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How a Website Redesign Inspired the Specialty Family Foundation to Become a Bolder Grantmaker

Wednesday, May 5, 2021



Last year, the Specialty Family Foundation’s team and its Board of Directors began the stimulating and challenging process of revitalizing its strategic direction. As the team worked to establish the foundation’s new five-year goals and priorities, they remained undecided on the plan’s final form, where it would be published, and who they would share it with. 

The Specialty team cycled through various options for publication — a white paper, a glossy brochure, to name a few — but none of these formats lent themselves to the level of transparency and scale the team wanted. At the same time, the team realized that sharing their new plan in any form would instantly make the foundation’s website dated and obsolete. As a result, the team would have to update the website or shut it down entirely. 

The Specialty team understood that eliminating a website is frowned upon by many marketers who consider it the musculoskeletal system that houses an organization’s strategies and entire offerings. And, given that the website was the foundation’s most public channel, shutting it down would be equivalent to wiping themselves off the map.

Moreover, Joe Womac, President of the Specialty Family Foundation, shared that the team had more profound reservations about even having a website. “For some philanthropists, having a website can feel like patting yourself on the back or building a museum to the family. This is not the culture our foundation wanted.” 

After much contemplation over their reservations, purpose, and intentions, the team gradually realized that publishing their strategic plan on their website could serve as an opportunity. The Specialty team decided that they could leverage the website as a tool to hold themselves accountable for every word and commitment they were making. They also believed that sharing the plan would allow them to be more transparent about the changes they wanted to make in their communities. Joe and his team believed this approach would encourage the team to design a plan that everyone would be proud of and committed to two years down the line. 

Joe and his team eventually got the approval for the website, but the internal work had just begun. The team started asking themselves challenging questions ranging from their purpose (Why should a family foundation focused on private grantmaking even have a website) to their positioning (How do we check our motives when we’re publicizing ourselves?). What followed was a chain reaction spurred by the team’s decision to take a bold chance on their most public-facing tool.  

SCG spoke to Joe Womac to learn more about how the Specialty Family Foundation’s strategic planning process was influenced and altered by the team’s decision to revamp their website. Below, Joe shared some of the exciting opportunities that emerged once the foundation began being bolder in its approach and dared to reimagine its investments, internal relationships, and orientation to equity.



Given that the final iteration of the Specialty Family Foundation’s strategic plan would live on (and inspire) the new website, the team felt an intensified pressure to find alignments across all facets of the organization’s work. The team was adamant about engaging every person involved with the foundation’s governance to provide input and feedback on everything from the organization’s story, investment strategies, positioning, and more. Joe knew that there would be an inevitable argument if they did not have collective buy-in on the final iteration of the plan. 

“The website serves as the foundation’s public statement on where it wants to be in five years and how it plans to keep itself accountable,” explained Joe. “It was critical that the entire organization felt comfortable and galvanized by the end product. We wanted every staff member to feel proud to share our new direction with the world.”

The alignment also extended beyond the Specialty Foundation’s staff to its next generation of leaders. The Specialty team had spent the last few years getting its 2nd and 3rd generation members more involved in shaping the foundation’s future. The new website became one of the several strategies the team implemented to engage them. “The next generation sees relevance when you communicate through a medium they care about,” Joe mentioned. “Making our strategy digital-first demonstrated that we wanted them to be involved in this process.” The Specialty Foundation actively involved its Next Gen members throughout the strategic planning process. When they finalized the strategy, the team incorporated the next generation’s participation under Our Legacy, which cemented their investment in shaping the foundation’s future. 



From the onset of the planning process, the Specialty team wanted to focus on transparency and elevate the foundation’s vision for impact. For some time, the team had been grappling with the fact that the general public — and even some of its grantees — were confused or just unaware of the foundation’s core mission statement and their funding focus on poverty, housing, and substance reform. The team realized that shutting down their website would worsen the ambiguity around the foundation’s work and allow the outside world to assume how the foundation allocates its resources. 

“As a public trust and as a foundation, we are stewards of something that is not ours,” Joe stated. “Everyone from a grant recipient to other foundations to a ten-year-old doing a report has the right to know what we do and what we invest in as an organization.” The Specialty team concluded that the foundation’s website would be crucial in sharing its story of impact with the public and demystifying how it allocates its funds.

The team achieved transparency on the revamped website through simplicity. The Specialty Family Foundation’s Home page presents a direct and linear narrative: it starts with the values that frame the foundation’s investments (families, leadership, innovation, and partnership) before boldly (and in all-caps} showcasing its mission statement. The page then highlights the foundation’s asset classes that drive its long-term goals. Finally, Our Focus showcases the foundation’s core funding areas and the collaborations advancing its work. Hovering over any of the collaboration boxes pulls up an explanation of the partnership and the amount the foundation has allocated to it, all of which can be explored in greater detail by examining the full Our Focus page on the website’s navigation menu. Ultimately, this refreshed layout helped the Specialty team clarify to the public and all nonprofits in Los Angeles what the foundation invests in and values. Furthermore, by publicly sharing what the foundation wants to achieve in the long term, the team hopes to leverage the website as an accountability tool by inviting the public to hold it responsible for realizing its goals and vision. 


“Everything about a website forces you into a hierarchy,” explains Joe. “You have to be deliberate about how you prioritize and organize every single item.” As the Specialty team constructed the “skeleton” of their new site, they soon realized they would even have to adapt the foundation’s investment priorities and philosophy into this hierarchical structure. Inevitably, contemplating how the foundation would frame its investment portfolio prompted the team to ask deeper questions about the very nature of the budget itself.

The Specialty team had always viewed the foundation as an investor in impact, but, during the strategic planning process, they begun to reimagine its giving as a set of philanthropic asset classes ranging from high-risk (seven-figure, multi-year grants given to a handful of organizations) to low-risk (smaller capacity-building and individual grants). However, the organization had never shared its giving philosophy externally and had just defaulted to the old model of listing its investments on a webpage. Therefore, the team decided that the new website’s hierarchical structure could serve as an opportunity to reframe and broadcast the foundation’s investment strategy. 

The redesigned Home page showcases the Specialty Family Foundation’s investments through a visual and sequential hierarchy of its asset classes under the section Our Impact. First is Igniting Change — the foundation’s high-risk, multi-million dollar investments focused on systems change — is the first and largest content block in this section. Next are two smaller content blocks that showcase the foundation’s other, smaller asset classes: Accelerating Progress — a set of moderate-risk investments focused on expanding organizational capacity — and finally Empowering Individuals — low-risk, small grants meant for individuals. By organizing the foundation’s assets in this order, the team moved away from the dated “what we fund” model to “how we fund systems change,” which also announced that the organization’s shift to taking bigger and bolder financial risks.  

This new layout also required the foundation to reconfigure its existing budget to fit neatly within this new external structure. “Our budget now reflects the website and is organized in the same order of hierarchy,” said Joe. “The website has helped us articulate what’s most important and also share that while what we fund might change, our vision and commitment to systems impact will remain constant.” 


While the Specialty Family Foundation spent 2020 working on its new strategic direction and website, history was happening all around them. Like many, the foundation had to pivot as the entire globe navigated the interlocking crises of the pandemic, systemic racism, and climate change. Internally, the Specialty team had to pause and come to grips with their own privilege while also thinking through the foundation’s role and responsibilities amid the worsening crises.  

Joe acknowledged that the team was hesitant to issue an external statement last year, given the early stages of equity and DEI work the foundation was exploring. Instead, the team took the opportunity to reckon with the tough questions: Have we honestly made an effort to include all of these lenses? What mistakes have we made? How can we authentically incorporate DEI into our work? Since then, the foundation has moved to change the composition of its board, updated its grant application processes, and invested in long-term DEI training for its staff and board members. 

None of these internal shifts have been shared on the new website or been made public. Instead, the Specialty team took a different approach to the new website. “Our staff is motivated by our grantees’ work,” Joe elevated. “The best way to share our story of impact and commitment to equity is to decenter ourselves entirely and instead elevate our grantees’ stories.” As a result, the Specialty Family Foundation’s revamped website is unabashedly people-focused. Almost every page incorporates images of the foundation’s grantees and the community members it is serving. The Our Focus page emphasizes the initiatives and grantees the foundation has selected to advance its vision and goals. Additionally, the Specialty team has made an intentional effort to frame the foundation’s mission and giving structure through the lens of DEI and systems change. The team believes that these visual and rhetorical changes are more substantial than writing a statement that might come across as insincere or just get lost in the flood of communications.  

“Our grantees understand the problems and solutions better than anyone else because they lived experience. We hope that featuring them prominently will help spread their story and inspire other funders and grantees.” 


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Parting Words from Andre Perry, Keynote Speaker at SCG's Policy Conference, Build Anew

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Friends and colleagues,  
It was a pleasure to address you at SCG's 2021 Public Policy Conference, and my sincere thanks go to all involved for making my participation and the event possible. 
I’d also be delighted to connect directly with you to talk further about my work at Brookings. The research on housing devaluation is part of my Valuing Black Assets Initiative (VBAI). VBAI seeks solutions that restore the value that’s been extracted by racism. By centering Black people and their assets in our analysis, we take apart entrenched racist narratives as well as identify policy biases and other structures that throttle economic and social mobility.
There is nothing wrong with Black people that ending racism can’t solve. We haven’t known how much the country can gain through policies that properly value homes and businesses, family structures, voters, school districts, and other assets in Black neighborhoods. And we need to know. Many assets in Black communities are strong, but they are frequently and intentionally devalued. If we can account for the associated costs of racism, using an asset-based frame on individuals, enterprise, and community, then we can begin to properly deploy approaches that restore lost value by investing in the people who have been penalized simply for being Black. 
Just as my session demonstrated, the key to understanding a pathway forward through structural barriers facing the Black community will require metrics that will hold anti-Black policies accountable and create the narrative change that supports exclusionary policy. At this pivotal moment in time, we have an opportunity to repair some damage caused by past policies and replace them with anti-racist ones that encourage inclusion.  
I look forward to talking to you about my efforts.  
Andre Perry 
Senior Fellow 
Brookings Institution 
[email protected] 

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Six Ways Funders Can Help Win the Fight Against COVID

Monday, April 12, 2021

The piece below was based on SCG's program "Equitable Vaccine Distribution with Blue Shield and the State of California" hosted on Friday, March 26, 2021. We encourage you to watch the video embedded above to hear the entire conversation. 


Thanks to a robust public-private partnership, Blue Shield of California has accelerated and expanded California’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution as a third-party administrator. In March 2021, in collaboration with Blue Shield of California Foundation, Philanthropy California hosted an online dialogue about how such alliances have furthered the cause of public health during the COVID-19 crisis.
Panel participants included Aliza Arjoyan, Blue Shield of California’s Senior Vice President of Provider Partnership and Network Management; Debbie Cheng, President and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation; Kathleen Kelly Janus, Senior Advisor on Social Innovation to Governor Newsom; Dr. Erica Pan, State Epidemiologist for the California Department of Public Health; Maricela Rodriguez, Director of Civic Engagement and Strategic Partnerships for the Office of Governor Newsom; and Marcela Ruiz, Director of the Office of Equity at the California Department of Social Services. Below are the key takeaways our panelists had for funders across the state. 


Invest proactively and for the long-term

Fundraising and philanthropy are often nimble in ways government simply can’t be. A simple mind-shift in the philanthropic sector can make a big difference: proactively focus on prevention rather than solely on a reactive mindset of immediate relief and response.

This proactive mindset could mean taking steps to fund local organizations or to provide technical assistance to CEOs so that grant application for long-term aid becomes a smoother process. It could mean investing in employee education so workers know what rights and medical offerings are available to them.

“Often we get government funding that’s very disease-specific,” Pan said. “It comes months after it’s needed and then takes a long time to implement because of bureaucracy. But what we really need in public health is people.”


Make use of the Healthy Places Index to channel aid to the communities that need it most.

In California, 40% of COVID cases and deaths occur in our least healthy communities — the same demographics often shoulder the weight of being frontline and essential workers.

Teams of ‘patient navigators,’ aided by targeted philanthropic investment, have the language and cultural facility to make sure vaccines get into the arms of these vulnerable Californians. Local, culturally knowledgeable investments in responsive resources are critical.

With the help of the Healthy Places Index, a service of the Public Health Alliance of Southern California, you can get a snapshot of a community’s income, education, access to healthcare, and other determinants of health.


Invest in (and use!) public technology and data analytics.

