomination goes beyond the political ecosystem of parties, cable commentators, donors, and other talking heads. This nomination was about acknowledging the voting power of women of color as a constituency and recognizing our potential to unify people, especially at a time when it is common to see divisive narratives. 


How will Kamala's nomination shape the work of She the People's work moving forward? What is She the People's message in 2020?

Aimee: She the People's work has never been about one person. She the People is forwarding the multiracial and pro-democracy forces embodied by the leadership of all women of color. Today, our country has a historic number of women of color running down the ballot. Look at Cori Bush, a Ferguson activist who was unsuccessful in securing the Congressional Nomination in Missouri in 2018. But Cori never stopped running, and she has out-organized her opponent and is now virtually guaranteed to be the first Black woman to serve as a Congressional Representative in Missouri. More than ever, there is a larger number of women coming from the Movement— from advocacy, racial justice, economic justice, gender justice spaces— and use their organizing skills to claim their leadership. Cori is just one example of this through-line from the racial justice movements on the ground to the halls of Congress. 

She the People's message is that women of color are ready to lead across the entire ballot. We must continue to recognize the courageous, moral leadership of those deeply connected to and representative of the movements on the ground. Women of color have the potential to expand the franchise and bring in more voters. When women engage in multiracial political organizing, they demonstrate their power to shape this country's future. 


How do we ensure that the momentum and demands created by the uprisings against police violence and racism are not lost? How can we hold our elected leaders accountable?

A: I believe our definition of holding leaders accountable needs to evolve. Accountability doesn't always mean sitting an elected official down and making demands. This expectation is not sustainable, nor is it an effective strategy to move our agendas forward. We need to find courageous and justice-driven leaders who are deeply committed to the communities they are serving. Our elected leaders must be an extension of our communities, not isolated entities. They must see themselves in the continuum of those who have come before and those who will come after, in the fight for equality. We must close the gap between communities and politicians and abandon our traditional expectations around accountability. Only then can we adopt new models of co-governance that forward policies and politics in concert with social movements. A co-governance model allows us to move our priorities and agendas that serve the people forward without being entirely dependent on leadership. 


What barriers do women of color need to break down to imagine and implement a co-governance model? 

Aimee: The first step is for women of color to claim our personal power and say, "we are worthy, and we are enough." Often, women and girls of color hear stories designed to silence, sideline, or dismiss who they are. These are virulent and poisonous attacks against their humanity that serve as a way to limit women of color's political license and power by convincing the broader public that there's something fundamentally wrong with them. Women of color have to fight against these stories and create a new vision for ourselves and our leadership. She the People is committed to narrative work focused on changing the stories women of color hear to create new political possibilities. When we see our value and turn to other women of color for strength and support, we are a powerful force. 

Second, we need to change the role of money in elections. She the People believes that for co-governance to happen, elected officials need to be free of the influence of big-dollar lobbyists. To this end, our organization helps women of color across all levels of government tap into a national network of small-dollar donors to carry their campaigns forward. We also aspire toward a future where publicly funded elections are a viable alternative, but the truth is that we are far from that right now. 

Lastly, we need to learn from others to reimagine the structure of our campaigns and teams. For example, the New Virginia Majority, led by Tram Nguyen, is a robust co-governance model focused on registering voters, talking to constituents, and supporting candidates running for office. Tram sat on a transition team with the last governor to craft a hundred-day strategy that helped her expand Medicare to 100,000 more Virginians. There are experts amongst women of color who have already implemented co-governance models and are making a tremendous impact. 


As we approach the November election, we will continue to see an emphasis on voter turnout and engagement. How can we protect and fortify our democratic institutions to make sure women of color can fully participate in our democracy? 

Aimee: We must continue to protect the integrity of our democratic institutions. As a voting block, women of color have the highest voter turnout rates of any race or gender. Women of color are also the most targeted for voter suppression. States like Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and Florida, have long histories of voter suppression that specifically target communities of color. These voter suppression tactics include taking people off the voter rolls, eliminating voting machines, sending late mail-in ballots, closing down voting locations, and so much more. Even now, as states try to make polling stations safer from COVID, we also see a rise in "poll watchers"— essentially armed militia— who stand alongside long lines of people of color.  

