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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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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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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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How Philanthropy Can Protect Civic Participation and Access During COVID-19

Friday, July 10, 2020

As we approach the November election, nonpartisan civic engagement will be one of the most potent tools foundations can use to advance their social missions and build a democracy that people believe in. Protecting our democratic institutions is even more urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create unprecedented challenges to civic participation with the growing concerns around voter turnout, physical distancing, and the spread of misinformation. 

To address these emerging challenges, Philanthropy California hosted Protecting Access to California’s 2020 Election and Beyond and convened Cathy Cha from Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, Connie Malloy from the Panta Rhea Foundation, James E. Woodson from the California Calls Education Fund and the Honorable Alex Padilla, Secretary of State for the State of California. Our panelists shared the latest information on California’s new, expanded vote-by-mail system, voter education and engagement efforts, and innovative ways community organizations are addressing emerging challenges to civic engagement. Below, you will find an overview of California’s new vote-by-mail system and critical actions funders can take to protect civic participation and access during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


California has issued an executive order directing counties to mail every eligible voter a ballot in advance of the November election. Voters will have the option of either returning their ballot by mail via a prepaid envelope, delivering it to a secure drop-box before the election, or dropping it off in-person on the day of the election. As much as the state is encouraging people to vote-by-mail, voters will still have the option of voting in-person. California is working to ensure that people have as many safe, in-person voting opportunities as possible, on and before the election date, and that people still have the other needed supports around accessibility issues, language assistance, same-day registration, ballot replacements, and more. For those who aren’t mailing in their ballots, the exact days and locations for in-person options will vary depending on their county. Still, for most people, it will happen throughout Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and election day itself. 



As California has expanded its vote-by-mail efforts, there has been an increase in national rhetoric meant to create skepticism, fear, and illegitimacy around the vote-by-mail system. This misinformation will only intensify as the general election approaches. Philanthropy can help people navigate the noise and confusion by partnering with organizations working to educate people on the latest voting systems and solve urgent challenges. This support can range from ensuring that people understand that their mail ballot needs to be signed to be valid to also providing language-appropriate training and materials for a variety of non-English speaking communities. California Calls has identified that it takes multiple touches to shift people’s behaviors around voting-by-mail, and they are now brainstorming the most effective ways to utilize PSA’s, digital events, and voter training to ensure that people understand and trust the vote-by-mail process. Also, since inactive voters will not receive vote-by-mail ballots, voter education campaigns will need to remind people to verify their registration status to receive their ballot. 



All of California’s voter education efforts must be translated into multiple languages to be more representative of our state’s communities of color. Without access to multilingual information, it will be challenging for people to adopt the new voting structures and navigate the clouds of misinformation, which in turn will lead to lower voter participation and reduced confidence in the upcoming election. To address the need for culturally appropriate messaging and materials in languages other than English, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr Foundation, the California Community Foundation, and the University of California Riverside’s Center for Social Innovation are developing and testing vote-by-mail messages in various languages. These organizations will hold multiple community feedback sessions across the state, before sending the approved messages to the 58 county registrars by the Secretary of State. This partnership highlights the role philanthropy can play in ensuring that all voters, regardless of their language proficiency, will be well equipped and informed for not only the upcoming election. Also, if successful, similar public-private partnerships may enable more profound civic education and outreach in topics such as the Census, redistricting, COVID-19 resources, and more. 



Philanthropy can dramatically increase the government’s reach. For example, with the Census, the philanthropic sector helped extend the Census Bureau’s outreach by leaning into its network of trusted community partners, including organizers, health clinic staff, faith leaders, neighbors, and others to help spread its importance to community members. Nonprofit partners are trusted advisors in communities across the state that can help drive civic engagement in the communities they serve. Additionally, many people are intimidated by hefty voting guides, long lists of judges, and confusing propositions and are afraid of making a mistake. Nonprofits can help educate communities on what’s on their ballot as long as they remain compliant with their 501(c)(3) status



Since 2016, over 400,000 young people ages 16 and 17 have pre-registered to vote in the state of California. Those young people that are now of voting age will experience their first general election amid a pandemic. Philanthropy can play a role in ensuring that these first-time voters turn out in November and that their first-voting experience is a positive one that will convert them into regular voters. One way to do this is to help shift away from heavy messaging rooted in responsibility and democracy and to instead be creative in adopting new technologies like text messaging and partnering with influencers and celebrities to motivate young people to vote. For example, the Creative Artists Agency Foundation, an SCG member, has been committed to youth voter engagement through their “I am a voter” campaign, which seeks to create a cultural shift around voting and civic engagement. 



The new self-response deadline for the 2020 Census is October 31, 2020, which is a few days before the election. There is an opportunity to run parallel campaigns that highlight how interconnected the Census, redistricting, and voting are as vital components of civic engagement. For example, California Calls is evaluating how to use their current census infrastructure to do more voter outreach to engage, educate, and motivate new and infrequent voters among young people, from communities of color, and poor and working-class neighborhoods. To do this, they are tapping into their African-American civic engagement initiative, the Black Census and Redistricting Hub, which is a group of 35 Black-led organizations across the state currently focused on census outreach in Black communities. 



Counties need help preserving in-person polling opportunities from a volunteer and facility standpoint. Many seniors and retirees who have volunteered on election day in the past will not be available this year. Philanthropy can tap into its network and help recruit a new generation of poll workers to keep these locations running. Also, with the need for physical distancing, polling locations can no longer contain 30 side-by-side voting booths. There is a need for polling locations with enough square footage to allow people to vote safely in November. Funders can recommend or help acquire facilities where safe in-person polling can take place. 



If you come across wrong or misleading voter information, you can visit and share it with the Office of Election Cybersecurity. This office has established successful protocols with social media platforms to halt the spread of misinformation. Funders can always help to direct people to California’s voter hotline at 1-800-345-VOTE or to check their voter status, debunk myths, and access resources and tools to answer their questions.


Philanthropy California has also produced an informational elections funding guide for funders who are interested in investing in and supporting civic participation across California.

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Let's Humble Ourselves and Question Ourselves

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

In the last few weeks, the SCG team has been balancing our feelings between optimism and skepticism, between composure and rage, between conviction and frustration. We are channeling the energy from our internal equity journey of the past few years into embracing the complexities of our daily and long-term work. We are inspired by the tremendous efforts of Black activists and Black-led organizations, who have fought tirelessly to build a racial justice movement that is driving millions around the globe into actions.

Two weeks ago, during an SCG webinar on how philanthropy can support Black communities, a panel of leaders reflected on what feels different about this moment within their multidecade fight for social justice in Southern California. These warriors reminded us that they were in the movement before this moment, and will still be advocating fearlessly for their communities once the protests are over.

  • Gloria Walton, President & CEO of SCOPE, called to attention the exceptional solidarity across communities and the depth of racism that has permeated society. Gloria encourages philanthropy to think about this moment, not as another flashpoint and not simply as a momentary infusion of funding into Black communities. 
  • Pastor Samuel Casey, Executive Director of C.O.P.E., asked us to consider the opportunities for movement building. Philanthropy can lean in, listen to Black leadership, and invest in capacity building for Black-led organizations. 

This illuminating discussion prompted me to have deeper conversations about the momentum to dismantle systemic racism and anti-Blackness in philanthropy. While it is positive that our sector is reinvigorated around these vital endeavors, it is critical to highlight philanthropy's tendency to overlook accountability for ways in which we continue to uphold white supremacy in our internal and external practices. No matter how long we have been in or whether we are newly committed to the fight for Black lives, we desperately need to acknowledge that the work of undoing our relationship with white supremacy is hardly over. In our career and lifetime, we might not ever completely untangle the web of our white-dominant culture. But we are committed to doing this work because we must. 