Public health and government have fallen well behind the private sector on having up-to-date information and data, and COVID-19 has widened that information gulf. Add your information to these databases, and encourage your peers to do the same.

Much of California’s COVID response has benefited from recent census data. Significant investments in data analytics and distribution will help position our state to be safer and more agile for unexpected events to come.

As just one example, public-facing online government resources like My Turn ( have helped match a limited supply of vaccines to the high-risk people who needed them most. Investments in, and use of, these sorts of services can genuinely save lives.


Invest in community education that is community-specific.

Public health education means sending the right message, from the right messenger, in the right way. Vaccine hesitance can often be effectively (and respectfully) combated with an empathetic message from a trusted source: a church, a community leader, a community physician.

There is ‘no one-size-fits-all’ way to persuade someone to take a newly developed vaccine, and there’s no substitute for a well-tailored message that respects someone’s questions and their humanity. For example, during the initial vaccine roll-out, it was important for California public health officials to oversample the reservations and hesitation of members of the Black community, given the traumatic history of the Tuskegee experiment and other areas of skepticism around novel medical developments.

Invest heavily in positive, community-specific messaging, led by the community members in question, to counter the waves of misinformation and disinformation we all regularly encounter about COVID-19.


Invest in smaller providers and support services.

In mid-April, California opened vaccine eligibility well beyond high-risk groups. Now it’s more challenging to prioritize high-risk groups and provide them with the vaccine. Keep in mind that not everyone can get to a mega-site for vaccination.
Investments in mobile vaccination sites and other small, third-party support services help strengthen a lifeline to communities of people who are disabled, housebound, or who otherwise lack reliable transportation. Consider championing resources that bring vaccines to Californians rather than (or in addition to) those that wait for Californians to get vaccinated.


Celebrate the power of public-private partnerships.

At the outset of the pandemic, an alliance between California and private funders resulted in a $111 million messaging campaign that spread crucial COVID safety tips far and wide. Thanks, in part, to targeted messengers from Sesame Street and more general messaging on massive public billboards or Instagram, the importance of mask-wearing and hand-washing became household topics rapidly. Each of these avenues required financial support.
Similar alliances can help with vaccine distribution and tailoring messaging for disproportionately impacted communities that need this life-saving help the most. Concurrent with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine rollout, the state produced a series of online videos featuring doctors taking the vaccines themselves, as well as answering questions around vaccine hesitancy. Consider how your leadership position in your sector might send a message to make a difference.



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Three Lessons on Advancing a Bold Environmental Agenda Under a New Administration

Friday, April 9, 2021

The piece below was based on SCG's program "Urban, Green Infrastructure Under the New Administration" hosted on Friday, February 19, 2021. We encourage you to watch the recording above for the full discussion.



Radical ideas challenge our norms. Making lasting environmental change calls on us to pull away from traditional solutions and shift toward systems change, which will allow us to think deeper and act boldly. Looking beyond the Green industries to lead us into the future is an opportunity to approach an environmental agenda as it truly is - an economic development, workforce development, and regional plan. This interconnected structure paves the way for leaders across sectors to identify the intersection of engagement and provides an avenue to address how racial, social, and economic realities show up in those areas, applying a community-centric lens to environmental change.
To illustrate this approach, SCG called on Alfredo Gonzalez, program director for the Resources Legacy Fund; Calvin Gladney, president of Smart Growth America; Kate Gordon, Director of the Governor's Office of State Planning and Research; and Cecilia Estolano, CEO and founder of Estolano Advisors. The panel brought forth thought-provoking yet practical solutions to what is likely to be a one-shot opportunity to enact a radical approach to environmental change. Looking at California as a model and deconstructing traditional methods to approach environmental solutions at the federal level, philanthropy has a unique opportunity to shift the power dynamics to community organizations that operate in related but different fields.



Amplify the multiple benefits of environmental initiatives by supporting the connection between transportation, climate change, public health, racial justice, economic inclusion, and social equity in your funding priorities. By championing organizations enacting inclusive solutions, funders are illustrating the inherently interconnected system that relies on every sector and region to play a role in realizing a shared vision. Groups implementing a water quality project and including educational workshops to help communities understand how they can actively help decrease the heat island effect are doing more with each public dollar while engaging meaningfully with communities. Transportation for America, an advocacy-based organization, made up of local, regional, and state leaders - called for Congress to stop funding like its 1982. Their work challenged the archaic 80/20 transportation funding structure by centering the need of 2.8 million essential workers who rely on transit, supporting a recent resolution presented by Congress members to introduce equal funding between public transit and highways.



Fund your values by trusting community organizations. In honoring their lived experience, funders make space for organizations to feel they have the freedom and capacity to act on solutions that directly reflect, support, and benefit their communities. Ensuring organizations lead the way creates ownership, attracts and fosters authentic engagement, and reinforces shared values. Providing multi-year, unrestricted funding to fuel the organization's ability to apply its dollars to the areas it needs most supports the belief that organizations best understand how inequities may impact their ability to build resiliency and deliver on their mission. Rather than imposing external ideas onto organizations, we can honor their experience by shifting that power dynamic so they may determine how and if they are serving their communities in the best way.



Encourage community organizations to build reflection and experimentation into their work, rather than explicitly telling folks what they need to know. When funders support organizations at this level, they are encouraged to approach methods most authentic to their experience. They challenge perceptions around the role of failure - by way of reflection and experimentation. Empowering organizations to design their path invites them to look at failure as a viable strategy to approach challenges, find solutions and reach goals. It provides the freedom and flexibility to lessen unnecessary burdens and unleashes a sustainable path to learn, evolve and innovate.


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How Local Leaders are Addressing a History of Systemic Inequity in South Los Angeles

Friday, April 9, 2021

The piece below was based on SCG's program "Philanthropy’s Role in Addressing Inequity in South LA and Advancing Policy and Systems Change" hosted on Thursday, February 25, 2021. We encourage you to watch the video embedded above to hear the entire conversation. 


In March 2021, a robust SCG panel of experts celebrated the launch of South Central Rooted, a 2020 report outlining the ways white supremacy and anti-Black racism have perpetuated systemic inequities for Black and brown communities in South LA. Dr. Manuel Pastor, Director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), led the panel conversation on the report and was joined by Barbara Lott Holland, Associate Director of the Labor Community Strategy Center; Karen Mack, Founder of the LA Commons, which promotes diverse neighborhoods through artistic programming; Benny Torres, President and CEO of CDTech, which focuses on community organizing and leadership training; and Laura Muraida, Director of Research and Communications at SCOPE in South Los Angeles. 

The South Central Rooted report was born from conversations among the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Collaborative. The Collaborative wanted to provide a historical analysis of Black and Brown communities’ structural impediments in South LA. From the report, the panelists highlighted four lessons funders can leverage to help community leaders pursue a safer and more equitable future in the region. 



Drawing from the findings of the South Central Rooted report, four consistent “drivers of disparity” emerged that have kept Black and brown communities, like those of South LA, behind for generations:

1) Gentrification and displacement: The collision of exclusionary housing and a disappearing social safety net has driven a disproportionate amount of uncertainty for communities of color. 
2) Poverty and joblessness: Limited homeownership is reinforced and exacerbated by a lack of equitable public infrastructure spending. 
3) Policing, deportation, and mass incarceration: A pattern of erasure or disruption of families of color persists, as people are routinely locked up or sent away.
4) Environmental racism: Exclusionary housing ultimately shapes the health and parameters surrounding where people of color live, work, and play.



“When someone goes to prison, just the same as when they go to college,” Lott Holland remarked, “it’s as if the whole family goes with them.” The intergenerational impacts of over-policing in South LA, largely in Black neighborhoods, routinely have devastating effects far beyond an arrest’s initial impact. Such circumstances often leave young people in their grandparents’ care or increasingly reliant upon public transportation and other services. As an example of effective leadership on the issue of over-policing, Lott Holland applauded LAUSD Board Member Monica Garcia for initiating a $25 million cut to LAUSD that, last year, ultimately reduced police presence in schools and reinvested the funds in improving equity for Black students. “That means more intermediaries, not cops,” she noted.



Local initiatives have begun to leverage the uniquely persuasive power of art and culture to reframe perceptions about L.A.’s under-resourced and underrepresented community. One new initiative, Creating Our Next LA, draws heavily from the passions and collaborations of young artists to reshape the city in the aftermath of COVID-19. An example of this initiative’s transformational output, the Destination: Crenshaw project, galvanized what Mack described as “narrative change through the built environment.” Together, artists used wide-scale artistic expression to claim space for the African-American community in response to Metro transportation that currently cuts through a section of Crenshaw Boulevard. “If [the train] is going to be above-ground,” Mack said, “let’s give [riders] something to see.”



The South Central Rooted report’s multidimensional lenses underscore why stand-alone, issues-based advocacy will not solve the systemic and structural challenges of South L.A. Instead, leaders should champion a plan that considers where gentrification, criminal justice, and school reform overlap. Reluctance to establish sustainable, long-term solutions only means the same challenges are left to re-emerge, again and again. The result reinforces historic disparities between and among underserved communities in South LA, as Black and Latino demographics are left to compete over space and resources.

“The challenge many times is we're very siloed in terms of how we are given resources,” Torres said. “Economic development. Workforce development. Environmental justice. Arts and culture. We have not been able as much to push back and say, ‘Let's have a broader conversation about these issues intersect.’” 

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Lessons from Early Vaccine Distribution Efforts

Friday, April 9, 2021

The piece below was based on SCG's program "Funders' Briefing on COVID-19 Vaccine" hosted on Monday, March 1, 2021. We encourage you to watch the recording above for the full discussion.



In March 2021, SCG proudly linked with Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, Los Angeles (EPIP LA) for a far-ranging conversation about one of the most urgent issues of the moment: COVID-19 vaccination, as seen through a lens of equity and access. Rose Veniegas, Senior Program Officer at the California Community Foundation, moderated a panel that included Isabel Bercerra, CEO of the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers; Aquillina Soriano Versoza, Executive Director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California; and Dr. Oliver Brooks, Chief Medical Officer with Watts Healthcare Corporation.

Together, these community and health experts addressed the current challenges in administering the vaccine equitably and the connections these obstacles have to historic inequities. 



Unsurprisingly, many of the inequities of the COVID vaccine distribution process fall along racial and socioeconomic lines. As just one example: according to Brooks, Black Americans have received only about 3 percent of COVID-19 vaccinations, despite that demographic making up 13 percent of the overall population. But this vaccination gap, Brooks said, isn’t simply a question of roll-out procedure — it speaks to both skepticism and hesitance around the vaccine itself.
“In the African-American community, there are legitimate concerns,” Brooks said. “Everyone knows about Tuskegee. Henrietta Lacks. Black women were sterilized forcefully. Latinas were sterilized just last year in detention facilities. So let’s respect vaccine-hesitant people.”



In response to what Brooks calls the twin challenges of “logistics and hesitancy” among members of the Black community, Watts Healthcare Corporation recently partnered with East Bay Community Foundation, funded through the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation, for an innovative program of focus groups, targeted messaging, and influencer outreach.
That program’s intent was ambitious: to gently inform and reframe local “knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs” surrounding COVID-19 and healthcare among underserved populations. Its intimate focus and outreach, respecting the community’s psychology, Brooks said, is crucial to encouraging vaccination by leveraging trusted messengers and messages. This approach’s power is perhaps vital when considering 50% of African-Americans receive medical care from intimately trusted solo and small-group practitioners.

The value of that person-to-person trust — the sort found in churches, neighborhood groups, and among family — reverberated throughout the panel conversation. Soriano Versoza also noted that larger vaccination sites, such as the Forum or the Disney Center, often seem too daunting and ‘militarized’ for Latinx and Filipino visitors who may not speak English fluently or who may feel under threat by the presence of officials. For immigrants who, due to their immigration status, may not be able to use available health services or public benefits, the prospect of lining up at a major vaccination site can be terrifying.

While reinforcing the value of intimate, trust-based connections, Soriano Versoza celebrated the hard work of the peer advocate members at Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), which supports low-wage Filipino immigrants who often live in multigenerational homes, rely on public transportation, lack reliable healthcare, and thus are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. She also noted these groups of peer advocates regularly offer valuable clarity around what might otherwise be confusing information for some communities.
“Messengers matter, and messages matter,” Soriano Versoza said. “Having targeted messages that meet people where they are, and having messengers that [community members] trust is truly important. We need refined ways [to build] real conversations, and to hear real conversations.”