She the People is making it a priority to support one million women of color in battleground states access the information and resources they need to vote. We're running the largest, coordinated voter turnout effort focused exclusively on women of color in the nation. We're going to start looking at voter turnout on October 3, when most states begin early voting. She the People will be leaning heavily into digital to tackle the vast amounts of disinformation circulating on social media. We will also continue to educate people who are accustomed to voting in person to vote by mail. 


What is giving you hope today?

Aimee: Our ancestors have always given me hope. They faced the most terrible crimes of a society that did not value them. We know our ancestors faced those atrocities and survived. We have survived. We still believe in our communities and our democracy, and we are willing to work every day for that.  



She the People's vision is to build an inclusive, multiracial coalition of women of color capable of driving cultural and political change for a new justice-centered era. In 2020, She the People, a 501c4 project, is building the most comprehensive effort to turn out one million women of color in seven key swing states and nationally to win the White House, Senate, and down-ballot races. She the People's 501c3 sister project, She the People/Storied, elevates and amplifies the leadership, insights, power, and solutions brought by women of color across the nation. In changing perceptions and awareness, we ensure that there is space for women of color to engage civically. 

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Reimagining L.A. County: Shifting County Budget Priorities to Communities and Incarceration Alternatives

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

By Erika Cervantes

On November 3rd, Los Angeles County voters will cast their vote on the county-wide ballot measure, Re-Imagine LA. Listed on the ballot as Measure J or better known as Re-Imagine LA, would reinvest hundreds of millions of dollars directly into community and alternatives to incarceration through a County charter amendment, creating permanent change. The measure calls for an allocation of no less than ten percent of the County’s locally generated unrestricted revenues in the general fund to address the disproportionate impact of racial injustice through community investment and alternatives to incarceration.  

Background on Re-Imagine LA

In the onset of local and nationwide protests against police brutality and the racial inequities faced throughout history by the Black community, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has introduced a list of several county-wide measures supporting efforts and policies to address racial inequity and create economic opportunity and housing stability for marginalized communities. On July 21st, to structurally shift the budget priorities of the County, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Supervisor Hilda Solis, co-authored the motion “Re-Imagining L.A. County: Shifting Budget Priorities to Revitalize Under-Resourced and Low-Income Communities,” initiating the first vote of three required by the Board to place the motion on the November 3rd county-wide ballot. 

The idea behind the motion was developed by a coalition of advocates, community organizations, and County residents calling for divestment from incarceration and policing instead of increasing investments in the health and economic wellness of marginalized people. The Re-imagine L.A. County Coalition states that for decades, the Los Angeles County’s budget has directed money away from Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities and allocated it in ways that in effect, negatively impacted those same communities. The coalition has also stated that the impacts on these communities have only been exacerbated by the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. The people in L.A. County, especially those working minimum wage jobs, seniors, young people trying to learn new skills, people without mental health care, and those excluded from stable housing, are being crushed by the pandemic and a status quo budget that continues to deny them resources and opportunities.


Racial and Economic Inequities Across Los Angeles County

Recent studies have demonstrated the disproportionate impact on the Black community throughout the County, where Black people comprise only nine percent of the population but make up 34 percent of the people experiencing homelessness, and 41 percent of those diagnosed with a mental health condition in jail. The budget for juvenile halls and camps was over $397 million in the fiscal year 2019-2020 for the county. With an average daily population of about 900 youth, the Probation Department spends almost $450,000 per year per person in a camp of a hall. Likewise, according to the Department Auditor-controller report for the fiscal year 2019-2020, the cost of incarcerating people with mental health needs in L.A. County is over $206 a day. The County’s daily pretrial population, people who have not been convicted of any crime but cannot afford to post bail, costs the county nearly $500,000 per year. 

According to a report by the County Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR) and the RAND Corporation, since its establishment in 2015, ODR has safely diverted over 5,0000 people from County jails to more appropriate and effective settings, where individuals can get treatment and avoid future involvement with the criminal justice system. 

Racial and economic inequities throughout the County also demonstrate a need for financial and deep investments. For example, according to a 2016 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, White households in the L.A. metropolitan area have a median net worth of $350,000, while in comparison, households with Mexican heritage and Black households have a median net worth of $3,500 and $4,000, respectively. The lack of affordable housing presents a separate challenge. In the L.A. Metro area, 200,000 units that rented for less than $1,000 per month were lost in the ten years between 2008 and 2018, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. In the same period, more than half a million units with rents $1,400 per month, were developed. According to a 2019 report released by the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing and the California Housing Partnership, renters in Los Angeles County would have to earn $47.52 per hour – more than three times the local minimum wage- to afford the $2,471 median monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment. 