In this moment within the racial justice movement, we can build our endurance for learning, receiving feedback, and withstanding emotional fatigue. As life-long learners, we must have humility, curiosity, and imagination. As a learning network, I invite our beloved SCG community to hold each other accountable and to critically examine every aspect of our actions for traces of inequities. 

Together, let’s humble ourselves and question ourselves. 

Christine Essel

President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers

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A Primer on Advocacy for Funders with Nona Randois

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
In April, Philanthropy California virtually convened over 600 funders from across the state for a day dedicated to philanthropy's role in strengthening our democracy and civic engagement during this unprecedented moment. Now, SCG is excited to launch our Policy Blog Series in order to elevate key learnings from the Summit and to further the conversations we began to explore. 

Philanthropy and advocacy have long been perceived as incompatible – a match not made in heaven. However, philanthropic organizations are increasingly playing a more active civic leadership role through public policy in order to advance their missions. Philanthropic advocacy is becoming more critical as the nonprofit sector continues to work to impact local, state, and federal policies to respond to COVID-19 and dismantle systemic racism and support anti-racist movements. 

At the 2020 Philanthropy California Virtual Policy Summit, we invited a panel of experts to help funders of all stripes take the leap from funding to advocacy. Among them was Nona Randois, California Director of Alliance for Justice’s Bolder Advocacy program, who provided our funders with an introduction to advocacy and the generous legal rules that allow for effective systems change work while remaining compliant with their 501(c)(3) status. Bolder Advocacy is a program of the Alliance for Justice led by national experts on the legal framework for nonprofit advocacy that empowers foundations and their grantees to engage in and maximize their advocacy work. In collaboration with Nona, SCG has created this Primer on Advocacy for Funders who are interested in entering public policy work. 




Advocacy refers to the championing of a cause or a goal in order to change policies or systems. It is frequently believed that advocacy always has a lobbying or political dimension and therefore funders are prohibited from engaging in it. This is not the case. There is no specific legal definition of advocacy, it is a broad concept focused on making an impactful change that everyone can participate in. 



Funders are drawn to advocacy’s power to leverage resources. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy conducted a study and found that the average return on investment for advocacy grantmaking was $115 in community benefits for every $1 spent by a foundation. The returns and benefits of this study consisted of new government programs and services, increased government spending, budgetary savings, and new public revenue. These benefits often accrue to the most marginalized people in our society. Given the ways in which the current pandemic has exacerbated existing inequities, the results of advocacy are even more critical today. 

Another example of the leverage and scale that can be achieved through advocacy is the Schools and Communities First ballot measure, which will be on the California ballot in November. If the measure passes, it will generate $12 billion in annual revenue for K-12 schools, community colleges, and local communities by closing existing commercial property tax loopholes that will require corporations to pay their fair share of property taxes. Even if hundreds of funders banded together to directly fund schools, community colleges, and the other programs in the Schools and Communities First ballot measure, they wouldn’t come close to providing $12 billion in funding per year for those programs. However, if those funders came together to support advocacy efforts around this ballot measure, they could increase the probability that it will pass and that communities will receive these funds. 



All funders can engage in some type of advocacy work and all funders can fund nonprofits that lobby. However, funders have certain rules related to the kinds of advocacy work they can do depending on their tax status as a private foundation, public foundation, limited liability company (LLC), government agency, individual donor, etc. Funders can use the visual below to familiarize themselves with the different forms of advocacy they can and cannot engage in. 

This resource is reprinted with the express permission of Bolder Advocacy under the Creative Commons International 4.0 License BY-NC-ND.

The advocacy activities listed in green are unrestricted for funders of any tax status and can be engaged in at any time. This includes building relationships with government officials, research, litigation, and working to influence executive action or administrative agency rules. Lobbying and voter registration are listed in yellow because some restrictions apply to these activities and funders should be aware of the rules before funding or engaging in these activities. Finally, any form of partisan political activity -- meaning to support or oppose a candidate for elected office -- is restricted for all 501(c)(3) organizations including private foundations, community foundations, and nonprofit grantees. 



This resource is reprinted with the express permission of Bolder Advocacy under the Creative Commons International 4.0 License BY-NC-ND.

There are different restrictions and limitations for different types of 501(c)(3) organizations. On the left of the stoplight graphic are the rules that apply to public foundations, community foundations, and most nonprofit grantees. On the right, you’ll see the rules that apply to private foundations. None of the restrictions on this image would apply to individuals or LLCs because they're not tax-exempt organizations. Government funders have their own rules which vary depending on the jurisdiction. The following breakdown will provide further clarity for funders looking to understand the nuances of these activities. 



Partisan political activity is defined as supporting or opposing candidates for office. Whether it's the president, a local sheriff, a judge, or a school board member, no 501(c)(3) organization is allowed to support or oppose the election of individuals whose names are on a ballot. SCG has long supported the Johnson Amendment, the basis of this prohibition, as it preserves nonprofits’ ability to remain a trusted voice in civil society.



Lobbying is just one type of advocacy, although it may be the first one that comes to mind for many people. Lobbying is an attempt to influence specific legislation by communicating views to legislators or asking people to contact their legislators. Communicating a view on a ballot measure to the general public is also considered lobbying by the IRS. Community foundations and other public charities can lobby up to a limit and most public charities have a choice about how to measure their lobbying limit. Affirmatively choosing to use the “501(h) expenditure test” will provide public charities a generous lobbying limit that is determined primarily based on their annual expenditures and tends to be advantageous to groups with budgets under $17M. Public charities must report all their lobbying on their annual 990s.

However, the IRS specifically prohibits private foundations from lobbying with a few exceptions, such as in issues of “self-defense” -- legislation affecting the existence, powers, duties, deductibility of contributions, or tax-exempt status of an organization such as the private foundation excise tax. As grantmakers, private foundations cannot earmark funds for lobbying. Earmarking is any oral or written agreement that a grant will be used for specific purposes. However, private foundations can fund organizations that lobby either through general support grants or specific project grants.

There are also many activities that are often confused as lobbying but that actually fall outside of the IRS definition such as influencing executive orders or agency regulations and publicly expressing support or opposition to legislative proposals without a specific call to action. For instance, a private foundation can tell the general public that they support a state bill as long as they don’t ask people to contact their legislators, provide contact information or a mechanism to contact legislators, or mention legislators in specific ways. Foundations are also allowed to communicate with Governor Newsom in order to weigh in on the executive actions he’s considering in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These activities are not considered lobbying and are safe for all funders to engage in. 



Voter registration drives are permitted for public charities and community foundations. Private foundations have to navigate special rules if they’d like to earmark funds a voter registration drive. In addition to voter registration, there are many other ways funders can get involved in elections that don’t involve supporting or opposing candidates such as educating voters around the voting process and ballot measures. Governor Newsom has recently taken emergency executive action to ensure that California’s November 2020 election will be as safe and inclusive as possible for voters and many public and private foundations weighed in with the Governor on what needed to be done to safeguard our democracy during this pandemic.



Policy and systems change occurs through collaboration and coalition building. There are a variety of roles that need to be filled for groups and efforts to be successful. Funders have many opportunities to engage in advocacy. The image below outlines some advocacy options for funders. 

This resource is reprinted with the express permission of Bolder Advocacy under the Creative Commons International 4.0 License BY-NC-ND.

Funders can also support advocacy by rethinking their grant agreements. It is not necessary for funders to restrict public charity grantees from lobbying. Restrictive grant clauses limit grantees’ flexibility to accomplish their missions and their ability to lobby within their own limits. This flexibility is especially critical right now as grantees are rapidly responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, grants can state that they are “not earmarked for lobbying” as opposed to “not allowed to be used for lobbying.” The only time a funder would need to prohibit a group from lobbying with its funds would be a private foundation making an expenditure responsibility grant to a non-501(c)(3) organization.