With interpersonal relationship-building so central to vaccination strategy, Becerra noted that, even in the early days of this pandemic, community health centers up and down the state found themselves uniquely positioned to respond to this once-in-a-century crisis.

“We are strategically located not only to do the testing, to do the treatment, to do the education,” Becerra said, “but also to do the vaccines because we're trusted entities [in our communities]. If [policymakers] want to apply the equity lens [to] what they are doing, they cannot leave community health centers out of the mix, because without us, they cannot achieve equity.”
Given community health centers’ strategic placement, their role as trusted messengers in the community, and their rapid pivot to the pandemic, funders should consider making ongoing financial commitments to these local institutions. These investments will help build the infrastructure to provide long-term and reliable support to the institutions that best understand the needs on the ground. Grantmakers can search the zip code of the community they are serving to find and invest in a local health center. 

Funders can also leverage and elevate equity metrics, such as the Healthy Places Index (HPI) created by the Public Health Alliance of California, to locate and support regions with more significant health needs and risk factors. These metrics are essential indicators of areas that should be priorities for vaccine distribution and where philanthropy can channel assets and resources to support local efforts. 

Resources for Funders' Briefing on COVID-19 Vaccine

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SCG Policy Blog: What to Know about Community Funded Projects (CFP)

Monday, March 29, 2021



On March 2021, Southern California Grantmakers, alongside our Philanthropy California partners across the state, participated in United Philanthropy Forum’s first-ever virtual Foundations on the Hill. Given the new federal administration and Congress, it was imperative to bring our collective voice of over 300 philanthropic and philanthropic-serving organizations to Capitol Hill. The Philanthropy California delegation, made up of over 40 members, held nearly 30 Legislative meetings with Democrat and Republican Congressional members and staff, representing the entire State of California. 

As our delegation shared information met with Congresspeople to discuss the importance of supporting charitable giving in policy, Community Funded Projects (CFP) became a prominent and unexpected conversation topic. Community Funded Projects are the new iteration of “earmarks.” Traditionally, earmarks have been provisions attached to a discretionary spending appropriations bill that directs funds to a designated recipient. The earmarks process does not adhere to the merit-based or competitive funds allocation process. Earmarks have not been allowed since 2011 and often carry the perception of being wasteful spending for favors and special interests. However, CPF is a new initiative for Fiscal Year 2022 that will enable Members of Congress to request direct funding for projects that benefit the communities they represent. The initiative will include strict eligibility, ethics, and transparency to eliminate past perceptions of earmarks and are strictly for the use of nonprofit, governmental, and tribal organizations. 

To access CFP resources, organizations must apply directly to the Congressperson representing the district they wish to support. Each Congressional District will have up to 10 projects they can forward to Appropriations, who will make the final decisions. Republican representatives of Congress have indicated that their caucus has not decided if they will support CFP’s; however, they will accept project proposals to be held if they choose to participate. 

This funding is for the Fiscal Year 2022 and does not offer multi-year support. Congresswoman Nanette Barragan was the most intentional about soliciting applications and provided some additional guidance for those wishing to participate. Her advice for any submitted projects is that they be visible in the community, have matching funds available, and can be completed/partially completed in the fiscal year awarded. Congresswoman Barragan provided additional information regarding the funds, application, and process below. 

Community Funded Projects offer an opportunity to significantly reduce philanthropy’s responsibility to meet funding gaps and increase our sector’s overall impact. Given that CPF is limited to nonprofit agencies and governmental entities, the funds are realistically attainable and can provide hundreds of thousands of funding. These projects, by design, are meant to be short-term and visibly impactful. Nonprofits can work with elected Congresspeople to engage in projects that create real and immediate benefits to communities. Inherent to CFP’s is the incentive to collaborate. These funds have to provide matching resources for approval. Philanthropy and nonprofit can use CFP funding to create public-private partnerships and leverage resources in a way that can make an exponential impact for both the funder and nonprofit alike.  

While we expect CPF to be available every year, this year’s turnaround is very short, with most offices requesting applications by the end of March or early April. All have expressed some flexibility but will need to submit the recommended projects to Appropriations by mid-April. If you're interested in CPF, we highly recommend you visit your representative's website or contact them directly to learn if they are accepting applications. 

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Reflections on Measure J’s Success: A Charter Amendment to Advance Racial Equity in Los Angeles

Monday, March 29, 2021



Measure J passed in California on November 2020, signaling a critical win in a long-fought battle for greater equity and reform by local advocates. The measure’s campaign was built and executed by BIPOC-led organizations who have been working for over a decade to transform our justice system and reverse structural racism’s long-term devastation of poor communities of color. 

Measure J proposed amending the Los Angeles County Charter to permanently require that at least 10% of locally controlled revenue be invested into low-income communities and alternatives to incarceration. When fully phased in, this will mean upwards of $1 billion for investments in Black, Brown, and low-income neighborhoods that will target public health, housing, safety, jobs, youth programs, wellness, and more. 

United Way of Greater Los Angeles (UWGLA) played an important role in helping get the measure on the ballot, crafting a potential pathway for victory, and facilitating the campaign’s launch before proudly joining the ReimagineLA coalition, alongside and behind community leaders. The measure’s success was also a tremendous commitment by voters to reimagine Los Angeles County’s budget, uplift community-based solutions, and continue our region’s journey toward justice. 

So, how did the ReimagineLA coalition get a historic measure on the ballot and get it passed in only a few months? 


1 | We centered BIPOC organizations building a movement for racial equity, justice, and alternatives to incarceration for years. 

For years organizations like La Defensa and Dignity & Power Now and coalitions like JusticeLA have been organizing to advance racial equity and justice in LA County. Our partners have secured significant victories, including a board of supervisors-approved Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Initiative and “Care First, Jails Last” plan, which contained bold yet unfunded recommendations for reform. Shortly after the ATI initiative launched in May 2020, the recording of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd Jr. spread across the globe. This video was a catalytic moment: the Movement for Black Lives became the largest social movement in U.S. history, with protests demanding structural change at every level of government and society. With only a few months until the 2020 General Election, we connected with Black and Brown-led justice groups to discuss how we could leverage this historic moment’s momentum to forward bold policy actions. 


2 | We built a broad cross-cutting coalition of advocates, community organizations, service providers, faith groups, unions, and others that became known as Reimagine LA.

The Reimagine LA Coalition aimed to be as diverse as Los Angeles County. The coalition included abolitionist movement organizers, justice reform advocates, affordable housing providers, tenant rights groups, homeless service providers, homeless rights activists, and many other groups. For many months, coalition leaders worked to leverage long-established relationships with political leadership, lend expertise and capacity, and provide political cover where necessary. Additionally, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors made a strong, public commitment to ATI early in the year when they recognized Measure J’s potential to offer a tangible next step and a source of support for those largely unfunded recommendations. The Board’s early commitment, paired with the coalition’s size and behind-the-scenes efforts, helped ensure that Measure J received majority votes across three board meetings and made it on the ballot.


3 | We created a movement-based strategy that rightly situated this campaign as the next step in the larger movement transforming Los Angeles County.

UWGLA offered a proven-strategy it had recently employed in the fight to end homelessness in LA County through Measure H: a county-wide ballot measure that empowered voters to create a mandate where fraught, entrenched politics and policymaking have failed. As UWGLA connected with allies and advocates to build the coalition that would get Measure J on the ballot, we also wanted to test the best political and electoral strategy for success. UWGLA funded a series of polls that revealed considerable public will behind Measure J’s principles, with nearly 60% and higher rates of approval across all polls (and in the end, Measure J passed with 57% of the vote!). Leveraging UWGLA’s ballot experience and drawing on legal advisors, we identified a charter amendment as the most strategic path forward, needing only a simple voter majority (50%+1) while offering a generational change to a generational issue.


4 | We focused on targeted digital media, storytelling, and direct voter engagement through a massive phone banking strategy to overcome the pandemic’s obstacles. 

The broad Reimagine LA coalition became crucial in activating its base to support the campaign’s voter engagement, which relied heavily on digital influence and phone banking. With the shelter-in-place orders in effect and COVID-19’s restrictions on physical voter engagement, the Reimagine LA/Measure J Campaign decided to invest heavily in a digital and print earned and paid media strategy. Our engagement strategy centered Black and Brown leaders at the forefront of the racial and carceral justice movement (like Campaign Co-Chairs Eunisses Hernandez and Isaac Bryan) to make the case for Measure J and weave it into the broader arc of the Alternative to Incarceration movement. Our storytelling focused on this moment in history as the time for bold policy, structural change, and justice to reverse generations of historical underinvestment in BIPOC and low-income communities.

We also implemented an aggressive social media strategy to amplify our storytelling efforts. We enlisted Reimagine LA partners (organizers, nurses, social workers, faith leaders, union workers, and many others ) to share their stories and platforms to convince voters that Measure J was a concrete solution to the social problems. In addition to acquiring votes, we also wanted to recruit folks to spread the word since we couldn’t go knocking door-to-door.  We managed to build out a robust phone banking operation, which resulted in over 750,000 calls in a month and that inspired many to reach out to their personal networks, 


Final Thoughts: Bay Area fueled the campaign, LA Philanthropy can charge the transformation

On November 3, 2020, Measure J passed with 57% of the vote! While we rejoice in this victory, we also know the work has just begun. Ballot victories are only as impactful as their implementation. The ReImagine LA Committee is now fully engaged in Measure J’s Year 1 implementation, including creating program recommendations and advancing them through the transparent, participatory budgeting process the coalition utilized during the campaign. The Committee continues to fundraise for private support to build out its long-term infrastructure and sustainability and is welcoming new allies, system leaders, and advocates with lived expertise advocates.  

Even though Measure J received broad public support when introduced — amid the global demands for racial justice when countless organizations released statements committing to anti-racism and equity — it was not broadly supported by local philanthropy. Overall, the budget raised to pass Measure J was $3.5M, of which only 17% came from LA-based donors. At the same time, 18 local nonprofit and union organizations, including United Way, stepped up during a challenging year to donate to the campaign. Together, these groups contributed 13% of the overall budget (not including the significant commitment these groups made in in-kind staffing and campaign support). The remaining 60% of the funding supporting this LA ballot measure came from Bay Area donors who made investments totaling $2.2M. Bay Area donors saw the potential this measure had to advance a movement and set a precedent for replication in other communities across the country and were willing to invest in that potential. 

While we were able to pass Measure J with the foundational funding of Bay Area donors, we will not have the same Bay area funding for its implementation. Philanthropic investment, both institutional and individual, is critical to funding change. It will take three years to ramp up to the total 10% County baseline commitment outlined in the ballot initiative. We will need to continue organizing and working during that time to ensure that these dollars flow into community-based and community-held programs. These community-led solutions will slowly undo decades of systematic racism in LA County and build a Los Angeles centered on equity, justice, and wellness for all of its residents. 

Implementation has many spaces for philanthropic engagement and investment. Potential funder actions include: 

  • Learn more about Measure J, L.A. County’s Alternatives to Incarceration Initiative, and Measure J’s Budget and Spending Process
  • Invest in the capacity of committee members to deeply participate in the planning and budgeting process
  • Provide flexible and core support to bolster the network of organizations whose budgets will grow with the infusion of J resources 
  • Fund research, planning, and budget analysis to promote transparency and effectiveness of J funded solutions
  • Support the continued digital communications and design work needed to keep coalition members and supporters educated and engaged throughout this process.


We invite the philanthropic sector to stand behind and support the community working to build a more equitable Los Angeles through Measure J. If you’d like to learn more about how you can get involved, we invite you to register for SCG’s 2021 Public Policy Conference, which will host a breakout session dedicated to Measure J’s implementation.  


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A Personal Account on Anti-Asian Violence, Hatred, Grief, and Fear

Thursday, March 25, 2021



My heart feels sick like a dark, bloated & bleeding fish
The water in my chest is rotten & murky
I cry all day to try & drain it out of me
Every day, I watch as our elders are being turned into plums
Soft round faces full of bulging bruises
Our elders are shoved, made to fly through the air
89 years old, 91 years old, flying
Then found bent in strange configurations on the cement
Question: Do you know what it feels like when the media feeds us the shooters’ first, middle & last name, interviews his grandparents, spreads his photo so that I cannot unsee the shape of his glasses and texture of his beard?
It feels like six Asian women are depicted as uniform, nondescript bowling pins
While he is cast as the main character deciding the fate of their lives
Destroying them at the whim of his own emotions
I watch the media crawl through his mind, spending time in tunnels of his thoughts to find morsels of humanness to assign to his motivations
Follow-up question: How cruel is it that marginalized communities live with the knowing that they must not only fear death, but also disappearing?