To address racial injustice, over-reliance on law enforcement interventions, limited economic opportunity, health disparities, and housing instability, the Board of Supervisors voted for the residents of Los Angeles County to decide on structurally shifting the budget priorities of the County through a County Charter Amendment. 


Proposed Changes to County Charter

L.A. County’s $34.9 billion budget comes from a combination of local, state, and federal sources. The locally generated unrestricted revenue is known as “Net County Costs” (NCC) and totals about $8.8 billion of the County’s total budget. The County’s F.Y. 2020- 2021 final approved budget allocates 42% ($3.7 billion) of NCC for law enforcement, and the legal system uses. 

If passed in November by a simple majority, the amendment will annually allocate in the County’s budget no less than ten percent of the County’s locally generated unrestricted revenues in the general fund to address the disproportionate impact of racial injustice through community investment and alternatives to incarceration. These funds will also be earmarked and prohibited from being used for carceral systems and law enforcement agencies. The amendment includes language that will allow the incremental phasing in of the 10 percent of unrestricted revenues from the general fund over three years, beginning July 1st, 2021, and incrementally growing to the full ten percent set-aside by June 30th, 2024. The amendment also provides protection in the event of a county-wide fiscal emergency, as declared by the Board of Supervisors, the Board has the ability to reduce the total set-aside amount through a four-fifths vote. 

As mentioned, the measure will amend the L.A. County Charter and permanently allocate 10 percent of existing locally controlled revenues for direct community investment and alternatives to incarceration. The funds would be distributed for the following primary purposes: 

  1. Direct Community Investment
    • Community-based youth development programs
    • Job training and jobs to low-income residents focusing on jobs that support the implementation of the “Alternatives to Incarceration” workgroup recommendations as presented to the County Board of Supervisors on March 10th, 2020, especially construction jobs for the expansion of affordable and supportive housing, restorative care villages, and decentralized system of care. 
    • Create access to capital for small minority-owned businesses, with a focus on Black-owned businesses.
    • Provide rent assistance, housing vouchers, and accompanying supportive services to those at risk of losing their housing or without stable housing. 
    • Provide capital funding for transitional housing, affordable housing, supportive housing, and restorative care villages with priority for shovel-ready projects. 
  2. Alternatives to Incarceration
    • Community-based restorative justice programs. 
    • Pretrial non-custody services and treatment.
    • Community-based health services, health promotion, counseling, wellness and prevention programs, and mental health and substance use disorder services. 
    • Non-custodial diversion and reentry programs, including housing and services. 


The set-aside of ten percent shall not be used for any carceral system or law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles County Superior Courts, or Los Angeles County Probation Department, including redistribution of funds to those entities. 



Supporters of Re-Imagine L.A. argue that the measure is a long-overdue move toward justice and equality needed by the County. They argue that only through a charter amendment will the County be permanently committed to investing in its Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities for the long-term. The Re-Imagine L.A. County Coalition, the primary driver and sponsor of the measure, is made up of a diverse group of issue-based advocates and community organizations with a broad spectrum of concentrations including housing and homelessness, criminal justice, economic justice, health, labor, and racial justice, and others, who have been fighting for massive changes to the County’s budget on an annual basis. The group has grown to include a list of 97 organizations, including the Advancement Project of California, United Way of Greater L.A., L.A. Family Housing, La Defensa, UCLA School of Law, and the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). According to the Re-Imagine L.A. County Coalition, the exact amount spent on community investment and alternatives to incarceration is currently closer to 1% rather than 10%. 



Opponents of this ballot measure argue that the series of motions by the Board of Supervisors were hastily introduced without planning or public notice and that by allowing voters to decide County budget allocations, the measure violates the California Constitution and state law which prohibit the supervisors from delegating away the Board’s control of the budget. Union groups such as the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, and the Coalition of Probation Unions, stated that the supervisors violated an ordinance that requires county officials to consult with labor unions and also to give unions 90-days notice of any change to the charter. In demonstrating their opposition towards the charter amendment, the union groups stated they intend to take legal action regarding the procedural and legality of the measure. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva also demonstrated his opposition to the charter amendment ballot measure, stating that the title of the measure can be deceptive to voters and doesn’t offer language on the possible effects, should the measure pass, to other County departments including the County Sheriff’s Department. Additional arguments in opposition to the charter amendment during the Board of Supervisors meetings included potential job losses throughout L.A. County departments, fiscal inflexibility, and county bond ratings- all of which were addressed by the Board. 