Funders frequently ask themselves How do I know what kind of advocacy will be effective? How do I know whether the grantee I'm thinking of funding has the ability to make a difference? To help funders answer these questions, the Alliance for Justice has created various capacity assessment tools. These tools break down advocacy and community organizing into component parts to help groups assess their strengths, identify where they want to grow stronger, partner more effectively, and increase their readiness to act. Funders may find these tools helpful when deciding what kind of advocacy investments they would like to make. 

Bolder Advocacy has also created a library of publications and resources – such as the Philanthropy Advocacy Playbook – in addition to operating a technical assistance hotline to help answer any specific questions funders might have about safely and appropriately engaging in advocacy work. 




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"Fund Us Like You Want Us to Win": Actions Philanthropy Can Take to Support Black Communities and Black Leadership

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

While systemic racism has suddenly risen to the national spotlight, it has long been embedded within our economic, political, and social institutions and been felt profoundly by Black and brown people. The uprisings we see today are the inevitable consequence of the three historic crises that have acutely impacted communities of color in 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic which is disproportionately affecting Black people who are dying at twice the rate of White people, the economic consequences of COVID-19 which have exacerbated existing inequities, and the continued movement to end police brutality. 

In this critical moment, philanthropy is being called to define what role it will play in ending institutional and systemic injustice. SCG convened Nike Irvin, Trustee of Riordan Foundation and SCG Board Vice-Chair, Rev. Sam Casey, Executive Director, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), San Bernardino, Christine Margiotta, Executive Director, Social Venture Partners LA, Kaci Patterson, Owner, Social Good Solutions and Chief Strategist, Black Equity Initiative, and Gloria Walton, President & CEO, Strategic Concepts in Organizing Policy & Education (SCOPE). These visionary leaders discussed how philanthropy has fallen short in confronting its anti-Blackness and has disinvested in Black communities. To move forward, our panelists outlined the following concrete actions and investments the philanthropic sector can take to support Black organization and leadership as they mobilize to address this racial justice movement.  



There are many immediate actions funders can take to support the movement against police brutality and anti-blackness. Funders can financially support the class action lawsuits Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and Los Angeles Community Action network filed against the LAPD, contribute to the Los Angeles Action Bailout Fund, and help offset any of the other costs people have incurred due to the protests. Funders can also take steps to support their grantees who run Black-led organizations by rescheduling any non-urgent check-in calls and accelerating renewal funding with little to no paperwork. In the upcoming weeks, funders should work to bolster their grantee’s infrastructure and staffing capacity by investing in areas such as media capacity and training, supplementary administrative costs, hazard pay, long-term wellness and mental health resources, and any other urgent needs that arise as their grantees respond to the current moment. Funders can also support local efforts such as the Rethink Public Safety Coalition in San Bernardino, which is working to declare racism a public health crisis and divest from law enforcement, 



This is an opportunity for philanthropy to hold a mirror up to itself and ask: Do we want white supremacy to win? If not, philanthropy needs to reckon with its historic lack of investment in Black communities. In 2017, the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity published a report and found that the proportion of annual grant money for African-American organizations decreased by 4.3% between the periods of 2005 to 2014, the highest decrease among any people of color-led group. The Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) also published a report in 2017 that discovered that less than 2% of funding by the nation’s largest foundations was explicitly directed to the African-American community. Lastly, a report conducted by UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs found that 40% of all the nonprofits that closed between the periods of 2002 and 2011 served communities that were predominantly African-American and predominantly poor. 

Philanthropy must acknowledge this routine defunding and squeezing out Black organizations and ask itself: What is it that we genuinely want to win? Do we want liberty and justice for all—really for all—to win? If so, the philanthropic sector needs to start funding liberation. Funders can begin by examining their portfolio and identifying how many Black-focused organizations they are currently funding or will commit to funding moving forward. 



Fund the goal, not the tactics. Long-term infrastructure funding is one of the best and most needed ways philanthropy can center equity into its efforts. Black communities don’t need a quick infusion of money; they need long-term investment that will allow Black organizations and Black leaders to develop a power building agenda, a shared strategy, and a set of demands that address multiple strategic goals. 

Funders need to advocate for multi-year, unrestricted funding that allows Black-led organizations to build the infrastructure necessary to make system-level change. For example, funders can make six-or-seven figure, multi-year commitments to Black organizations for a minimum of five years. Funders can also support Black empowering organizations such as the Black Equity Collective, which is fiscally sponsored by SCG, or the Village Fund, sponsored by the LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment. Lastly, funders can also consider adding an additional 10-20% “Sustainability Allocation” to grant awards to help Black organizations build their reserves. 



Shifting power is required at all levels, including the Boardroom. Not only should organizations invest in the leadership development of current Black Board members, but they also should work to diversify their boards to have a plurality of Black people. Those organizations looking for new Board members should consider filling those positions with Black leaders. Current Board members can also resign from their own Board position (like Alexis Ohanian) and urge for their replacements to be Black. Another consideration is for organizations to create a paid Advisory Board of Black and other POC community leaders to help guide an organization’s efforts. 



This is a crucial moment for white people and non-black people of color to prioritize humility and recognize the ways they’ve been complicit in anti-Blackness. Now is the time to step back and trust Black people, Black leaders, and Black institutions. Funders should not assume what’s best for Black communities and helicopter in with resources and solutions. Often, money is made contingent on compliance, which is always a means of control enforced by White Supremacy. Allies need to be unafraid of honoring and centering Black people, Black issues, and Black experiences and allowing those with lived expertise to drive decisions. A way funders can do this is by declaring “lived experience” as one of their core grantmaking values and using it as a key part of their selection process. Additionally, funders can play a pivotal role in creating spaces for nonprofit leaders to assemble to discuss ways to collectively center Black liberation and advance their work through an anti-racist lens.




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The Eight Principles of An Effective Advocacy Campaign with Hillary Moglen

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
In April, Philanthropy California virtually convened over 600 funders from across the state for a day dedicated to philanthropy’s role in strengthening our democracy and civic engagement during this unprecedented moment. Now, SCG is excited to launch our Policy Blog Series to elevate critical learnings from the Summit and to further the conversations we began to explore. 


I work at a firm in the business of issue advocacy—changing the way people act and think about social and political issues. We are always eager to improve our craft and learn from the field to create the most impactful advocacy campaigns. We appreciate that issue advocacy is part art and part science, and there is so much to learn from the campaigns we’ve won, lost, and admired from afar. 

Below, you’ll find a distillation of our learnings on running an effective advocacy campaign. These eight principles were derived from our own experience running advocacy campaigns on behalf of our clients and also based on extensive research we conducted with support from the Omidyar Network. This research involved interviewing the leaders who have led some of the decade’s most impactful campaigns to see what we could learn about their strategies, identify key patterns, and develop a blueprint for what makes a successful campaign. Our research is captured in the Fighting for Change Report and a set of interviews available on our website


The saying “fortune favors the bold” captures the essence of this principle. Successful campaigns always start with a vision. A bold, transformational goal that challenges the status quo in a way that was once unimaginable. A bold vision can excite a political base and encourage supportive bystanders to take action. This is particularly true when it comes to motivating young people and first-time activists. History also has shown that a big, bold idea can create a big enough tent to include organizations that aren’t always aligned to work together towards a common goal. Two campaigns we studied that successfully created a bold vision were the campaign to halt the Keystone Pipeline (not merely making it safer) and push for universal public health care (Obamacare).


Framing, simply put, is how we understand the world and our place in it. Good framing identifies a problem, suggests a solution, and motivates people to demand change. Effective framing also will identify the “good guys” and the “villains” and will appeal to emotion, logic, or both. To frame successfully, campaigns need to connect an issue to people’s values and worldviews and be relevant to what they already know and believe. Most advocacy campaigns are rooted in complicated and nuanced policy discussions, but effective framing distills the effort into a relatable and accessible idea.