Chanel Miller 


In the days following the Atlanta hate crime killing eight people — six of which were women of Asian descent — it’s been difficult to have conversations with my parents. They are 8,000 miles away across the Pacific Ocean, are ridden with worries for my safety, and ask questions I could hardly bear to answer. 

How do I explain to my parents that it is no longer surprising to hear of violence and mass shootings? 

A year ago, at the beginning of a pandemic that would eventually take over half a million lives in the U.S., harmful narratives blaming China for the coronavirus turned into violence as anti-Asian racism and xenophobia increased exponentially. Since March 2020, more than 3,500 incidents have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate. The history of violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander didn’t start with last year or last week. It started with the first migrants coming to America in the 19th Century, followed by racial segregation, discriminatory laws, massacres, and hate crimes.

How do I tell them that today’s trauma is very much connected to theirs?

Underlying anti-Asian racism is white supremacy and U.S. imperialism, a tangled web of war policies, militarization, and dehumanization of Asians. In my family, we don’t talk about the American war in Vietnam as those who survived would simply prefer to forget. In the U.S., we neglect to educate ourselves about the violence of settler colonialism and its imperial power. 

How do I describe being objectified and feeling small?

I could recall countless times being catcalled — being called “china doll” by men on the streets. There were several instances when someone I had just met immediately started guessing where I’m from based on my accent. I can think of multiple occasions when people speak comically slower — emphasizing every word — to make sure I understand their English.  

How do I even begin to express the gripping grief and fear? 

It might be a while until I could fully unpack how different my experience as an immigrant may be from my parents’ vision of the American dream without keeping them awake at night. From elders not feeling safe, to refugees being deported, to massage workers facing deadly misogyny — there isn’t anything new but it has been a lot to hold.

As an Asian American woman working in philanthropy, I lean on the support of my adopted families, friends, and colleagues; I learn from and live into the vision of leaders who have dedicated their lives to anti-racist work and community care. With the abundance of community wisdom and energy, I believe that we can learn, unlearn, heal, and act. Here are some learnings and resources for your considerations.


Solidarity against white supremacy.

In our battle against violence toward the AAPI community, we must fight against narratives that pit Asian and Black communities against each other. Our liberation is intertwined. See resources on Black/Asian solidarity.


Asian American isn’t a monolithic identity.

Cathy Park Hong and Morgan Ome reminded us that the term Asian American was created by the Vietnam War and the Black Power movement and by student organizers who were envisioning a pan-Asian, anti-racist, anti-imperialist movement. It isn’t a monolithic identity, but an intersectional coalition. More on why we turn to intersectionality to confront anti-Asian violence, read a blog from my colleague Alice Hom of Northern California Grantmakers. to better understand the history of Asian Americans in our country, watch PBS’s series Asian Americans.


Policing is not the answer.

With the rise of violence, there has been a call for more policing from leaders. Increased policing, which is rooted in white supremacy and anti-Blackness, has never been the solution to racism against communities of color. What’s powerful, supportive, and healing are mutual aid resources, community defense networks (Stop AAPI hate, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Bystander Intervention Training), and mental wellness support.


Turn statements into actions.

Speaking up and vocalizing your support for the AAPI community is an important first step. However, it isn’t enough. 


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Rejecting Invisibility: Adele Lee's Opening Remarks from the TRHT Emergency Town Hall: Responding to Anti-Asian Violence

Thursday, March 25, 2021



My name is Adele Lee. I am the daughter of Korean immigrants and was born and raised in Los Angeles. As I prepared for an emergency town hall with the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation family around the country, I struggled to find the right words to share. It was difficult because, at any given moment, I am still processing feelings of anger, grief, fear, and sadness. As the names, ages, and information about the Asian Americans murdered in Atlanta were released, I got especially choked up because one of the Korean women shares the same name as my aunt, who too has a son about the same age as hers. Like my aunt, my mother, and countless other Asian women, she came to America to find a better opportunity for her family. It has been very challenging to sleep or eat, thinking about those who were killed, their families, and friends while also feeling fearful for my life and my loved ones.

The tragedy in Atlanta also brought up many suppressed feelings about my own experiences as an Asian woman — buried memories of all the times I’ve been exoticized and fetishized — as an object, not a person, as a character to some fantasy.  I’ve been asked by complete strangers what kind of sexual favors I can do for them, which anime character they think I resemble. And before I can even put together a sentence, they are quick to respond that it’s just a joke or that I should be flattered.  

I think about the countless times separate and together with racial fetishizations that I’ve been the target of racial slurs, the mimicking of my language, my eyes, and the way I laugh. I think about all the times I had to just bear it because I didn’t have the language as a child. As I got older, I was afraid if I spoke up, it could turn violent. I then had to replay those moments and live with the shame that I didn’t do more.

To say targeting six Asian women is not a race issue or a gendered issue is entirely unacceptable. This denial minimizes and erases my experience as an Asian woman, our identities, our history, and also that of other women of color. 

Part of the experience of being Asian in America feels like yelling into a dark void. I imagine we are not alone in this feeling. It feels like when you scream, people see you but do not hear it., Or you are told, “Why are you screaming? You have it so good in this country.” And then you begin to doubt yourself and think, why am I screaming when no one seems to care, or am I making a fuss, or maybe I should just be grateful for what I have. And so we too add to our own invisibility.

I know that Asian Americans also contribute to our invisibility. We don’t share our racial traumas with each other, our elders, or our kids. Perhaps because of our own internalized racism or some lingering effects of the model minority myth to not make noise, to not call attention to ourselves, to say our pain is not as horrific as other people of color. But we know that this behavior enables white supremacy, which makes us feel small, fight against each other, and feel alone and insignificant. 

And so we need to fight together against white supremacy — let’s make noise, let’s grieve, let’s start a process of healing with ourselves, with each other, and with other communities because our fight is intertwined.  

In the honest space where our TRHT community came together, I don’t feel so small. I feel seen — especially with my chosen family in solidarity. 


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The Face and the Flow of Finance: How Impact Investing can Move the Racial and Gender Wealth Gap  

Wednesday, March 17, 2021



This year, the women’s suffrage movement’s centennial celebrations were extended to commemorate the historic victory guaranteeing women’s institutional right to vote. As we honor Black, Native American, Asian American, and Latinx women suffragists in history, their stories painfully remind us that the 19th Amendment excluded women of color. A century later, women of color still face enormous barriers to achieve true equality. 

The Equal Pay Day movement highlighted that working women earn about 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. If the income gap outrages us, the women’s wealth gap is even more sobering. According to Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap (CWWG), women own only 32 cents on the dollar compared to men; for women of color, the gap widens to pennies on the dollar. Gender inequality compounded with the legacy of systemic racism makes women of color economically insecure. This blog explores the wealth gap that perpetuates inequalities and how gender lens investing can be an essential tool for philanthropy to tackle this barrier. 


Access to Capital and the Economic Disparity

Black and Latinx women are two of the fastest-growing groups of business owners in the United States. In 2019, women of color represented 39% of the total female population in the U.S. but accounted for 89% of the net new women-owned businesses per day. And yet, according to Goldman Sachs, less than 1% of all venture funding goes to Black and Latinx-led women-founded companies. 

“Black women are some of the most highly educated borrowers, but some may carry a high debt burden because they’ve taken on student loans,” said Shadiya Hagisufi of Accion, a nonprofit lender committed to bringing affordable small business loans to microentrepreneurs. As an underwriter who has worked in both nonprofit finance and traditional financial institutions, Shadiya looks at a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio as one input to calculate a loan’s risks. Shadiya believes a new, creative, and holistic approach is needed to ensure equitable access to capital and she values working at Accion, where holistic approaches are encouraged. As a woman of color and an immigrant, Shadiya calls for investors to understand that there are no monoliths and to carefully consider each borrower’s lived experiences. 

“It puts more work on underwriters, but we must balance risk assessments with opportunity for impact,” Shadiya said. 


Racial Equity and Gender Lens Investing

Gender lens investing promotes gender equity and addresses gender issues — such as women’s leadership and products, services, and practices that improve women and girls’ lives. “Gender lens and racial justice investing are no longer a case that needs to be made, but an approach that is sought after and becoming a fundamentally necessary approach for any impact investing strategy,” said Heather Marie Burke of MissionDriven Finance (MDF)an impact investing firm dedicated to building a financial system that ensures good businesses have sufficient affordable access to capital.

Mission Driven Finance’s approach is consistent with Shadiya’s guidance: Constantly look for ways to say yes to tenacious small businesses and nonprofits. Yes to their vision for impact, yes to their plans for growth, and yes to their understanding of what kind of capital they need and when to realize those plans.

“This may seem like a simple equation, but it’s a kind of radical act in the field of finance where most lenders ask borrowers to fit in a specific box,” Burke said. “The act of listening to women and BIPOC communities is in and of itself a transformative act.”

Mission Driven Finance is optimistic that they are not alone in the quest to change the face and flow of finance, a strategy well encapsulated in their Community Finance Fellowship. They stand alongside an incredible growing community of lenders, impact investors, activists, and businesses — including the Indigenous Women’s Investment Fund advisory council with Native Women Lead; Inclusive Capital Collective, incubated by Zebras Unite and Common Future; the J.E.D.I Collaborative; Social Venture Circle’s community capital working group and restorative investing initiative; and signatories of the Responsible Business Lending Coalition’s Small Business Borrowers Bill of Rights, Racial Justice Investing’s investor statement of solidarity to address systemic racism, Confluence Philanthropy’s Belonging Pledge, and the Due Diligence Commitment. “We are very intentional about engaging in the inclusive finance ecosystem in ways that complement, challenge, and advance our work,” said Burke.


Role of Philanthropy

Mission Driven Finance believes that philanthropy can do more to catalyze private capital for the public good. For community foundations and donor-advised fund holders, this may look like engaging DAFs to make first-loss investments in local small businesses. Burke explains that for institutional philanthropy, this means—as a start—digging into a leverage strategy for philanthropic dollars by asking: How can we draw capital to a solution by taking an early lead or assuming a junior or gap-filling position in a capital stack? By moving to a truly mission-first stance on capital allocation — beyond the preservation of capital — Burke believes that philanthropy has the power to mobilize money in pursuit of mission more than ever before.

“The cultural weight and norm-setting ability of philanthropy of all kinds should not be underestimated to shift the flow of capital for good,” Burke advises.

“Building a new financial system with a feminist and racial justice lens that works for and includes everyone? That’s not so easy, but it’s happening. And that is why we stay ever optimistic,” Burke concludes.


Through Philanthropy California, SCG and Catalyst have a shared, robust calendar of impact investing learning opportunities planned in 2021 and a cohort-based investment collaborative. Visit our impact investing page to learn more and to get engaged. 


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Integrating Racial and Gender Justice into Climate Resilience Efforts

Friday, March 12, 2021


Climate change is not the problem. Climate change is the most horrible outcome of an economic system built for a few and meant to extract all of the precious value from this planet and its people.

Colette Pichon Battle, Climate Justice Advocate & Executive Director, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy.


The Biden/Harris administration has begun to reverse the previous administration’s dismantling and rollback of over 100 climate and environmental rules that govern our country’s clean air, water, and toxic chemicals. As we commend these actions, we also want to recognize the frontline communities and leaders who’ve paved the way for the climate justice movement and who’ve been at the forefront of fighting injustice. Women and women of color, in particular, have led many of these battles. Unfortunately, organizations and movements led by women and communities of color have faced decades of under-investment from the philanthropic sector, especially compared to their white-led counterparts. 

To achieve climate justice, we must adopt an intersectional approach that prioritizes the agendas of those working to advance racial, gender, and economic justice. Southern California Grantmakers and Philanthropy California believe that solutions to the climate crisis must be designed and implemented by communities closest to the problems. An intersectional approach requires philanthropy to reframe disaster and accelerate financial and relational investments in BIPOC-led and women-led organizations and movements, especially those serving communities most at risk of and impacted by climate change. 

SCG and the Philanthropy California will continue to partner with frontline leaders to support community-led solutions, mobilize funders across California to prevent and address natural hazards like wildfire, and advocate for the growing importance of a Just Transition. Below, you’ll find some recommendations on how philanthropy can support frontline efforts. There's no neutrality in this climate justice – either we choose to help organizations advance equitable solutions and policies, or we choose to maintain the status quo and continue perpetuating systemic inequities.