Funders interested in learning more about Re-Imagine LA, can access the slide deck below presented during a Funders Call for Re-Imagine LA on August 20, 2020. 

For questions or comments, please contact Erika Cervantes at [email protected]

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Speaking Truth to Power: Alex M. Johnson's Unapologetic Commitment to Equity

Thursday, July 30, 2020
SCG is excited to announce that Joanna Jackson, Vice President of Programs at the Weingart Foundation, and Alex Johnson, Program Director at The California Wellness Foundation, joined SCG's Board of Directors on June 2020. We spoke to our new Board members about their journeys, the role of equity and trust in their grantmaking, and what's giving them hope for the future. 

Alex Johnson is a servant leader whose life and work express his unapologetic commitment to advancing equity and dismantling injustice on behalf of communities that face systemic oppression. Alex brings significant professional experience working across multiple systems – from youth justice to education to public safety – from the public sector to the nonprofit sector.
Immediately after graduating from law school, and having clerked at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, he served as a prosecutor in the Bronx County District Attorney's Office, where his team advocated for victims of domestic violence, primarily women of color. There, he witnessed firsthand the often-unchecked power of prosecutors and law enforcement departments, as well as how punishment was meted out to those caught at the intersection of poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and unequal educational opportunities. A product of public education in Los Angeles, Alex has worked for the New York City Department of Education, briefly taught high school students in the District of Columbia, and has served as president of the Los Angeles County Board of Education.
Alex currently serves as a program director at the California Wellness Foundation, where he leads a multimillion-dollar grantmaking portfolio that supports community-based organizations in creating healthier environments, preventing gun violence, developing community-led approaches to community violence, transforming the youth justice system, and advancing healing and wellness. Before Cal Wellness, Alex served as Executive Director at the Children's Defense Fund-California, leading statewide efforts to improve access to healthcare, educational equity, end child poverty, and reform the juvenile justice system. He has also served as Managing Director at Californians for Safety and Justice and as a senior policy advisor for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, where he worked to ensure access to high-quality universal preschool and early childhood education, reform the LA County Probation Department, and bring civilian oversight to the LA County Sheriff's Department.
At Cal Wellness, Alex prioritizes the perspectives of the people on the ground, working to solve the most intractable, systemic problems in communities of color. Alex's approach to philanthropy and social justice is based on listening and learning from the community's voices while drawing upon his personal experiences. "As a statewide funder committed to racial justice, our role is to respond to the needs and desires of historically marginalized and disinvested communities through a strategic approach directly informed by these communities." He challenges funders to harness philanthropy's power to respond boldly and urgently to the challenges, hopes, and dreams of communities of color.
Alex is not one to sit on the sidelines or tiptoe around issues to be polite. He believes in speaking truth to power and not falling into complacency. "One of my favorite quotes from Cornel West is to' be aware of deodorized discourse' –– we must be strategic disruptors and boldly confront the ills that this nation has wrought." As the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery opened the world's eyes once again to the racism and brutality perpetuated against Black men and women, Alex published a profoundly moving essay, "Perpetual Wounds." Four years earlier, in the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown, he authored another personal reflection, "It Could Have Been Me." Despite the pain and trauma that endures from the need to continue reinforcing that Black lives matter, Alex remains filled with a sense of hope fueled by the uncompromising organizers, activists, and leaders who persist in their efforts to uproot entrenched inequities and ensure that communities can thrive.
Humbled by the struggles and sacrifices of those who gave and still give their lives in pursuit of equality and justice, Alex is grateful for the opportunity to serve on the board of Southern California Grantmakers. He joins the board guided by the values imparted by his parents and elders, and fortified by the words from Sweet Honey in the Rock's powerful Ella's Song, "We who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes.


Read Joanna Jackson's Board Announcement: 

From the Picket Lines to Philanthropy: Joanna Jackson's Fight for Humility and Justice


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From the Picket Lines to Philanthropy: Joanna Jackson's Fight for Humility and Justice

Thursday, July 30, 2020
SCG is excited to announce that Joanna Jackson, Vice President of Programs at the Weingart Foundation, and Alex Johnson, Program Director at The California Wellness Foundation, joined SCG's Board of Directors on June 2020. We spoke to our new Board members about their journeys, the role of equity and trust in their grantmaking, and what's giving them hope for the future. 