Access to resources, both human and material can decide the fate of a campaign. Regardless of the campaign’s size and shape, it must leverage their unique resources to develop their power. All successful campaigns identify their superpower and leverage it consistently and intentionally. It is a common mistake for campaigns to assume that having more money equals having more power. While money can provide more material resources, it can never replace tenacity, passion, and zeal. Examples of campaigns that effectively leveraged their power included Net Neutrality and the Fight for $15. Black Lives Matter and the youth climate activists are also two current examples to learn from. 


Influential leaders have always been able to make or break campaigns. Charismatic leaders who are exceptional strategic thinkers, have a clear vision, and who possess high emotional intelligence can rally and empower supporters and keep campaigns on track despite setbacks. Today, successful campaign leaders look very different from those of the past. Instead of having the traditional model of a top-down CEO role, we see more campaigns with less hierarchical structures (see the Structure Principle below). Campaigns with exceptional leaders include Health Care for America Now and the “Vote Leave” Brexit effort


The ancient philosopher Seneca once mused that “luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” Campaigns can be won or lost because of that “opportunity”, which is also known as timing. Timing is an art and a science; campaigns need to be able to identify the window of opportunity and then leverage it. While campaigns don’t necessarily create these windows, successful campaigns are prepared and ready to capitalize on it. Two great examples we’ve studied include the Tea Party and soda tax campaigns


Campaigns have never existed in a vacuum, and the best-planned campaigns have to respond to unexpected challenges and changing environments. How campaigns adapt to the unexpected—pivoting strategy and taking advantage of new opportunities—can mean the difference between success and failure. Campaigns need to get information in real-time and be humble enough to know how to adapt. 


Organizational structure isn’t the flashiest component of a campaign, but when done right, it can be the key to success. Campaigns that have combined strong leadership, created clear information channels, sustained a large grassroots network, and built strong mutual trust have been particularly successful. We’ve also noticed that current campaigns tend to be nonlinear, less hierarchical, adaptable, and more strategic in leveraging all of their assets. Two great examples are Health Care for America Now and Net Neutrality


Savvy campaigns generate pressure and sustain momentum through smart tactics that remind key audiences of what is at stake. Whether it’s targeting corporate CEOs through protests or flooding lawmakers offices with letters—successful campaigns are unrelenting when it comes to applying constant online and offline pressure to decision-makers who need to be pushed. There are many current examples of campaigns that are constantly reinventing how to build pressure—from Black Lives Matter to March for Our Lives to the global youth-led climate strikes. 




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Evaluating Your Internal Practices to Become an Anti-Racist Organization

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Injustice does not just live outside in the community — injustice lives within each of us as individuals and as organizations. White supremacy is a disease that mutates and spreads through systems, ideologies, and language. The racism and anti-Blackness it creates must be actively confronted and eradicated from the organization’s daily practices, culture, and policies. Leaders have a responsibility to align their organizations with anti-racist and social justice principles to avoid perpetuating systemic injustices internally and in the communities they are serving. 

To shed light on what it means to be an anti-racist, multicultural organization, SCG turned to Nike Irvin, Trustee of Riordan Foundation and SCG Board Vice-Chair, Rev. Sam Casey, Executive Director, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE), San Bernardino, Christine Margiotta, Executive Director, Social Venture Partners LA, Kaci Patterson, Owner, Social Good Solutions and Chief Strategist, Black Equity Initiative, and Gloria Walton, President & CEO, Strategic Concepts in Organizing Policy & Education (SCOPE). These visionary leaders discussed how philanthropy has fallen short in confronting its anti-Blackness and how we can re-examine our role in ending institutional and systemic racism. Their generative conversation provided us with the following concrete actions organizations can take to evaluate their internal practices and adopt anti-racist principles. 



Put a stake in the ground and explicitly commit to the long and hard work of becoming an anti-racist organization. Organizations should conduct a full scope and scale assessment of their internal policies and practices to identify patterns of institutional racism. It’s also important to identify where elements of White dominant culture might be showing up organizationally. White dominany behaviors often manifest in overvaluing productivity, avoiding open conflict, worshipping the written word, and upholding notions of professionalism. Racism is embedded in every organization and system, including philanthropy. Becoming an anti-racist organization is a long-term effort that requires intention and commitment. 



Who’s in your spaces? What’s the representation of your staff, board, and the organizations that you fund? Specifically, look at the percentage of your budget that is investing in Black staff, Black-led organizations in the community, as well as Black-owned companies, consultants, and vendors. Pay attention to any disproportionalities in your internal representation and your budget. It is essential for organizations serving Los Angeles County to reflect the diversity of the issues you’re working on and the communities that you’re serving. Make a commitment to pay a living wage to all your staff, pay equitably across all teams, and explicitly commit to increasing your investments in Black-led organizations from year to year. Remember that your budget is a moral document. 



Additionally, all new team agreements and policies should be created collaboratively. Don’t expect Black staff members to lead the work on internal equity themselves as this puts an unfair burden on them. However, an organization should not make a strategic decision that is intended to impact Black people or communities without consulting with Black colleagues first. If organizations do not have Black staff, they need to turn to their peers, community members, hire Black consultants, or work with CBOs with DEI expertise, such as LeadersUpto ensure that they are moving in the right direction. Creating equitable systems and policies requires organizations to follow Black leadership while avoiding placing the onus of explaining the impact of racism on people of color. 



It is critical to craft anti-retaliation policies so that employees feel comfortable and empowered to address the patterns of structural racism within an organization. It’s crucial to be clear with staff members— especially Black women and women of color— that there are no repercussions for speaking up or removing themselves from a conversation. However, this practice does not mean that it is the sole responsibility of people of color to address the racism in their organization. Instead, it provides institutional protection to ensure staff members can address internal inequities. 



The collective turn toward race-neutral and colorblind language has shifted from a desire to not offend to a refusal to see disproportionality and inequity. Allowing words and ideas to become coded and neutral, reinforces white supremacist thinking. To challenge these barriers, people can train their ears to hear coded words differently, to hear them as Black people hear them. For example, when someone says “law-abiding citizen,” it implies “real Americans.” Who are the “real Americans?” Who is being intentionally excluded? Learning to unhear white supremacist language takes practice. White people committed to this work can enroll in SVP’s online course Anti-Racism for White People



Everyone’s liberation is bound up together. No one is free until everyone is free. Even multiracial organizations need to evaluate their internal practices for patterns of institutionalized racism. Black experiences are often collapsed or lost when terms like multiracial or communities of color are used, and Black people are left with the responsibility of elevating their own voices. Multiracial organizations need to create strategies that focus on collective experiences and that build power with all people of color. To provide guidance, Crossroads Ministry has created a Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization



It’s tempting to reach out to Black team members to ask how they’re doing or how they’re processing this moment. However, this is often an excruciating request for colleagues already experiencing heightened emotional distress. Colleagues can support their Black staff by clarifying that they have no responsibility to explain or process their feelings, especially in work environments. Organizations can also provide mental health services to their Black staff members and allocate funds to their grantees to provide wellness services to their staff. 

Organizations should offer time off to their Black staff members outside of their vacation or sick time. Managers should encourage employees to actually take this time off and help remove items from their workloads. Employers can also allow their team members, especially their Black staff, to use their work time to participate in movement work, processing or healing, and self-care. Given the compounding emotional stress of COVID-19 and routine police brutality, companies should suspend expectations around “high productivity and output.” Employers can also be more sensitive to the subtleties of cultural norms around people's hair.  Even in progressive organizations, there can be implicit and explicit bias regarding Black hair and appearance, with pressure to conform to hair-straightening. Organizations should focus on collective reflection, supporting their team, and thinking of how teams can be of service to one another and to their communities. 




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A Message from the Heart + Immediate Actions to Dismantle Racism

Tuesday, June 2, 2020


Dear SCG Community, 


As communities across the country take to the street and risk their lives to fight for justice, SCG stands in solidarity with protestors because Black Lives Matter. We condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. We are acutely aware that our humanity will not be collectively well until we put a stop to the unjust and senseless murders of Black lives. We are challenging ourselves to be better accomplices to the movement of dismantling racism. 