Rethink climate change 

We need to shift how we think about the climate crisis. We recommend listening to the TED Talk by Colette Pichon Battle at Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy and read the commentary on climate feminism by Belguun Bat-Erdene at Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights.


Direct money to where it counts

A new Initiative, Climate Funders Justice Pledge, calls for 30% of climate funding to back justice groups led by people of color. In California, we are fortunate to have a network of POC-led nonprofits and coalitions - several of which are led by women of color - that address intersectional issues of climate justice, health, workforce, criminal justice, and economic justice. Our partners include the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, among others.


Engage in advocacy efforts

Philanthropy has the power to embrace advocacy and influence legislation. Several bills have been introduced that tackle the intersectional issues of gender and climate justice, including the Protecting Moms and Babies Against Climate Change Act, as part of the Black Maternal Mominbus Act of 2021, and the Women and Climate Change Act of 2021


Support power building in frontline communities

Systems change won't happen unless communities prod and poke. Community organizing affects local, state, and federal policies that address community inequities and lift everyone. Resourcing community organizing is essential to ensuring long-term equity. SCG hosted a program on the importance of grassroots leadership and advancing systems change in South LA. 


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"Stories of Abundance": How Women’s Foundation California is Advancing Gender Justice Through Narrative Change

Friday, March 12, 2021



Women’s Foundation California is a statewide, publicly supported foundation committed to realizing racial, economic, and gender justice. Recently, the Foundation has taken a strong interest in the emergent field of “culture change” to help advance its vision of justice by influencing and reimagining our nation’s most pervasive narratives and beliefs. For Women’s Foundation of California, investing in long-term culture change has become as critical as engaging in policy and advocacy work. 

“We recognized that policy and legislative action were not enough to erase the disadvantages that women, girls, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people – especially those from communities of color and low-income communities – face in our society,” stated Bia Vieira, Chief Strategist of Programs at the Women’s Foundation. “The reality is we need to change attitudes and build broad public support before and while we achieve legislative change, or we risk regressing and fighting an uphill battle.” 

The Foundation decided to establish the California Gender Justice Funders Network, a collaboration with a diverse group of funders, including Blue Shield of California Foundation, Fondation CHANEL, and The California Endowment, to advance the national conversation on gender justice and liberation. The Network is the first collaborative focused on the intersection of culture change and gender justice and convened by Women’s Foundation and its state partner, Philanthropy California

The Network’s first project was launching the Culture Change Fund – a $10 million initiative focused on using narrative power to change public perceptions on a broad range of gender justice issues, including racism, pay-equity, gender-based violence, maternal health, contraception, and broader reproductive justice and gender justice matters. The Fund also explores how funders can support grassroots organizations and movement leaders in employing culture as a tool to change the hearts and minds of communities. 

In March 2020, SCG connected with Bia Vieira to discuss the Culture Change Fund’s launch and their initial learnings from its research phase, Story at Scale. As the COVID outbreak took hold of the world, SCG paused the conversation to allow both organizations to focus on the pandemic response. This year, we reconnected with Bia to learn more about how the Culture Change Fund shifted its priorities in response to crises, the campaigns it supported during a critical election year, and why investing in long-term culture change continues to be necessary. 

How would you define gender justice?

BV: Gender justice is a framework used to bring about the fair and equitable treatment of people of all genders to achieve joy, justice, and dignity. To this day, Black and brown communities, transwomen, low-income women, and many other groups continue to experience unprecedented levels of criminalization, poverty, and other forms of systemic violence. We know that the pandemic has worsened many of the inequities those communities were already facing. Gender justice serves people directly impacted by gender-based oppression and ensures that they have access to the resources they need to live their lives to the fullest. 


What inspired the California Gender Justice Network to create the Culture Change Fund? 

BV: The Culture Change Fund idea stemmed from the feedback our funders received from their partners, who noticed they were entirely focused on policy efforts and were missing strategies to connect with folks at the heart level. Community leaders asked funders to support civic engagement work and build their capacity to tell stories to change minds. After these conversations, the Gender Justice Network began exploring storytelling’s potential to build a bridge between the people and the issues funders were trying to address. The Fund emerged from the Network asking, What does it mean to do culture change work? How can we use it to enact enduring change? And how can we support our partners in doing that work?  


Why do you believe storytelling is an important tool for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and other folks from historically underrepresented backgrounds?

BV: Stories humanize us. Getting to know someone's journey, where they came from, and what they’ve done is incredibly moving. However, the stories of trans and non-binary folks, poor communities, people of color, immigrants, and many others are not prevalent. When people’s experiences are not shared, it becomes easier to dehumanize and “other” them. Stories bring us together, and it becomes harder to ignore or erase a person when you feel a connection to them. Uplifting historically marginalized communities’ experiences helps bolster the cultural narrative that everyone deserves to access a fulfilling and just life.


The first stage of the Culture Change Fund was a research phase called Story at Scale. What did you learn in your preliminary research?

BV: The Culture Change Fund began with a robust research phase called Story at Scale, a narrative research project to provide artists and advocates with data-driven insights to create campaigns and stories to advance their efforts. For about a year, we worked with the preeminent researchers on culture change and narrative change work, Liz Mann and Ricky Conway, to discover the tools and stories with the potential to resonate with people across the nation. Our researchers conducted a national survey with about 7,000 participants alongside a set of more in-depth interviews that asked questions regarding pay equity, gender identity, leadership, and other justice-related topics. We intentionally created an inclusive research process by actively including people with lived experiences, including queer people, communities of color, and folks from different financial realities. 

While our initial findings showed that many people care about gender justice and equity issues, it also revealed that many other folks still hold rigid and conventional beliefs about gender norms. Nevertheless, we were encouraged by a messaging test we ran with fourteen different videos. One of the videos that received the most traction was Ultraviolet, which featured a trans, non-binary individual reading a letter to their father. Regardless of your knowledge or familiarity with non-binary folks, the video got traction because it was fundamentally about a child writing a heartfelt message to their parent. While we still have to reckon with the contrasting ideologies and beliefs represented in our data, the traction Ultraviolet received made us hopeful that we can sway people through storytelling.  


What tools and strategies emerged from the Story at Scale research?

BV: We need more than one person’s account, one headline, or one communication strategy to shift culture. We need to fill our cultural landscape with stories from folks who have been historically silenced, erased, and not represented. The Story at Scale research culminated with a new set of tools to help tell underrepresented communities’ stories and achieve culture change. The tools were the Story Platform, a core narrative to achieve gender justice, and the Story Pillars, a set of six “storytelling areas” to help artists and activists craft stories that can influence the public. We hope organizations use the Story Platform and Pillars to develop effective storytelling campaigns to reach critical audiences and further their organizing, advocacy, and narrative efforts. 


How did the Culture Change Fund adapt its implementation phase in response to the crises of 2020?

BV: We began implementing the completed Story at Scale research in March 2020 alongside Harness, The Center for Cultural Power, The League, and IllumiNative. These four organizations are our anchor partners who have developed this project with us from the start. As the COVID pandemic intensified globally, we knew we needed to resource our anchor partners and the Fund’s other grantees more quickly and substantially. We awarded $2 million to help our grantees navigate the crises and pivot their storytelling campaigns. The pandemic forced all of us to lean into experimentation, rethink what was mandatory, and innovate whenever possible. We continued to virtually convene a community of practice with funders, activists, artists, and researchers to build a living library of resources and host learning lessons, half of which have focused on sharing and implementing the Story at Scale research. Additionally, we have continued the Culture Shift 101 series to apply the tools of Cultural Strategy. 


Can you share some of the campaigns and projects your partners launched in 2020?

  • The Center for Cultural Power produced a beautiful gender justice coloring book titled, All Bodies Deserve: Creating the Future of Us distributed in digital and physical formats. The Center invited various gender-expansive artists to contribute to the coloring book to capture and celebrate different genders, bodies, and expressions. 
  • Prism produced six gender justice stories by writers of color based on the Story Pillars. They also developed Sex Positivity and the Arts, a series that explored “how sex-positivity embodies and intersects with liberation and self-determination.” 
  • She The People produce​d ​a 6-part docuseries following founder, political strategist Aimee Allison and four community organizers on a mission to mobilize one million women of color across America to vote in 2020.
  • IllumiNative, in collaboration with the Center for Native American Youth and the Native Organizers Alliance, launched The Indigenous Futures Project (IFP) to “gather and disseminate critical information and strategies about the priorities and needs of Native communities in preparation for the 2020 election.”
  • Culture Surge was a collaboration between all four of our anchor partners that served as an accelerator for building narrative power before the 2020 election. Cultural Surge connected a broad coalition of changemakers to advance critical narratives across issues and campaigns and maximize the cultural impact that could lead to change.


Many of your partners launched campaigns focused on the 2020 election. Did the election and the insurrection on the Capitol prompt any reflections on the narratives currently taking hold of our culture?

BV: The last administration fostered a powerful national narrative that activated and emboldened white supremacy. The administration told a segment of the population that this country belongs to them and that other groups are trying to take it away. This narrative lends itself to violence by stoking racial division; people become protective of their group and aggressive toward anyone who falls outside it. The narrative of “me first” and “me against the world” is still present and growing. Advocates for racial justice and equity will need culture change to create cracks in this dangerous narrative, especially in 2022. There are many entry points — we can talk about community, shared values, our family, and our neighborhoods to craft compelling messages. It’s important to understand that culture change work is not an endpoint; it’s an ongoing, long-term strategy. 


How can the SCG network support the efforts of the Gender Justice Network and the Culture Change Fund?

BV: The intersection of culture change and gender justice is still a nascent field. There are many opportunities to create new initiatives together that advance and transform gender justice through cultural strategies. Grantmakers are always welcome to join the California Gender Justice Funders Network. We are also still looking for partners for the Culture Change Fund. We want to ensure that there’s longevity to culture change work and that it continues to be supported by a robust set of philanthropic and community-based partners. You can email Jane Lin, [email protected] at  Women's Foundation to learn more. Folks interested in learning more about our work can join our many upcoming community learning opportunities



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President's Blog: Honoring the Life and Legacy of Biddy Mason, One of L.A.'s First Philanthropists

Friday, March 12, 2021

Dear SCG Community,


Last week, I was delighted to see NBC Los Angeles recognize the life and legacy of Biddy Mason for International Women’s Day and highlight the Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation, one of TRHT-LA’s recent grant recipients. For several years, SCG and TRHT-LA have celebrated Biddy Mason's birthday and commemorated her philanthropic work and efforts to build a Black community in today’s Downtown Los Angeles. 

Biddy was born into enslavement in Georgia and forcibly relocated to Southern California in the early 1850s. After winning her freedom in 1856, Biddy pursued a career in medicine and steadily built her wealth through real estate investments in a budding Los Angeles. She became a renowned philanthropist, co-founded the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, and continuously invested in the Black community. Today, Biddy is considered the “Grandmother of Los Angeles,” and her story has started to gain wider recognition. 

As we celebrate Women’s History Month on the heels of Black History Month, I would like to honor Biddy Mason’s legacy, not only as one of our region’s first philanthropists but also as a Black woman who overcame unimaginable prejudice and inequity in 19th century America. In many ways, Biddy modeled a giving practice that is still relevant today: one centered and led by communities most impacted by injustice. However, the lives and contributions of Black women — and women of intersectional identities more broadly — are often forgotten or actively erased from our nation’s history. Women have always been at the forefront of movements advancing our communities, culture, and policies in more equitable directions. As our sector recognizes Women’s History Month, we’d be remiss not to remember and learn from women like Biddy Mason, who advocated for her community even as she navigated multiple levels of oppression. 

Today, we are still fighting against the legacies of systemic racism, sexism, and all their intersections. Women, and particularly women of color, have been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The California Budget and Policy Center reports that Black and Latinx women’s employment fell by over 20% in the pandemic’s early months. Today, women of color are also still struggling to navigate the pandemic financially. Even as we remain hopeful that the Equality Act will advance through Congress — and provide federal protection for many women, people of color, and LGBTQ people who experience gender-based oppression and sex discrimination — we recognize it is still an uphill battle, culturally and in the Senate. 

I believe gender justice is a critical lens to apply to our systems change work. As Bia Viera, Chief Strategist at the Women’s Foundation of California, defines in our spotlight of the Culture Change Fund, “gender justice is a framework used to bring about the fair and equitable treatment of people of all genders, and that aims to provide them with the resources they need to achieve joy, justice, and dignity.” This month, we would like to elevate the efforts and voices of people advancing gender justice in our network through various focus areas, including narrative change, impact investing, and climate change efforts. We hope that this month, you celebrate the legacies of women historically excluded from our collective history and join one of the many initiatives to advance gender justice in our culture. 