Joanna is no stranger to the fight for equity and justice. These values are in her blood. The descendant of civil rights advocates, movement leaders, and labor organizers, Joanna was brought into activism at a young age. "My grandfather charged genocide against African-Americans with Paul Robeson at the United Nations, and my father was a conscientious objector that went to jail. These were the things we talked about at the dinner table." She spent her childhood on the picket lines, interning at union offices, and accompanying her parents to political meetings where she developed a drive to help people of color achieve full rights in the country they built. 

Joanna began her professional career working for a nonprofit arts organization in Oakland before joining the Cultural Facilities Fund (now known as the Nonprofit Finance Fund), where she supported arts organizations with their financial responsibilities. "There's healing in artistic expression. It is incredibly powerful for people of color to tell their own stories, to share their common humanity, and to influence our public consciousness." Joanna followed the funding thread of her work and found herself at SCG's sister organization, Northern California Grantmakers, where she oversaw the revolving loan funds for nonprofit organizations. Soon after, Joanna received her MPA through the National Urban Fellows Program, which brought her to work for the City of San Jose. Eventually, Joanna relocated to Los Angeles and accepted roles at the California Endowment and the US Fund for UNICEF before, ultimately, joining the Weingart Foundation, where she will soon be celebrating her twelfth work anniversary.

At Weingart, Joanna oversees the foundation's programming arm, which she grounds in humility, equity, and constant evolution. Her values are reinforced by Weingart's long-standing commitment to racial justice, especially now as the foundation responds to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joanna appreciates how quickly the foundation leaned into its responsive grantmaking values to give its grantees the time and space to focus on their organization's work. "Trusting your partners means being humble enough to learn alongside them." Joanna credits the foundation's focus on trust and collaboration on helping her grow as a leader. "By acknowledging that we don't always have all the answers, we push ourselves to take risks and be uncomfortable. This discomfort forces us to evolve and to find our authentic leadership voice." 
More than ever, Joanna is hopeful for the future. She is encouraged by the movement leaders and young people demanding structural change and holding public leaders accountable. She is empowered by the ways funders are stepping up in response. Having been a part of Los Angeles' philanthropy sector for over a decade, Joanna has tracked how the field has grown in its equity work and presence in the public sector. In particular, she is proud of how SCG has evolved to advance philanthropic practice and spur these cross-sector collaborations. "There is tremendous promise in the role SCG can continue to have, especially at this moment, as philanthropists evaluate how they can take their recent commitments to racial justice to the next level." For Joanna, this momentum is fueling her desire to continue to "push and fight for the equity and justice that every young person—every person—deserves." 


Read Alex Johnson's Board Announcement: 

Speaking Truth to Power: Alex M. Johnson's Unapologetic Commitment to Equity


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President's Blog: Interrogating Complacency

Tuesday, July 28, 2020
I would like to speak candidly about the harm of complacency in the fight for racial justice.

Complacency is defined as a “feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger.” It is easy to become complacent, especially for those of us who are White or non-Black, liberal, progressive, and working toward an equitable society.

At twelve years old, my very first job was to teach piano lessons. Since then, I have been working non-stop for over 45 years. I built a career as a woman in a male-dominated corporate world. I have gone through multiple racial equity trainings. I acknowledge my white privileges. It is tempting to pat myself on the back for having done my part in making the world a better place. These moments of self-satisfaction always demand an immediate reality check. 

The reality is that complacency works in service of white supremacy and oppression. While it is convenient for me to center my personal struggles and feel good about my accomplishments, I risk erasing the fact that I continue to benefit from being white. Complacency is a strong symptom of the racism pandemic and public health crisis. To build a healthier society, we must grapple with our human tendency to constantly seek external validation and self-satisfaction. 

When we feel content with the limited work that we’ve done to dismantle racism, we stop looking deeper and trying harder to address deep-rooted, systemic injustices. By not working to identify our complacent thinking and behaviors, we risk engaging in performative allyship, which leads to overconfidence and inertia in undoing our relationship with white supremacy and anti-Black racism. On the opposite spectrum of inaction, we also risk becoming defensive and blaming others for our own lack of actions. By learning and unlearning, we build the muscle to check our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without always relying on external feedback.