This past week, as I checked in with the SCG team on their wellbeing, I was reminded of my own privilege. As a white woman, I will never be able to truly fathom the pain that Black men, women, and their loved ones are experiencing. What I do understand is fearing for the safety of those you care deeply about, feeling outraged by repeated tragedies, being tired by the lack of deep change, and channeling the power of profound empathy. I join colleagues across the philanthropic sector in inviting you to summon the courage to be fully present in this moment, to re-imagine a different future, and to begin creating a new normal.

In the wake of the coronavirus global pandemic, Black, Latinx, and people of color face compounding effects of inequities. The work required to undo the deep-rooted structural and systemic racism of the past few hundred years is undeniably daunting. At times, we all feel that we are not doing enough. As a sector, we have clearly not done enough to refute the status quo. However, there are steps that we can each take toward being mindful of our privilege, being in community with others, and ultimately creating a future where Black, Indigenous, and people of color are no longer invisible, oppressed, criminalized, excluded, tokenized, weaponized, and erased. 

Please find below a few personal and collective actions that the SCG team has taken and will continue to pursue. As we all prepare for the long fight ahead, I hope you will consider these immediate actions:



Show up as an ally and accomplice in your organization and communities 

Check-in on Black and people of color in your networks, whether it’s your colleagues, board members, grantees, or partners. As a white ally, consider participating in a local Coming to the Table group. Check out six actions that Christine Margiotta, Executive Director of SVP Los Angeles, recommends for white colleagues who are grieving and want to take action. People of color also have a responsibility in allyship. Michelle Kim suggests actions for Asian and Asian Americans. Regardless of how you show up, be mindful and intentional about how you engage with Black peers.


Have difficult conversations

Whether it’s with your family, friends, children, or colleagues, be vulnerable and open to having difficult conversations. Check out embRACE LA’s toolkit to support you in facilitating dialogues about race. Talk to each other over a virtual meal, about a song, or a movie. Reach out to California Conference for Equality and Justice if you need help facilitating internal conversations in your organizations. 


Practice embodiment

Take care of yourselves in whichever ways that are best for you. Consider the practice of embodiment and somatic movement to feel more grounded, present, open, and connected. 


Consider every dollar that you spend an opportunity to make an impact

Looking for food delivery or takeout, support black-owned restaurants in Los Angeles. Check out a directory of various black-owned businesses. As an organization, consider investing in black-led organizations that are at the forefront of the movement; these organizations need not simply one-time investments but continuous support. When selecting vendors, make sure that they have people of color in leadership positions. As part of the philanthropic sector, we must work to close the gap of funding disparity for community-organizations led by people of color. 


Invest in your team

Equity is a learning journey. Make sure that your organizational budget invests in staff training, and that access to these learning opportunities is equitable across the board. At SCG, we’ve worked with numerous experts, including Heather Hackman Consulting Group, California Conference for Equality and Justice, Dr. Bryant Marks of the National Training Institute on Race & Equity, john a. Powell of Othering & Belonging Institute, Philanthropy Initiative for Racial Equity, and The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond.


Empower teams to have an impact on your organization’s internal culture and equity commitment

A significant part of SCG’s inclusive culture, equity commitment, internal conversations about race and racism, and various other practices are driven by our staff-led committees. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you are interested in empowering your team to be deeply involved in every aspect of holding your organization accountable for your words and actions. 


Name & frame racism

It’s impossible to address what we cannot name. As non-Black allies, it is our duty to learn about the history of systemic racism and the actions we can take against it. Racial Equity Tools provides the fundamentals for you to learn about core concepts, the history of racism and movements, data, and guide to moving a racial justice agenda. Check out Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s reading list to help America transcend its racist heritage. 


Philanthropy must stop being spectators and be committed to something (anything) larger than our own point of view. I and each of us on the SCG team are individually and collectively part of the fight against anti-Blackness and racism, please reach us to any of us should you need support or resources regardless of which role you want to play. As an organization, SCG will host urgent conversations in the next few weeks and share more tools for philanthropy to be part of the movement.

In strength and partnership, 
Christine Essel
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SCG's President's Message - May 2020

Friday, May 29, 2020




Welcome back to the SCG President's Message! SCG is excited to resume our regular communication schedule as we also continue to monitor and support our members' COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. 

While I am happy to return to my monthly platform, my heart is heavy mourning the murder of George Floyd and the 100,000 lives lost during the past few months of the coronavirus pandemic.

As philanthropy shifts our response to support our communities' recovery, we have resoundingly agreed not to go back to normal. At the beginning of this long and challenging road to recovery, we must acknowledge the realities of this so-called "normal."

It is normal for communities of color to be in crisis for hundreds of years.
It is normal for Black, Indigenous, and people of color to be invisible, oppressed, criminalized, excluded, tokenized, weaponized, and erased.
It is normal for our friends, colleagues, neighbors, and fellow citizens to be hurt and deprived of equitable opportunities to thrive.

But acknowledgment is not enough. We must work to eliminate these devastating, structural, systemic inequities that have become normal. We need to create a new normal altogether. 

I have been inspired and moved by the wisdom of our colleagues. In the past few weeks, the SCG community has heard directly from social justice leaders such as Michelle Burton (Community Health Councils), Deepa Iyer (Building Movement Project), Angela Mooney D'Arcy (Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples), Lyell Sakaue (Bridgespan), and also Aimee Allison (She the People), Cathy Cha (Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund), Sonja Diaz (Latino Public Policy Institute), Shena Ashley (Urban Institute). These thoughtful partners reminded us that the COVID-19 pandemic hit our most vulnerable communities the hardest because it lays bare and amplifies pre-existing systemic inequities.

SCG will continue holding space for our members to build a more equitable future by hosting urgent conversations, taking part in collaborations, coordinating cross-sector efforts, fostering connections, and contributing to narrative change. I would love to hear directly from you on how your organization is building a new normal and how SCG can help advance your work.

You will find below a curation of resources including Philanthropy California's Policy Summit blogs, SCG's analysis of the latest federal relief package, and updates from the Office of the Governor by Kathleen Kelly Janus. And lastly, a warm welcome to 17 new SCG members who are joining our family of leaders to take bold actions and fight for our communities.

In strength and partnership, 

Christine Essel
President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers



Adopting a Racial Justice Framework for a Resilient Democracy

Inspired by the conversation between Aimee Allison, Shena Ashley, Cathy Cha, and Sonja Diaz, we explore how funders can help build a truly resilient democracy and a path to COVID-19 recovery during this critical election year. 



Five Opportunities for Philanthropy in COVID-19 Response: A Conversation With Secretary Mark Ghaley and Dr. Sandra Hernandez 

Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California's Health Care Services Agency and Dr. Sandra Hernández, President & CEO of the California Healthcare Foundation, outlined five opportunities for philanthropy to align with state agencies in their COVID-19 responses. 



Mapping the Housing and Homelessness Crisis in California: Root Causes and Philanthropic Opportunities  

California is rapidly approaching a breaking point in its affordable housing and homelessness crisis, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to amplify inequities. Understanding the root causes of the housing and homelessness crisis in California can help philanthropy to take action.  




SCG Analysis: Governor Newsom's May Revision to the 2020-21 State Budget

Seyron Foo, SCG's Vice President of Public Policy & Government Relations, provided an overview of the mechanics of the state budget, details of the proposed budget, and the potential action philanthropy can take.



Updates from the Office of the Governor: May 2020

Philanthropy California invited Kathleen Kelly Janus, Senior Advisor on Social Innovation to Governor Gavin Newsom, to provide updates on California's latest public-private partnerships and upcoming priorities for the state. 