In Partnership,

Christine Essel

President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers



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Four Years of Transformative Change and Learning with Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation-Los Angeles

Thursday, February 18, 2021


In April 2021, our Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation-Los Angeles partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will come to a close. After being a part of TRHT-LA for four years, I would like to share some of the most impactful lessons I've learned in my time advocating for transformative change in our region. 


To heal, grow, and make progress, our society must have a greater awareness of our history.

For hundreds of years, our country’s history was written to enshrine white supremacy and silence the voices of Black, Indigenous, and people of color. From the history of redlining and racist housing policy, to the landscape of Downtown Los Angeles that has erased the histories of the Tongva and Gabrieleno people, to the long legacies of enslavement where Africans were forcibly embarked on slave ships to the Americas, truth-telling has been a grounding and humbling element of our work. SCG will continue to honor and confront our past to pave the ways for racial healing. 

Authentic relationship-building is grounded in trust, generosity, and reciprocity.

While organizing the Tongva History Walk of Downtown Los Angeles, we prepared a meeting agenda and plan of action. In response to our logistical questions, local Tongva leaders asked us about our family histories, roots, and values. Even with the best intentions, we still made mistakes and truly felt the meaning of progress moving at the speed of trust. There were countless moments when our errors were met with generosity and grace. We feel immense gratitude for our partners who have taught us to listen deeply and build trust.

Self-reflection and personal transformation are integral in racial justice.

We can’t create systems change without personal transformation — without living into our values and acknowledging our truths. The process of self-education and self-reflection might be different for all of us. This practice is essential even when we are fully committed to advancing racial justice. There is so much to learn and unlearn that dismantling deep-rooted racism will require a lifetime of interrogating ourselves and sustaining accountability at the personal level. 

Healing justice is essential in addressing intergenerational trauma and oppression.

By hosting numerous community gatherings to talk about our own lived experiences, our ancestral pain and joy, and the impacts of racism on all of us, we learned that open and difficult dialogues have the power to start the healing process. It can be liberatory to bring the conversations and rituals - that generally happen in our living rooms and kitchen tables -- and share in appropriate spaces with neighbors, colleagues, and community members. In addition to normalizing community dialogues, we acknowledge that people of color embody intergenerational trauma and began to explore different modalities of healing justice practices to sustain our collective wellbeing as a community.

As TRHT-LA approaches the end of its Kellogg grant, the Los Angeles team had the unique opportunity to redistribute our unspent grant dollars back into the community we've served for four years. Today, we are excited to share that TRHT-LA has awarded $223,800 in one-time grants to 15 local organizations whose mission aligns with the TRHT’s values of truth, racial justice, healing, transformation, and liberation. Our team was intentional about applying trust-based philanthropy principles and prioritized supporting organizations impacted by funding cuts and whose efforts primarily serve the needs and leadership of communities of color. You can learn more about our grants and process by reading the full announcement

I hope that TRHT-LA’s legacy serves as a model of the practices and frameworks needed to advance the philanthropic sector in more equitable directions. We hope you are inspired to join SCG in its racial justice efforts moving forward. 


In Partnership, 

Adele Lee 


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Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation-Los Angeles Awards Grants to Fifteen Organizations Dedicated to Racial Justice and Liberation

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation-Los Angeles (TRHT-LA), one of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s fourteen TRHT regions across the country, has awarded 18 grants totaling $223,800 to 15 partners in Southern California. Established by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) is a comprehensive, national and community-based process to plan for and bring about transformational and sustainable change to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism. 

Since 2016, Southern California Grantmakers (SCG) has coordinated the TRHT-LA effort by fostering collaboration with philanthropy, nonprofits, government, business, and community partners. SCG is a robust network of 325 grantmakers working to advance transformative change by mobilizes philanthropy to learn and take bold actions

As TRHT-LA approaches the end of its Kellogg grant and partnership in April 2021, the Los Angeles team had the unique opportunity to redistribute its unspent grant dollars back into the community. TRHT-LA regranted $223,800 in unused funds to organizations whose mission aligns with the TRHT’s values of truth, racial justice, healing, transformation, and liberation. Additionally, TRHT-LA prioritized organizations facing increased funding cuts due to crises and who are engaged in COVID response and racial justice efforts. For many grantees, these funds were vital for sustaining their work during turbulent times. 

TRHT-LA awarded three types of one-time grants to help advance the work of their grantees: six organizations received $20,000 General Operating Support Grants; three organizations received Partner Program Grants that include program design support from TRHT-LA and the funds needed to bolster existing programs; nine organizations received Program Support Grants of varying amounts to develop new programs and sustain reoccurring ones.  

TRHT-LA implemented a grantmaking process founded on trust-based principles. Instead of requesting applications, TRHT-LA leaned into its network and long-standing relationships to select its grantees. The team prioritized historically underfunded organizations and partners serving local communities, with most of its grants going to regions in Los Angeles county. TRHT-LA also focused on supporting organizations that work primarily with communities of color to bolster their leadership, racial justice, and healing efforts. In addition to allowing grantees to determine the size of their grant, TRHT-LA has decided not to engage in reporting or evaluation. 

“We are committed to upholding the principles of trust-based philanthropy by trusting our partners to lead the work,” said Adele Lee, Director of TRHT-LA. “We don’t believe in creating additional obstacles by having our partners “prove” their efforts. We value and believe in their mission, and that is enough.” 

Yet, TRHT-LA was honest about the limitations of awarding one-time grants in a trust-based practice. The team held candid conversations with every grantee about their plans to sustain their efforts after the funds expire. TRHT-LA will continue to have frequent communication with their partners and are open to future collaborations. 

Chris Essel, President & CEO of SCG, stated, “We are incredibly proud of everything TRHT-LA has accomplished in our region over the past four years and are excited to continue their work in a new form. We hope that TRHT-LA’s legacy serves as a model of the practices and frameworks needed to advance the philanthropic sector in more equitable directions.”




  • Armory Center for the Arts: Armory Center for the Arts is a national leader for contemporary art exhibitions and community arts education. The Armory believes that an understanding and appreciation of the arts is essential for a well-rounded human experience and a healthy community.  
  • The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation: The Biddy Mason Charitable Foundation provides quality services and support to current and former foster youth through innovative programs and collaborative initiatives with community partners.
  • California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ): The California Conference for Equality and Justice is a human relations organization dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry, and racism through education, conflict resolution, and advocacy.
  • California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA): CIYJA is a statewide immigrant youth-led alliance that focuses on placing immigrant youth in advocacy and policy delegations in order to ensure pro-immigrant policies go beyond legalization, and shed light on how the criminalization of immigrants varies based on identity.
  • COLORS LGBTQ+ Youth Counseling Services: COLORS’ mission is to ensure that LGBTQ+ identified youth have the mental health support they need in order to walk into their adulthood affirmed in their sexual orientation and/or gender identity and are able to achieve their full potential while supporting strong and productive relationships with their families, partners and other community members.
  • embRACE LA: embRACE LA seeks to foster understanding, healing, and growth throughout Los Angeles by building authentic relationships, changing existing narratives, and advancing public policy solutions. Through a wide variety of programs and strategies, embRACE LA is an unprecedented partnership between government, organizations, and residents.
  • Greenstone Farm and Sanctuary: Greenstone Farm and Sanctuary's mission is to nurture people's holistic wellbeing through the healing power of gardens. They help well-being seekers find feelings of nourishment and belonging, by leveraging the power of the thousands of Healing Gardens in urban spaces across the world.
  • In My Skin: In My Skin was produced by Tatiana Zamir and showcases artists embodying their vision for the future - dancing chronicles of protest and liberation, reclamation, and hope.  
  • Initiate Justice: Initiate Justice's mission is to end mass incarceration by activating the power of the people it directly impacts. They organize members, both inside and outside of prisons, to advocate for their freedom and change criminal justice policy in California. They have more than 30,000 incarcerated members, 135 inside organizers, and hundreds more outside members and organizers throughout California.
  • Japanese American Cultural & Community Center: A hub for Japanese and Japanese American arts and culture and a community gathering place for the diverse voices it inspires—Japanese American Cultural & Community Center connects traditional and contemporary; community participants and creative professionals; Southern California and the world beyond.
  • Las Fotos Project: Las Fotos Project is a community-based nonprofit organization that inspires teenage girls through photography, mentorship, and self-expression. Offering year-round programming, they provide girls with access to professional cameras, quality instruction, and workshops that encourage them to explore their identity,  build leadership and advocacy skills, and strengthen their social and emotional well-being.
  • Sacred Place Institute: The Sacred Place Institute builds the capacity of Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples to protect sacred lands, waters, and cultures
  • Soy Africano: Soy Africano highlights the overlooked history and widespread influence of latin music in West Africa by showcasing the ways in which clave­-based Cuban music and New York Salsa were embraced by Africans, and led to thriving “latin afro” scenes in countries like Senegal, Benin, Guinea and the Congo. Dexter Story will direct and curate the Grand Performances concert on Saturday, June 18, 2021.  
  • Vigilant Love: Vigilant Love actively counters Islamophobic policies that support the Mosque-to-Prison Pipeline. Their policy advocacy is strategized in partnership with a strong coalition of Los Angeles-based organizations. The primary policy Vigilant Love advocates against in Los Angeles is Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). 
  • 580 Cafe by Wesley Foundation Serving UCLA: 580 Café is a space for students to break bread & build relationships through food, conversation, study, and arts.


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SCG Analysis: Breaking Down Governor Newsom's 2021-2022 January Budget Proposal

Monday, January 25, 2021

By: SCG Public Policy Team 



Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2021-2022 January budget mirrors the triage conditions we see across the country as it simultaneously attempts to meet the emergency needs created by the COVID pandemic, respond to the perennial needs of Californians, and manage a tenuous political landscape. Newsom’s January 2021-22 budget is a record-setting $227 billion, $5 billion more than last year’s proposed budget and $30 billion more than the $196 billion budget approved in 2020-21. The additional $5 billion in the proposal consists of COVID relief, including massive one-time funding to address emergent needs in addition to proposed investments in health care, education, small business, and social safety net programs. 

While we expected 2020-21 to be a deficit year due to the various crises, it surprisingly is positioned to yield a surplus of between $15 and $30 billion. California’s massive budget cuts did not occur as predicted. Additionally, even though California did not receive about $14 billion in expected Federal relief, other Federal programs helped mitigate the state’s additional expenses. Also, tax revenues were much higher than expected because many high-wage earners were not negatively affected by the COVID pandemic as low wage earners were. The stock market also remained robust because, as Governor Newsom put it, “Folks at the top are doing pretty damn well.” While the 2021-22 fiscal year is forecasted to have a moderate surplus under this proposal, the following three years are expected to produce deficits, primarily due to the utilization of “rainy day” funds and spending from 2020 through 2022.

Also, unique to 2021-2022 is an emergency request to approve the $5 billion portion of the budget designated for immediate COVID relief resources. The remaining part of the Governor’s proposed budget is simply a starting point for negotiations that will continue until the official budget is approved in June 2021. 


Jump to a Section: Economic Security and Equitable RecoveryHealthcare & Human ServicesEnvironment and Climate ChangeNonprofit/Small Business | Justice SystemHomelessness & Housing | Education | COVID-19 Response


Economic Security and Equitable Recovery 

As the state begins to recover from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, it’s investments and relief must prioritize all Californians, especially low-income families, individuals, and communities of color, to rebuild equitably and anew. In this proposal, the Administration includes immediate relief for families and individuals, including: 

  • Golden State Stimulus: The state would provide $600 tax refunds to eligible families and individuals who qualify for the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) program, which could be disbursed as early as February 2021. This proposal builds off last year’s budget agreement, which expanded the CalEITC to families and individuals who file taxes with Individual Taxpayers Identification Numbers (ITIN). These tax filers are also eligible to receive the Golden State Stimulus tax refunds. The state allocates $2.4 billion for this stimulus program. 
  • Food Banks: The budget includes a one-time $30 million funding to support regional food banks, tribal organizations, and other emergency food assistance providers, to alleviate food insecurity amongst low-income communities. This amount supplements the latest federal relief package that allocated $400 million nationwide for Emergency Food Assistance Programs. 
  • California Food Assistance Program (CFAP): CFAP provides food assistance to immigrant families ineligible for CalFresh or other federal relief programs. The budget includes $11.4 million in funding to ensure eligible households can receive the maximum amount of assistance until December 2021. 
  • Expansion of California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKS): CalWORKS, the state-administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), receives a total of $9.3 billion in combined local, state, and federal funding, with $7.4 billion allocated for program expenditures and the remaining $1.9 billion designated for other programs, such as Child Welfare Services and Foster Care. The governor is calling for a grant increase of 1.5 percent in assistance payout levels effective October 2021. Due to COVID-19, the budget also suspends the accrual of months in which a household receives CalWORKs benefits from counting towards the CalWORKS 48-month time limit until May 2022. 