These past few weeks, I continue to be inspired by the SCG network and our sector’s active role in directing funding to Black-led organizations and seeking equity both internally and externally. Together, I know that we can do better to move from paralysis to action, share power, protect our democracy, and more. Let’s sustain accountability in our philanthropic community and interrogate our personal moments of complacency.

Christine Essel
President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers


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Building Power Across Generations: Strategies and Lessons from NextGen Funders

Friday, July 17, 2020

In June, SCG convened over 150 family foundation members for our first-ever 2020 Family Philanthropy Virtual Town Hall, a day dedicated to exploring family philanthropy’s role in shaping the future for generations to come. SCG is excited to elevate the critical conversations from our Town Hall to help families revisit their values and build power across generations. 

More and more, philanthropy is shifting away from its traditional, institutional practices and adopting innovative approaches to grantmaking and community collaborations. Some family foundations are beginning to entrust the future to their next-generation donors and family members by elevating their voices and empowering them to chart a new course of action for the foundation. In Engaging Generation Impact: Best Practices for Families, Michael Moody and Sharna Goldseker assert that the next generation of donors will be the most significant philanthropists ever as they inherit nearly $60 trillion with an estimated $27 trillion designated for charitable purposes over the next four decades. 

Today, we are beginning to see how nextgen donors are fundamentally transforming philanthropy. At SCG’s 2020 Family Philanthropy Virtual Town Hall, Connie Malloy, SCG Board member and Executive Director at the Panta Rhea Foundation, moderated a panel discussion with a powerhouse group of nextgen leaders including A. Sparks, Executive Directors of the Masto Foundation, Xenia Emmanuel, Director of Operations and Programs at the WHH Foundation, and Alexis Marion, Trustee, Program Officer, and Jr. Board Advisor at the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation. These leaders discussed their bold visions for their organizations and the ways they’ve begun to shift their foundation’s internal structures toward mutual interdependence across generations and with the communities they are serving. 

Below, you will find an overview of the innovative strategies these family foundations have implemented and the lessons they’ve learned in building power across generations. 




Senior family members must meaningfully incorporate the contributions and ideas of younger family members into the foundation’s work if they want to prove to nextgen members that they value their voices and opinions. Ignoring the input and perspectives of younger members signals that leadership is not actually interested in working across generations. It is necessary to create avenues for the next generation to transform their ideas into tangible action, whether that’s creating a new grant or changing a component of an outdated application. Equally important is publicly acknowledging the contributions of nextgen leaders to help them establish a record of internal impact within the foundation. 


As the pandemic progressed, the WHH Foundation decided to hold a town hall meeting for family members who wanted to get involved in COVID-19 relief efforts but had no grantmaking experience. This convening hoped to give younger family members an open platform to exchange ideas, identify problems in their respective communities, and decide how they wanted to address those needs. By providing a no-pressure space for family members to learn, the foundation was able to not only build the confidence of younger leaders around grantmaking, but it also encouraged them to create unique solutions that made sense for their communities. 


The Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation currently has a Junior Board member who is seven years old. To ensure that everyone in the organization has access to every document, including grant announcements and applications, the foundation has established a rule that states that if the youngest member of the organization can’t understand it, then it doesn’t get used. This inclusion demonstrates to younger generations that their participation is authentically valued. Additionally, this shift towards accessibility has been positively received by Senior Board members who appreciate the elimination of jargon, the increase of visual materials, and the overall simplification of processes. 


Our nextgen panelists also shared the personal and professional benefits of finding a community of like-minded peers outside of their family foundation. This practice rang especially true for nextgen funders who felt like they didn’t often see themselves in traditional philanthropic spaces, and were eager to connect with other leaders with similar experiences such as those who were multigenerational, queer, had wealth privilege, and more. These networks empowered these nextgen leaders to talk more openly about their experiences and allowed them to become more activated and bold in their philanthropy. A. Sparks from the Masto Foundation referenced Resource Generation as an example of a group dedicated to connecting young people with class and wealth privilege to each other in pursuit of equity. 



Masto Foundation has long centered the Japanese culture of giving into their grantmaking. Before COVID-19, Masto Foundation had already shifted toward non-transactional grantmaking by replacing traditional grant reports with grantee conversations. As the pandemic intensified, they took swift action to ensure their impacted grantees felt supported and could survive. Instead of making their grantees apply for additional funds or have them reach out for support, at the beginning of the outbreak, the foundation immediately sent all their grantees checks for 10% of their current award. Masto Foundation also recognized that they had the risk capital to expand their funding as their grantees shifted toward a long-term fight. Moving forward, the foundation allows all grantees that qualify for grant renewals next year to select the trigger for their funding. If the grantee is in urgent need, they can release the funds on January 1st. If the grantee is financially stable, they can wait until next September. It was important for the Masto Foundation to live into its culture of giving and foster a sense of trust by being proactive with their support. 


The Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation shared how one of their younger members asked the foundation to be more inclusive of people of all gender expressions in their grant themes and applications. The foundation quickly accepted and operationalized this approach by changing all of their gendered language in their grant materials. For a specific all-girls grant, this meant shifting away from “female” to “female-identified individuals.” By sharing this simple change of language ahead of time, the foundation was proactive in including non-binary, gender non-conforming, and many others and eliminating the need for people to reach out and clarify their eligibility. 


Our panelists stressed the importance of reimagining power dynamics with grantees by fostering relationships built on reciprocity. They encouraged funders to own more of the outreach and relationship-building work. If donors don’t know how to find organizations to fund in a specific community or issue area, they should turn to their network and trust their guidance. When the Masto Foundation started exploring how they could better support to indigenous communities, Sparks jumped at the opportunity to learn from Sarah EchoHawk, CEO of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, when she heard her speak at the Change Philanthropy Conference. Sparks approached her and simply asked, “If you could fund any organization in Washington state serving the Native community, who would you fund and why?” By the next day, EchoHawk connected her to the United Indian Health Institute, and their partnership began. Alexis from the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation discussed how she utilizes every avenue available to her to discover new grantees. Specifically, she shared how she often asks younger nextgen members who they’re following on Instagram, Discord, YouTube, or Twitch to meet nonprofits where they are. Once a foundation identifies a potential grantee, our panelists urged funders to do their research and figure out if the partnership has the potential to be successful before they call the nonprofit. 




Alexis from the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation shared a memory of when she and her peers coordinated a moment of silence for Philando Castile during a youth philanthropy conference. Several individuals in attendance were resistant to the moment of silence because it was “political” and left the space. This small act and the reaction it received were a reminder of the work philanthropy still has to do. It also displayed the power and potential of even the smallest gesture to push people to grow past their defensiveness and fear.


Xenia Emmanuel described how during the WHH Foundation’s governance restructure in 2018, the organization actively convened members from different generations to have difficult conversations regarding hierarchy and cross-generational power. As a result of these dialogues, the organization successfully fostered more transparency internally and created more opportunities for future generations to get involved and take ownership. For example, WHH Foundation created new committees designed to give members greater autonomy over the operations of the organization. They invited family members from all generations to join a committee and become involved in developing new policies and procedures. 


Alexis also recommended having frequent and transparent conversations with family and Board members regarding a foundation’s annual payout and the possibility of sunsetting. The Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation no longer views the 5% payout minimum as their spending ceiling, but rather, as their lowest obligation. If one of the foundation's staff finds an exciting opportunity to support or a perfect grantee to partner with, they will allocate funds to them even if they’ve already met or exceeded their 5% payout. The Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation began to embrace this investment philosophy amid the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that their giving aligned more with the needs of their grantees instead of an annual payout rate. 

Although Sparks agreed with the other panelist about the need for philanthropy to move beyond the 5%, she shared how the Masto Foundation Board of Trustees is hesitant to entirely spend down because of the long-standing lack of racial and ethnic diversity in family philanthropy. Sunsetting for this organization would mean that there’s one less family foundation rooted in and operating by and for communities of color. In terms of promoting equity, Masto Foundation assesses their impact holistically, by taking into account the relationships that they are building and the people they bring along, and not just the dollars that they spend. Sparks encouraged the audience to consider that the ways grantmakers fund is just as impactful, if not more impactful, then the amounts that they fund. 


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Four Questions for Funders Getting Started with Racial Justice

Friday, July 17, 2020

In June, SCG convened over 150 family foundation members for our first-ever 2020 Family Philanthropy Virtual Town Hall, a day dedicated to exploring family philanthropy's role in shaping the future for generations to come. SCG is excited to elevate the critical conversations from our Town Hall to help families revisit their values and build power across generations. 