Creating a Roadmap to Recovery 

As communities respond to the COVID-19 crisis, a new foundation-inspired effort has launched to inform the roadmap for a just recovery. The Committee for a Greater Los Angeles is a collaboration between philanthropy, nonprofits, business, government, and researchers from UCLA and USC. Over the last six weeks, the Committee has been laying out strategies to guide policymakers to prioritize the needs of the most impacted residents of LA County and ultimately ensure they will be better off than they were before the crisis. 








American Business Bank


American Business Bank is a relationship-driven bank that partners with middle-market companies to meet their needs by offering professional, high-touch banking.

View SCG Member Profile. 

Bernard Boudreaux


Bernard Boudreaux is the founder and principal of Be Beneficent Consulting, which partners with individuals, nonprofits, and businesses to address social issues within their local communities through action that achieves measurable results.

View SCG Member Profile. 

Celiac Disease Foundation


The Celiac Disease Foundation leads a comprehensive program of research, education, advocacy, and support, to drive diagnosis, treatments, and a cure to improve the quality of life for all those affected by celiac disease.

View SCG Member Profile. 

The Peter W. Doerken Foundation


The Peter W. Doerken Foundation works to support vulnerable women and youth in Los Angeles County and supports a number of charitable and philanthropic organizations locally, nationally, and internationally.

View SCG Member Profile. 

James J. and Sue Femino Foundation


The James J. and Sue Femino Foundation primarily provides support for hospitals, health organizations, and institutions of medical research and education. The Foundation also supports higher and other educational institutions, as well as art, music, and literature.

View SCG Member Profile. 

James Herr


James Herr is the founder of James E. Herr Consulting and is a corporate & foundation philanthropy professional and nonprofit consultant with a demonstrated history of working across broad sectors and constituencies.

View SCG Member Profile. 

Panta Rhea Foundation


The Panta Rhea Foundation is a global family grantmaking foundation catalyzing a just, thriving world that currently funds food sovereignty and vibrant democracy efforts across the United States, Mexico, and the Phillippines.

View SCG Member Profile. 

Lindsay Rachelefsky

Lindsay is the founder of Sky Advisory Group, a full-service consulting firm that advises high net worth individuals, foundation, and corporations on philanthropic strategy and political giving.

View SCG Member Profile. 

SCAN Health Plan


SCAN Health Plan's Independence at Home program is a community-based service that has helped thousands of people remain healthy and happy in their own homes.

View SCG Member Profile. 

Schwab Charitable


Schwab Charitable is an independent 501(c)(3) public charity with a mission to increase charitable giving in the U.S. by providing a tax-smart and simple giving solution to donors and their investment advisors.

View SCG Member Profile. 

Shekels Charitable Foundation


The Shekels Charitable Foundation is dedicated to improving lives both locally and internationally, across various issue areas.

View SCG Member Profile. 

The Smidt Foundation


The Smidt Foundation wants to help achieve opportunity, justice, equality, and safety for all.

View SCG Member Profile. 

SRE Network


The SRE Network works to ensure safe, respectful, and equitable Jewish workplaces and communal spaces by addressing sexual harassment, sexism, and gender discrimination.

View SCG Member Profile. 



UNITE-LA's mission is to ensure the continuous improvement of effective and aligned cradle-to-career public education and workforce development systems in Los Angeles, resulting in all children and youth having access to a high-quality education.

View SCG Member Profile. 

USCCU Community Foundation

USCCU Community Foundation's mission is to enable the Trojan Family’s financial dreams and enhance the quality of life in the communities they serve.

View SCG Member Profile. 

Jan Vanslyke


Jan Vanslyke is the owner of Evaluation Specialists, which partners with community-based prevention, health promotion, education, and social service leaders to help them use research and evaluation to do the most for good.

View SCG Member Profile. 

Visionary Women


Visionary Women is a unique nonprofit community focused on engaging conversations with innovative leaders and funding high impact initiatives for women and girls.

View SCG Member Profile. 




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Adopting a Racial Justice Framework for a Resilient Democracy

Thursday, May 28, 2020
Last month, we virtually convened over 600 funders from across California for a day dedicated to philanthropy's role in strengthening our democracy and civic engagement during this unprecedented moment. Now, SCG is excited to launch our Post-Policy Summit Blog Series in order to elevate key learnings from the Summit and to further the conversations we began to explore. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our world and further exposed the stark realities of our inequitable systems. Unsurprisingly, this outbreak has disproportionately impacted and devastated communities of color, who have long grappled with the legacies of racial injustice and economic disenfranchisement. As we approach the November elections and the 2020 Census deadline, these communities are now facing worsened conditions in addition to a new set of challenges that threaten the integrity of our democratic systems. 

At the 2020 Philanthropy California Virtual Policy Summit, Aimee Allison, Shena Ashley, Cathy Cha, and Sonja Diaz discussed how philanthropy can address these inequities and protect our democracy during this pandemic and critical election year. These four dynamic leaders unanimously agreed that we cannot go back to “normal” and that building a truly resilient democracy and a path to recovery will require funders to adopt a racial justice framework in their advocacy and response efforts. Philanthropy has long worked to address systemic inequities, but now more than ever, the sector has an opportunity to be a leader in advocacy and policy change to support our most vulnerable communities.


CATHY: What are the critical stories related to vulnerable communities, equity, and COVID-19 that we should be working to uplift to the media in order to shape a new narrative with new voices for our rapidly changing world?

SONJA: The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the inequities that California was already dealing with such as poverty and homelessness. These worsened inequities are disproportionately devastating communities of color. Research shows that women of color overwhelmingly are on the front lines of our workforce and that many don’t have access to quality and affordable healthcare. In Los Angeles County, the pandemic has hit the retail and service sectors the hardest. These businesses have especially impacted Asian American and Latinx communities, which also happen to be California’s fastest-growing demographics and future workforce. How will California continue to be the fifth-largest economy in the world if its workforce and families continue to get sick, lose jobs, and suffer? We need to continue elevating these inequities and working to ensure that everyone is protected. If we fail to protect our most vulnerable communities, the second wave of the virus will hit all of us even harder and result in an even greater loss of wealth and an unnecessary loss of life. 

AIMEE: People of color are also courageously responding to this crisis. This moment calls on us to explicitly acknowledge how women of color are shaping democracy. Philanthropy needs to begin supporting and investing in narratives that are fact-based, science-based, and that elevate the voices of indigenous, Latinx, and black leaders. As COVID-19 continues to disproportionately affect Black, Brown, Asian American, and Indigenous communities, we cannot afford for the experiences of people of color to get pushed aside or to be treated as add-ons. Right now, women of color are some of the most prolific and courageous leaders defining a political agenda in California and nationally. These women are the trusted voices in their communities and will be sought after for their leadership and counsel as we define the road to recovery for COVID-19. Philanthropy can catalyze impact by validating and supporting the platforms of these leaders across the state. 


CATHY: Despite the coronavirus, we are still approaching the 2020 Census deadline and one of the most consequential elections in our lifetimes. How can we ensure that we hear the voices of our most marginalized communities and protect the integrity of our democratic systems? 

SONJA: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Census was a prominent focus for advocates and civil society organizations. It is vital that these efforts continue to be prioritized to ensure that our policymakers have the most accurate data to inform their decision making. When I founded the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, there were huge data gaps around race, demography, and geography, which meant that communities were being left out of policy decisions. Philanthropy and our state leaders can work to ensure we don't go another ten years without statewide advocacy research organizations. Funders can also support these advocates and civil society organizations in continuing and reimagining their Census work to make sure that the voices of our communities aren’t silenced for another decade. 