The older adult population is the most vulnerable demographic to the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. On January 6, 2021, the Administration released the Master Plan on Aging, a collaboration between government agencies, older adult advocates, community-based organizations, and philanthropy (including SCG members SCAN Foundation), to map out the future of healthy and dignified aging across the state. While the Master Plan identifies the need for equitable and affordable aging, this budget does not adjust the State Supplementary Payment. The State Supplementary Payment is California’s contribution to the federal Supplemental Security Income amount designed to match the rising cost of rent, food, and healthcare for low-income older adults and people with disabilities. 

The Governor has elevated several investments and initiatives to ensure an equitable economic recovery through workforce development, livable wages, and workplace protections. These initiatives include: 

  • Workforce Development Board: The budget calls for $25 million for the High Road Training Partnership (HRTP) to increase and retain workforce training collaborations between employers, non-profits, and training institutions for apprenticeship pathways. It also includes $407 million in federal funds to improve training and apprenticeship pathways.  
  • Increase CalOSHA inspectors: To ensure a vibrant and secure workforce amid the pandemic, the Governor calls for a mid-year $11.4 million increase to hire more CalOSHA inspectors and investigate workplace health violations. 
  • Enforcing SB 1159 - Workers Compensation: Under SB 1159, employees who contract COVID-19 from their workplace are eligible to access worker’s compensation benefits. The budget allocates an additional $8.6 million to the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) to implement and enforce SB 1159 statewide, 
  • Creation of the Department of Better Jobs and Higher Wages: The budget calls for creating a new state department to consolidate and streamline various workforce development programs and initiatives across different labor agencies. 


Healthcare & Human Services 

The pandemic has highlighted the extreme health disparities in our state resulting from systemic racism and historic disinvestment in low-income and rural communities and communities of color. Governor Newsom’s budget reflects increased expenditures for the state’s healthcare system due to increased caseloads caused by the pandemic. 

  • Medi-Cal Expenditures: Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, is anticipated to cover over 15.6 to 16.1 million Californians this fiscal year. This increase in caseloads, primarily due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 and households losing employer-provided health plans, is estimated to increase the state’s Medi-Cal expenditures by $13.5 billion. The budget calls for the following under Medi-Cal: 
  • Telehealth Expansion: The proposal includes $94.8 million to make telehealth services and monitoring a permanent Medi-Cal benefit
  • Postpartum Medi-Cal Eligibility: The Administration will delay the sunsetting of the Medi-Cal Postpartum Eligibility provision from December 2021 to 2022 in this proposal. 


California Advancing and Innovating in Medi-Cal (CalAIM): Last year, the Administration delayed its plans to initiate CalAIM in the 2020-21 budget due to the economic contraction from COVID-19. This year, Governor Newsom has allocated $1.1 billion for the launch of CalAIM. Many of our funders deeply involved with the intersection of health equity, housing, and homelessness are excited for the state’s renewed framework for whole-person care that involves better coordination and service delivery of Medi-Cal programs. 

  • Office of Health Care Affordability: The budget also includes an $11.2 million initial investment to create the Office of Health Care Affordability within the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. The new office would be responsible for increasing transparency in the cost and quality of medical services, establish cost targets for providers, and enforce compliance to those targets. 
  • Dignified and Healthy Aging: In less than a decade, 1 in 5 Californians will be 65 years of age or older. This significant demographic shift requires a statewide, coordinated response to this group’s unique economic and medical needs. The combination of the economic uncertainty from COVID-19 and the high percentage of older adults, especially people of color, living in poverty in California, makes this group highly susceptible to housing and food insecurity. To this end, the Administration has included these investments: 
  • Adult Residential Facilities (ARF) and Residential Care Facilities (RCF): $250 million will be provided in one-time funding to the Department of Social Services to acquire and repurpose property for older adults. The Administration specifies the goal to keep older adults securely housed and add 5,000 beds across the state.
  • Office of Medicare Innovation and Integration: The budget includes the Administration’s intent to create an Office of Medicare Innovation and Integration to provide better analysis methods and data-driven plans better to expand access to Medicare for low to middle-class older adults. 


Older Populations: Notable, the Administration has omitted its Medi-Cal expansion to undocumented seniors age 65 and older. The Administration included this plan in the January 2020-2021 budget proposal but retracted it from the May Revised Budget due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. As we have witnessed, the risks of exposure and susceptibility to the COVID-19 virus are higher amongst older adults, especially within immigrant communities excluded from receiving federal assistance and the past COVID-19 relief packages. Expanding full-scope Medi-Cal services to undocumented older adults comes at a time when affordable and a stable source of preventative and chronic healthcare is critical to their health and well-being amidst a pandemic. 


Behavioral Health: The pandemic has made clear the need for and disparate access to behavioral health services, especially at a time where safer at home orders, distance learning, and financial stresses have defined our reality. This budget proposal includes investments into county health departments and capacity and information sharing infrastructure with schools to address the rising need for behavioral health services. Some key highlights include: 

  • $400 million to increase the number of students accessing behavioral health services through Medi-Cal managed plans, in partnership with county health services and K-12 schools.  
  • $25 million in one-time funding to provide grants to the Mental Health Student Services Partnership program, which funds partnerships between schools and county health departments.
  • The budget also includes $750 million in competitive grants for counties to strengthen the behavioral health services continuum ranging from acute, emergent services to rehabilitative programs. Grants may be used to acquire and rehabilitate real estate properties for behavioral health treatment centers to reduce the number of at-risk and unhoused individuals and increase the number of available beds. 


Environment and Climate Change 

This year, on top of the pandemic, California saw its most widespread devastation from wildfires. The reality of climate change demands bold steps and effective policies to mitigate further damage to our environment. 

  • Wildfire Resiliency: The Administration has proposed $1 billion for wildfire resilience and disaster preparedness. Investments include: 
  • Increase Fire Personnel: The budget includes $143 million to hire more firefighting personnel across the state. Last fall, the Governor signed legislation that would reduce barriers to former inmates seeking careers in fire or other emergency response. 
  • Forest Management and Prevention: $512 million will be dedicated to improving landscapes across California to strengthen wildfire resilience. Tactics include forest thinning, prescribed fire, and other management methods. 


Cap-and-Trade: The proposal also unveils a $1.37 billion Cap-and-Trade spending plan. 

  • AB 617 (Community Air Protection Program): $325 million would be used for targeted air monitoring, emission reduction programs, and incentives for cleaner vehicles for communities at disproportionate risk of air pollution. 
  • Transportation and Zero-Emission Vehicles: Last fall, Governor Newsom signed an executive order that requires all cars manufactured and sold in the state to be zero-emission vehicles. To this end, $635 million will be dedicated to reducing carbon emissions from cars, trucks, and off-road and other transportation vehicles. The budget includes funding for sales tax exclusion incentives and infrastructure for manufacturers and the Clean Cars 4 All trade-in program, which encourages low to middle-class households to trade in their older, higher-polluting vehicles. 


Nonprofit/Small Business

The Governor’s 2021/2022 proposed budget includes numerous investments designed to support small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Some of these investments are in direct response to the immeasurable challenges created by the COVID pandemic, while others are an advancement on previous resources aimed at these sectors. The budget includes more than a billion dollars to support struggling businesses and nonprofits through tax credits and cash grants. Intertwined throughout these supports for small businesses are workforce proposals that create and retain jobs for California’s workers.


Proposals included in the “Early Action Package.”

The COVID-19 Relief Grant Program includes an investment of $575 million. This program provides grants of up to $25,000 for small businesses and nonprofit organizations that have been impacted by COVID-19.  The grants will prioritize industries, communities, and geographies that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Included in this program is $25 million for small cultural institutions such as museums and art galleries.

Emergency relief of $70 million is proposed for individuals and small businesses from service industries that have been overwhelmingly affected by COVID shutdowns. Many of these businesses have been closed since March 2020 and include restaurants, bars, and salons. Organizations can obtain these funds through one-time fee waivers.
Lastly, the budget proposes $35 million to startup grants for entrepreneurs to create new small businesses. Grants will be up to $10,000 and would prioritize people of color, women, and immigrants.

The budget proposes the following supports for businesses and nonprofit organizations:

  • Main Street Small Business Tax Credit: The Administration allocates $100 million credit against state income or sales taxes for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. These resources aim to support in retaining and hiring employees. 
  • California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA): The budget proposes doubling the state’s investment in this program by providing a $100 million expansion. Under CAEATFA, businesses can exclude sales taxes if they are purchasing manufacturing equipment that utilizes alternative energy. 
  • California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (IBank): IBank would receive a $100 million investment with $50 million for small business loan guarantees and $50 million for broad support of IBank’s programs, with a focus on those that benefit underserved businesses. 
  • The California Rebuilding Fund: This California Rebuilding Fund, a partnership consisting of public, private, and philanthropic funds, would receive an additional $12.5 million to provide loans to small businesses. The fund is expected to provide $125 million in resources for small businesses.


Justice System

The Governor’s budget is proposing a program to allow individuals charged with traffic violations to avoid in-person appearances and pay fees online. This program focuses on supporting low-income individuals, providing discounts over 50% of fines and assessments, and the opportunity to participate in a fee payment plan. The amount of this budgetary proposal is $12.3 million, with the hopes of increasing the allocation and expanding the types of infractions included over the next few years. 


Homelessness & Housing

Addressing Homelessness:
With more than 25 percent of the state's population experiencing homelessness, Governor Newsome has proposed a series of one-time investments to "further develop a broader portfolio of housing needed to end homelessness." The funding includes acquiring and rehabilitating property for our most vulnerable communities. Though the budget does not propose a long-term funding strategy to address homelessness, it does focus on the need for permanent housing.

The proposed investments are as follows:

  • A $750 million one-time General Fund to continue acquiring and rehabilitating hotels/motels and other buildings through the Homekey Program. California will convert the acquired property into interim or permanent housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. $250 million will be available through early June.
  • A $750 million one-time General Fund is available over three years to acquire and rehabilitate behavioral health treatment and community-based residential facilities administered through the Department of Health Care Services via grants to counties. This funding will focus on providing individuals with behavioral health treatment. However, such grants will require a local match and the production of about 5,000 beds, units, or rooms.
  • A $250 million one-time General Fund will be available through the Department of Social Services to acquire and rehabilitate adult and senior facilities.


Focus on Housing:
Last year, Governor Newsom stepped up to protect renters impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this year’s budget, Newsom has proposed an extension of the state eviction moratorium past its expiration date, January 31, 2021. In addition, a second federal COVID-19 relief bill enacts $2.6 billion in assistance for rent and utility expenses for low-income California renters, which aims to stabilize at-risk renters.

The 2021-22 proposed budget allocates one-time investments to support housing development. The new investment of $500 million towards the Infill Infrastructure Grant Program focuses on housing production while providing job opportunities. Afterward, a third round of $500 million will be allocated for low-income housing tax credits to help builders create affordable, low-income rental housing to ramp up affordable housing development. 



Governor Newsom recognizes the importance of funding education, especially after the tremendous impact the pandemic has had on education and districts across the state.  In his 2021-22 budget, Newsom proposes a record $98.2 billion focused on reopening schools for grades TK-6, summer school, community colleges, and a 3 percent increase in funding allocation for UC and CSU school systems.