"Every day, we have a choice. We can take the easier road, the more cynical road, which is a role sometimes based on a dream of a past that never was. Fear of each other distancing and blame, or we can take the much more difficult path, the road of transformation, transcendence, compassion, and love, but also accountability and justice." - Jacqueline Novogratz,

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate our nation's worst inequities and the demands for racial justice grow louder globally, the philanthropic sector must adapt to meet the needs of a changing world. In particular, as communities of color continue to be disproportionately devastated by the collision of these two crises, there is an urgent, moral imperative for philanthropy to adopt and lead from a place of racial equity. 

At SCG's 2020 Family Philanthropy Virtual Town Hall, Nick Tedesco, President & CEO of the National Center for Family Philanthropy, Dr. Michael Moody, Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University, and Dr. Cheryl Dorsey, President at Echoing Green, discussed philanthropy's current moment of reckoning as the sector evaluates its long practices and accepts its role in building a radically new future. Inspired by our panelist's conversation, we have elevated four guiding questions for funders interested in adopting a racial justice framework and implementing its principles into their work. 


Take a moment to sincerely ask yourself: Am I satisfied with the impact of my giving? Has my foundation achieved the impact we initially sought to have? 

Philanthropy must acknowledge that while the sector has helped many communities, social problems continue to exist and are worsening. The COVID-19 pandemic and the movement against state violence have exposed our precarious institutions and our collective inability to provide adequate support to our most vulnerable communities, in particular communities of color who have been devastated by these crises. It is clear that these crises have not created new inequities, but rather that they have exacerbated our pre-existing conditions. If philanthropy wants to achieve an impact, it needs to start prioritizing solutions that address the root causes of inequality. Funders must begin to advance dialogue that identifies the biased and broken systems that repeatedly undercut their programs and prevent enduring change. Now is the time to revisit your foundation's mission and values and consider how you can achieve the impact you set out to accomplish. 


Once you've identified the forces limiting your efforts, you can then ask, how do I get to a place of more significant impact? Most often, the answer can be found by listening directly to the people most impacted by an issue. 

Philanthropy must be present and attentive to the communities it seeks to serve. Funders need to find the people and leaders who are already working to dismantle the structural barriers affecting their communities. Not only do these leaders have a personal stake and familiarity with the issues, but they also know how to organize their communities. By adopting humility and a listen-first approach, funders can learn what a community needs, in the short and long term, directly from people's real-life experiences. More importantly, this approach will foster a new, stronger relationship with grantees. The COVID-19 pandemic has required many foundations to adopt trust-based practices that eliminate bureaucratic processes and trust grantees to direct the dollars as needed. As philanthropy moves forward, it must continue to uplift and center the experiences of those most affected and hold itself accountable to the success of their grantees. 


Often, taking the first step toward racial justice is frightening. Paralysis sets in not because a donor doesn't want to do good or doesn't believe in equity, but because they are afraid of doing it badly. Families and foundations often don't have the tools or the time to ask the right questions and build the confidence necessary to adjust their grantmaking toward achieving more equitable outcomes. 

However, inaction is the same as complacency and reaffirms the inequities we seek to solve. Now is the moment to move from paralysis to action. An easy first step is to leverage your trusted intermediaries. There are countless people engaged in equity work who are willing to help you on your journey. Funders need only to talk to their peers and reach out to their networks to tap into the well of expertise that can better inform their work. Additionally, there is now, more than ever, a plethora of resources to support your racial equity journey at all stages. Helpful examples include the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity's Grantmaking with a Racial Justice Lens Guide, NCRP's Power Moves: Your essential philanthropy assessment guide for equity and justice, SCG's Evaluating Your Internal Practices to Become an Anti-Racist Organization, and many other immediate resources


What are the roles and responsibilities philanthropy can assume in building an equitable world? How are foundations using their authority to respond to urgent needs and embrace new opportunities? 

Family foundations have considerable power, the ability to adapt quickly to new challenges, and to be agile with their grantmaking. For this reason— in this moment of crisis— family foundations should lean into new, innovative approaches to address long-standing inequities. Grantmakers have the opportunity to participate in emerging systems change efforts, start their advocacy efforts, support our democratic institutions, and shift power to the next generation of donors. In particular, as the sector continues to address its historic anti-blackness, funders can support black leadership and black-led organizations by just writing a check and walking alongside the grantee. By funding black-led initiatives, donors will not only create the conditions for these efforts to succeed, but they will also embark on a learning journey that will get them closer to realizing their foundation's mission. Our sector has a chance to be bold, to rewrite the rules that led us here, and to address the systemic injustices that have long plagued our communities.  



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