AIMEE: Philanthropy can work to ensure that communities, especially communities of color, have the ability and information needed to cast a vote in our November elections. It is not an exaggeration to say that our democracy and elections are currently threatened by disinformation, voter suppression, and an overwhelming fear as people remain isolated at home. Philanthropy can provide resources and infrastructure to organizations already working to adapt and digitize voter education, advocacy, and mobilization efforts. Collectively, we can reimagine what participating in a democracy looks like and create new ways for people to make their voices heard. I encourage philanthropy to step up in this moment when we lack federal expertise and leadership, in order to help our state face this pandemic in a way that makes sense for our 40 million residents. Not to overstate it, but philanthropy can save democracy.


CATHY: What are the lasting impacts of this pandemic on the nonprofit sector? How can we re-imagine philanthropy’s role in the sector and the ways foundations think about their investments? 

SHENA: The COVID-19 pandemic has positioned nonprofits as necessary enterprises for economic recovery, as is demonstrated by their inclusion in response efforts such as the SBA loans. Additionally, we’ll also see a shift around how the nonprofit sector thinks about financial health. This crisis has shown the sector the vulnerability and risk inherent in relying on earned revenue as the key element of nonprofit sustainability. As nonprofits shift their operating strategies, foundations will need to reimagine their own practices and develop a different picture of what financial health looks like for their grantees. Empirical studies demonstrate foundations are less likely to fund nonprofits having 6 months or more of reserves and need to rethink such restrictions. To help move our economy forward, foundations also have an opportunity to reimagine how to utilize their larger set of assets, current portfolios, and endowments to participate in impactful practices like impact investing, loan equity sharing, and more. Now is the time for foundations to lift restrictions to allow for new strategies to emerge as the sector enters an economic down-cycle that will impact them as well. 

AIMEE: Philanthropy can begin to invest in projects and solutions that are race-conscious. The nonprofits that are the most affected right now tend to be located in the communities most impacted by the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, these nonprofits tend to be led by people of color and have not received the wide-scale public support and investment they need to survive. By adopting a racial justice framework, philanthropy can reexamine its current grantmaking practices to allow for deeper and more meaningful investments in communities and organizations that are supporting those most devastated by COVID-19 and systemic inequities. 


CATHY: What role can philanthropy play in advocacy and policy as we begin shaping our new world? 

SHENA: There are policy windows opening up at this time, particularly around recovery. For example, the federal infrastructure being built to send cash payments to individuals is helping to remove administrative barriers that have historically obstructed progress on universal basic income. These developments will help create more policy opportunities for UBI in the future, especially as unemployment levels continue to rise due to COVID-19, new technologies, and our rapidly changing workforce. There’s also an opportunity to expand access to healthcare and legal services for people living in remote locations. The innovations that have emerged around telemedicine and telelegal services have given people access to the healthcare and civil legal aid that they’ve needed but haven’t had access to previously. This is a moment of tremendous possibility where ideas that were once considered unattainable are now within reach. 

SONJA: Crisis transforms society. Philanthropy has a key role to play during this pandemic by ensuring that vulnerable communities are able to survive and emerge without losing everything. One of the byproducts of the Great Recession was our collective willingness to foster cross-sector partnerships between philanthropy and the government to solve our most pressing issues. We recently saw an example of this collaboration with the California Immigrant Resilience Fund, which will ensure that about 150,000 of the state's undocumented workers will receive aid since they were ineligible for any support under the Federal Cares Act. We need to continue identifying our biggest gaps and vulnerabilities in order to envision new ways for people to have access to basic needs like healthcare, housing, and wealth. Let’s not go back to “normal” because it wasn’t normal. I’d love to think of this moment as an opportunity to create something that actually works for all of us. 



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Mapping the Housing and Homelessness Crisis in California: Trends, Effects, and Philanthropic Opportunities (Updated)

Thursday, May 28, 2020
In April, we virtually convened over 600 funders from across California for a day dedicated to philanthropy's role in strengthening our democracy and civic engagement during this unprecedented moment. Now, SCG is excited to launch our Post-Policy Summit Blog Series in order to elevate key learnings from the Summit and to further the conversations we began to explore. 

Half of all people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the United States live in California. That is more than 108,000 people in our state. With such staggering numbers, California is quickly approaching a breaking point in our affordable housing and homelessness crisis, where more people will be forced outdoors and out of state, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to amplify inequities.  

At the 2020 Philanthropy California Virtual Policy Summit, we invited a panel of experts to discuss the housing and homelessness crisis in California and how the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating this crisis, including Andrea Iloulian, Senior Program Officer, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Elizabeth Kneebone, Research Director, Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley; and Jazmin Segura, Program Officer, Common Counsel Foundation. These leaders mapped the history of the housing and homelessness crisis in California by sharing decades worth of data to illustrate trends and the scale of the current needs, shared learnings from community partners working on the frontlines of this crisis, and elevated key opportunities for philanthropy to take action. 



California has seen significant economic growth since 1980 as wages and jobs have increased in certain sectors across the state. At the same time, however, government and housing developers slowed production considerably, stepping out of pace and driving up demand. Additionally, when California did see some growth in housing supply over the past few years, the houses built by developers tended to be larger, single-family homes, which are generally more expensive. Over the decades, this focus on market driven-development has resulted in the overproduction of luxury housing and has failed to increase the production and availability of affordable housing. As of 2018, in the San Francisco Silicon Valley area, the typical price of an entry-level home was over $760,000. In Los Angeles, the typical entry price was approaching half a million dollars which has put homeownership out of reach for more and more households across California.


The less attainable homeownership becomes, the more pressure there is on the rental market to absorb people who cannot afford to buy homes. In recent years, the fastest-growing segment of the rental market are households making over $100,000. As higher-income households have relied more heavily on the rental stock in recent years, there has been a tremendous increase in rents. In short, California is not pursuing enough affordable housing production and is also not protecting stock that was once affordable to lower- and moderate-income households, which has created a mismatch between supply and demand. Today, the average asking rent for a two-bedroom house in California frequently outstrips what the typical renter’s income could afford without becoming cost-burdened


It is becoming increasingly difficult for people living on extremely low incomes to pay rent. These households are living on $x,xxx each month, and are the most vulnerable and put at the highest risk of becoming homeless because of the lack of economic opportunity to earn higher wages and wealth for their households. Rent and the cost of healthcare and basic needs takes up the majority of these households’ monthly income. Nearly 90% of households living on low incomes pay at least a third of their income to rent — nearly 75% of them paying more than half of their total income. California has almost 1.3 million extremely low-income renter households and only 31 affordable homes for every 100 of these households. In total, California has a housing shortfall of 998,613 homes for people living on extremely low incomes. 


While California has seen wage growth and better economic performance in a number of regions, a lot of these gains happened at the top end of the income distribution. The wages of extremely low-income households have stagnated as price pressures and rental costs have increased. This housing and income gap is the underpinning of the homelessness crisis in California. Between 2017-2019, almost every county in California has experienced an increase in homelessness. During this period, Los Angeles saw a 7% increase in homelessness, San Francisco saw a 17% increase, and Alameda, Contra Costa, Orange, and San Bernardino County all saw a 40% increase. 


Mental health and addiction issues are often considered the primary drivers of homelessness. However, the magnitude of this crisis underscores how much homelessness is actually an economically-driven crisis. Disparities are omnipresent in the housing system from the affordability of the housing stock, to where affordable housing is located, to long-standing patterns of economic and racial segregation* and discrimination in the financial sector, real estate, and government programs related to homeownership. These challenges disproportionately impact people of color. The homelessness crisis is also increasingly affecting seniors and people over 55, many of whom are experiencing homelessness for the first time. 


There are many households, which may not have been housing insecure before COVID-19, are now vulnerable because of the economic fallout of the pandemic. There are about 1.2 million households, who were not put at risk before, are now at risk of losing jobs and wages because of the economic impacts and responses to COVID-19. As the stay-at-home order continues and the moratorium on evictions end, these households will become increasingly at risk of losing their housing and for those homes and rental properties that may have been affordable to go back into the housing market.


The COVID-19 crisis is having tremendous health impacts for people that are living without shelter. People experiencing homelessness are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 than other populations and are also more likely to have underlying health conditions. This issue is especially urgent for the older populations that are homeless. Additionally, frontline workers and providers are often at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19. Many of these essential workers, who staff grocery stores and delivery services are not paid living wages and often live in households with many which could cause rapid exposure to the virus. 



Community partners working to address the housing and homelessness crisis are being stretched very thin as they urgently work to respond to increasing safety-net needs on top of their day-to-day organizing, civic engagement, and advocacy work. In particular, this pressure is affecting organizations working with the most impacted communities, such as the reentry population and undocumented immigrants. To support, philanthropy must increase flexibility in all grantmaking practices from reducing or eliminating reporting, streamlining applications, increasing funding to match the need, and making all grants general operating support. Community-based organizations continue to respond to emerging needs while having to re-strategize and pivot on a daily or weekly basis, philanthropy has an immediate opportunity to meet the moment. 


In Los Angeles, there’s currently a coalition of over 250 organizations and small businesses that have been working with the City Council and the County Board of Supervisors to move forward on renter protections and moratoriums on evictions. In the Bay Area, groups are demanding that unhoused communities get placed into empty hotels and for moratoriums on sweep encampments. This strong, urban mobilization is also beginning to emerge in areas where tenant protections were once considered invisible by local government officials such as Fresno, Tulane, Murcia, or Riverside. On a statewide scale, a diverse coalition of stakeholders from many sectors is coming together to articulate the need for affordable homes and set bold but achievable goals. Housing California and the California Housing Partnership have teamed up on California’s Roadmap HOME 2030, an initiative to develop a "Marshall Plan" that will set the course to advance policy solutions that shift funds and create structural and systems reform at scale. As this momentum continues to build, philanthropy can play a critical role in facilitating these connections and helping to ensure that local governments are moving forward with these protections for renters and unhoused communities. These efforts underpin housing as a human right, rather than a commodity.  


Philanthropy can support data integrity efforts to create quantitative measures to identify people who are put at a high risk of becoming homeless. This is caused by a lack of data integration across the housing continuum and jurisdictional boundaries. Insufficient coordination and access to data reduce an organization's ability to use predictive analytics to identify individuals put at high risk and accurately funnel preventive service dollars. Last year, the state legislature passed a resolution that allows County entities to share data around groups put at high-risk. Moving forward, the challenge will be finding a platform that can successfully integrate cross-jurisdictional data systems and ensure that privacy is protected. Philanthropy can help explore what this tool or system looks like to better connect jurisdictions across the state and share data more fluidly. This integrative platform also has the potential to help regions share institutional capacity and avoid competing for funds that can instead be used collaboratively. 

**This article is a snapshot of our speakers’ high-level conversation on the housing and homelessness crisis in California and should be considered an introduction to our state’s history of racial disparities and systemic inequities. SCG encourages you to continue learning about the racial policies and history that serve as the root causes of these housing and homelessness trends. 




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Five Opportunities for Philanthropy in COVID-19 Response: A Conversation With Secretary Mark Ghaley and Dr. Sandra Hernández

Thursday, May 28, 2020
Last month, we virtually convened over 600 funders from across California for a day dedicated to philanthropy's role in strengthening our democracy and civic engagement during this unprecedented moment. Now, SCG is excited to launch our Post-Policy Summit Blog Series in order to elevate key learnings from the Summit and to further the conversations we began to explore. 

California’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has focused on providing immediate relief across the state. As we move into the next phase of this pandemic, it will become increasingly urgent for California to enact long-term plans to rebuild our social and economic infrastructure. Philanthropy has the unique ability to support our public institutions by holding space for future thinking and planning. 

For the 2020 Philanthropy California Virtual Policy Summit, we invited Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California's Health Care Services Agency and Dr. Sandra Hernández, President & CEO of the California Healthcare Foundation to discuss California’s current response efforts and share key opportunities for philanthropy to align with state agencies to support communities across the state. 



California’s overwhelming compliance and support of the Governor’s “Stay-at-Home Order” has led to a unique opportunity for the state to focus on COVID-19 hotspots and its hardest-hit communities. In the coming months, California will need to direct resources into protecting populations that are at high-risk for transmission. 

California’s historically underserved and overlooked populations are shouldering an undue burden of COVID-19 as the virus is disproportionately impacting brown and black communities across the state. Many of these communities have large numbers of essential workers who are going to work without the necessary personal protective equipment to mitigate the spread of COVID. This dire situation also plays out with some of California’s most at-risk facilities, such as residential care facilities for the elderly, foster youth facilities, jails and prison, homeless shelters and encampments, spaces of the congregation, and many more. These facilities need better access to testing, staffing, and broad-scale communication to slow down the transmission of COVID-19. Through a new initiative, California will soon be setting up nearly 100 new sites for testing across the state, focused on lower-income communities that are considered testing deserts. However, there continues to be an urgency in making sure that our communities have equitable access to affordable testing. 


For the last two months, California’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak has focused on mitigation and containment efforts. As California enters the suppression phase of the pandemic, the state will begin directing its resources to quickly identify potential transmission hotspots through testing, tracking, isolating, and quarantining infected people. These strategies will look different across the state and in various communities. 

In the coming weeks, Governor Newsom will bring thousands of new contact tracing staff into local health departments to support suppression efforts. However, the state will still need additional capacity in order to bring contact tracing, isolation, and targeted quarantine to all communities affected by COVID-19. California will look to its philanthropic partners to help communicate with and support diverse communities across the state. Because funders have relationships with community leaders and members, which make them credible messengers, community members are more likely to trust and engage with them. Philanthropy has the opportunity to leverage its relationships with community-based organizations to support communities in culturally responsive ways. 
Additionally, California’s suppression efforts for the next 18-24 months will likely result in the creation of jobs for people who are currently unemployed or underemployed. These new jobs have the potential to become a tremendous stimulus and public health opportunity for California. There is an opportunity for philanthropy and health-focused foundations to launch various economic development and workforce development programs. For the nonprofit sector, it will be increasingly important to synchronize with public institutions to ensure that jobs get developed in places where they're most needed. 


Project Roomkey is a partnership between Governor Newsom, California’s Social Services Department, and various business and community development colleagues. It is designed to provide housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, who are often burdened by significant chronic illness and a higher risk of mortality from COVID-19. Since its inception, this initiative has not only become an opportunity to move thousands of vulnerable and unsheltered individuals into hotels with the services they need but also a way to help hotels with a secure source of business and revenue. Down the road, there is an opportunity to turn some of the Project Roomkey facilities into permanent, supportive housing for a considerable segment of our population facing homelessness.

For Project Roomkey to be widely adopted across California, Philanthropy can play an essential role in advocating for the initiative as a key strategy in creating long-term permanent housing. By providing safe shelters for individuals in need, we can, in turn, prevent our health system from becoming overwhelmed.   


COVID-19 is a call to action for philanthropy to come together and establish ways to work jointly with the Governor, the California Department of Public Health, and other state agencies. As the state continues to give guidance, resources, and set guardrails, local communities must take charge in figuring out their unique regional opportunities and challenges. Fortunately, many of these locations already have community foundations with deep roots in historically underserved communities. Leveraging their relationships with businesses, local health departments, universities, and many others, philanthropic institutions can support the administration's efforts to maximize impact. There is an opportunity for philanthropy to continue aligning with local governments to ensure that marginalized communities don’t suffer preventable outcomes. 


It is time to start planning for the long-term economic and public health challenges that will emerge in the next 1-3 years or risk missing a pivotal opportunity to rewrite history for decades to come. Philanthropy must ask: “What have we learned from this? What does it mean for our funding? What will our delivery system look like in the future?” Everything we have learned from this moment is going to be critical and philanthropy will need to work with local and state governments on the policy solutions that will move our state forward. 




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