A few highlights from the budget include a historic proposal of $4.6 billion for summer school and extra learning for students who have struggled with virtual education, special needs, and students experiencing housing insecurity. Focusing on our educators, a one-time $500 million is proposed for professional development programs focused on educator effectiveness, justice, implicit bias training, and social and emotional learning. The budget will allocate $250 million to address the teacher shortage by improving our educator pipeline through the Golden State Teacher Grant Program. As a reminder, Proposition 98 constitutionally guarantees annual funding for K-12, community colleges, and state preschool programs. Below is a breakdown of the proposed educational budget:

  • Transitional Kindergarten: A proponent of transitional kindergarten (TK), Governor Newsom proposes to invest $500 million in one-time funding to expand TK programs for younger students, rebuild existing facilities to use for TK and full-day kindergarten, and training for TK instructors.
  • K-12 & Community Colleges: Much of the Prop. 98 funding, $88.1 billion, is allocated for K-12 and community colleges, bringing the total spending to $89.2 billion. Focusing on K-12, the budget aims to repay deferred payments, expand learning time, and begin in-person instructions. The funding for community colleges also includes $250 million for emergency financial aid for students in need and experiencing housing and food insecurity.
  • CSU & UCs: The proposed $144.5 million CSU budget focuses on increasing resources for operational costs, providing basic needs for students experiencing homelessness, hunger, and financial insecurities, and addressing the digital divide as we continue with virtual learning. The UC $136 million budget similarly focuses on addressing operational costs, the digital divide, and the UC Programs in Medical Education expanding to American Indian communities.  


COVID-19 Response

Praised for its early response to the pandemic, California is now scrambling to contain the virus's transmission while also speeding up vaccine distribution. In response, the state continues to deploy federal, state, mutual aid, and private sector resources to support communities across the state.

  • Federal Relief: The fifth federal relief bill, Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, passed in December 2020 and extended unemployment insurance through March 14, 2021, provided a one-time direct relief payment to individuals and families, and allotted more business support through March 2021. States expect $100 billion to provide additional funding for testing, contact tracing, and vaccine distribution. However, it is imperative to acknowledge that support beyond this bill is critical for the recovery and rebuilding of our state.  
  • State Emergency Response: Vaccine Distribution: The budget includes over $300 million for vaccine distribution, including a public awareness campaign to increase vaccine outreach. The state will continue to partner closely with community partners and stakeholders to help plan and expedite a fair and equitable vaccine distribution. Vaccines remain limited and will be made available according to approved state guidelines. 
  • COVID-19 Pandemic Response: Throughout the budget, allocations for the pandemic indicate a focus on preparedness, response, and recovery. The budget focused on the procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the establishment of Health Corps deployed to facilities across the state to address the surge, maintain hospital staff capacity, and implement programs to protect vulnerable populations. The current estimates of the COVID-19 Pandemic emergency response are about $13 billion. Federal funds are expected to offset the state's cost, which has offset the net General Fund.


Opportunities for Philanthropy

Despite the pandemic’s substantial social and economic repercussions, the past year has highlighted the strength of the partnership between philanthropy and government. From disaster resilience support to the inclusion of immigrants in COVID-19 relief to the wraparound services provided through Project Homekey, philanthropy has shown its remarkable ability to respond quickly and in thoughtful coordination with the state. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that California’s stronger than predicted revenue streams or even additional federal relief will prevent the state’s future deficits. Funders should anticipate how the impact of these deficits are likely to impact the communities they serve. Philanthropy alone cannot indefinitely fill the gap for critical social services programs affected by our state’s future cuts. This need will result in more calls for philanthropic investment in similar public-private partnerships.
For this reason, philanthropy must be active and bold in advocacy during the budget process. In this proposal stage of the budget, philanthropy and its nonprofit partners have the opportunity to engage and educate policymakers on innovative solutions and priorities until the state approves the final budget in June. Funders interested in learning more about advocacy related to the state budget and foundations’ legal limitations can find more information in this Primer on Advocacy for Funders by Bolder Advocacy. Contact our Public Policy team if you need further clarification on how funders navigate these advocacy guidelines. 

The Public Policy team at Southern California Grantmakers will closely monitor the budget process and provide updates on significant developments.


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President's Blog: Welcoming a New Administration & the Work Ahead

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Today, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in as the President and Vice President of the United States of America. We congratulate them and all of the newly elected officials who will join the 117th United States Congress, including Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who achieved historic victories at the Georgia runoff elections. Ossoff will become the first Jewish Senator elected from the Deep South since Reconstruction, and Warnock will be the first Black U.S. Senator elected from Georgia. 

Our Collective Wounds

The incoming administration will usher in a new era of politics and fresh opportunities for the philanthropic sector. But, if we are to take a step forward meaningfully, we must acknowledge the damage that our democracy has suffered during the last administration. Over the past four years, we have all witnessed white supremacy become more emboldened, organized, and intent on harming our communities and our democracy. The last administration stoked these flames by spreading misinformation, elevating hostility, and working to undermine our democratic principles. During the State Capitol attack on January 6, 2020, these forces coalesced and have continued with every new threat of organized violence. Let’s be clear that the attack on the State Capitol was a white supremacist insurrection that was incited by leadership at the highest political levels. This attack was not a random act by a fringe group but rather the latest manifestation of centuries of systemic racism. 

Healing Requires Accountability

Even after this tumultuous election and transition period, our new administration calls for unity, healing, and collaboration to repair our polarized country. While we support these sentiments, we also recognize the incredible challenge of undergoing equitable recovery. The healing process necessitates accountability; we must identify those who participated in the insurrection and bring them to justice. History has shown us that failure to denounce and hold violence accountable guarantees that it will rise again. Unity cannot happen if we ignore these atrocities and pretend that white supremacy has been defeated by electing a new administration. This ideology is not a different perspective; it is a poisonous worldview fixated on its dominance and intent to strip others of their dignity, rights, and life. Yes, unity is necessary, but we must unite against white supremacy, injustice, and autocracy. Our unity must be defined by equity, accountability, and mutual respect. 

Healing Is Integral to Racial Justice

This week, we embraced healing at the 2021 National Day of Racial Healing. SCG hosted two programs dedicated to uplifting Black femme practices and knowledge for the long-overdue racial healing needed in this nation. The first program, Keepers of Ancestral Medicine, invited three Black and Afro-Indigenous healers to share what it means to remember, reclaim, integrate, and sustain ancestral medicine as crucial components to racial healing. The second, Emergent Strategy Ideation Workshop, provided an overview of the principles from adrienne maree brown's book needed to harness the power of change, including adaptation, interdependence, transformative justice, and resilience through decentralization. Together, we spent a day in solidarity, taking steps toward healing and repair by elevating community organizers' wisdom and lessons. We encourage you to visit the National Day of Racial Healing website to learn more from healers and changemakers. 

An Opportunity for a Bold Agenda

The incoming administration cannot be expected to solve systemic injustice independently. As a sector, it is time to push forward the bold agendas we’ve built and advocated for the last several years. As Judy Belk of the California Wellness Foundation stated in a recent op-ed, “It’s we, the people, who must do the heavy lifting of preserving democracy.” Let’s hold our new elected officials accountable to their promises of justice and reimagine the systems necessary to create an equitable society. Let’s continue to learn from the leadership and wisdom of community and movement leaders who have spent generations working tirelessly to protect our collective humanity and who have always stood bravely against white supremacists. Let’s invest in the immediate and long-term needs of our communities that continue to be devastated by the pandemic. Let’s urge our new administration to adopt a new governance model that prioritizes co-creation and shared leadership. 

SCG looks forward to working with the new administration to advance racial justice and equity. Alongside the philanthropic sector, we are ready to embrace new partnerships, transformative agendas, and a new future. As Amanda Gorman, the first-ever youth poet laureate and former SCG Keynote Speaker, beautifully captured in her poem today, "The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it."

In Partnership,

Christine Essel
President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers


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President's Blog: Closing the Year with Clarity, Solidarity, and Imagination

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Dear SCG Community,

2020 has brought a storm of surprises that left us devastated and exhausted but also activated and inspired. Amid all the chaos and uncertainty of the past several months, I hope that the end of the year will bring you a few moments to cultivate hope and gratitude. While the near future won’t be less complicated or more comfortable to navigate, I am — at this moment of reflection— hopeful and thankful for the clarity, solidarity, and imagination that this turbulent year has brought. 



During SCG’s 2020 Annual Conference, Black Lives Matter founder Melina Abdullah made it clear the choice we have to make — are we on the side of liberators or oppressors? This choice isn’t necessarily difficult to make, but one that some of us have had the privilege to avoid for most of our lives. As our friend Kaci Patterson — the architect of the Black Equity Initiative — eloquently articulated, “the disease of white supremacy is killing this country. It’s killing our democracy; it’s killing our norms; it’s killing our climate; it’s killing justice.” And so, even while we might not all know the exact next steps, we must remain unequivocally committed to humble ourselves, fight complacency, and dismantle racism.



As I reflect on Building Movement Project’s Social Change Ecosystem Map, I am thankful to have been in community with healers, caregivers, disrupters, builders, experimenters, storytellers, visionaries, and other changemakers throughout the multitude of crises in 2020. Together, the SCG community worked to adopt a racial justice framework for a resilient democracy, center Black communities and Black leadership, and support the hardest-hit organizations during the pandemic’s rapid response phase. More importantly, we engaged in difficult conversations about being in solidarity with community-based leaders to sustain the momentum of the racial justice movement.



We can’t deny that, as a sector, philanthropy has not always been the most imaginative. This year has made me hopeful that a better future is not only possible but is already taking shape rapidly. At the beginning of the pandemic, SCG members shed the many shackles of paperwork and bureaucracy to respond urgently to grantees’ and communities’ needs. And albeit challenging, the 2020 elections showed us the promise of co-governance, the power of woman leadership, and the possibilities of investing in racial equity. Now more than ever, we can push the boundaries to reimagine philanthropy.


It’s important to acknowledge that we have felt a lot of frustration, anger, and grief in 2020. However, I believe we still show up to work and continue fighting for social change because we have also harnessed hope and gratitude. Through it all, the SCG team has learned and grown tremendously. Before the year-end, I want to celebrate that growth and extend a warm welcome to three new members of the SCG Board of Directors — Shawn Kravich, Raul Bustillos, and Jennifer Price-Letcher. Their commitment to SCG’s vision, mission, and values will solidify our clarity, reinforce our solidarity, and expand our imagination as we head into 2021.


In Partnership, 
Chris Essel

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"Leading with a Spirit of Inquiry": Jennifer Price-Letscher’s Vision for a More Creative and Empathetic Sector

Thursday, December 10, 2020
SCG is excited to announce that Jennifer Price-Letscher (Vice President, Grantmaking & Initiatives, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation), Raúl Bustillos (Senior Vice President of Community Relations, Bank of America), and Shawn Kravich (Executive Director, Snap Foundation) will join SCG's Board of Directors in January 2021. We spoke to our new Board members about their professional values, the role of equity and trust in their grantmaking, and what's giving them hope for the future. 

Jennifer Price-Letscher grew up in a household of strong, determined women. Raised by her mother, grandmother, and older sisters, Jennifer developed a sense of purpose and creativity from a young age. Her mother was a first-generation college graduate who worked tirelessly to serve others as an educator, social worker, and criminal justice legal advocate. Her grandmother was a concert pianist who gave Jennifer a keen ear and nurtured her musicianship and awareness about the power of artistic expression. Jennifer’s home life fostered a sense of creativity and justice, and she credits her mother with teaching the importance of seeing the humanity in everyone. It is no surprise that Jennifer dedicated her life to arts, education, and social change. 

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jennifer began a career in the social impact sector following a visit to her sister’s home in Los Angeles in the early ‘90s. Her trip coincided with the city’s civil unrest, as countless Angelenos organized to demand racial justice. Seeing Los Angeles and its potential to be a place for all things possible, challenging, and just, Jennifer decided to stay. Soon after, Jennifer started working in the arts and became involved with prominent artists and art organizations, including 18th Street Arts Center and Highways Performance Space. Jennifer found herself immersed in a community of people exploring their identities and artistic voices at the height of the culture wars of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Jennifer advocated alongside these artists who demanded that marginalized voices in mainstream theater have equitable access and a seat at the table. “One of art’s greatest qualities lies in its capacity to elicit greater understanding and empathy — why wouldn’t we want to hear more voices?” Jennifer reflected. This experience building empathy and power shoulder-to-shoulder with underrepresented artists would later guide her work in the nonprofit sector. 

Jennifer started her philanthropic career at the Whitecap Foundation, where she led capacity building programs. She then joined the Sterling-Dorman Foundation and spent a decade focused on college access and success. “Education can be a profound lever for transforming lives and lifting people out of poverty,” Jennifer noted. Today, Jennifer is Vice President for Grantmaking and Initiatives at The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, where she manages its responsive grantmaking and efforts focused on collaboration, organizational effectiveness, and systems change. Her grantmaking philosophy aspires to weave together all the strands necessary to create a strong community fabric. To realize her vision, Jennifer taps into a long-standing “spirit of inquiry” that allows her to listen to her nonprofit partners deeply and with humility and curiosity. She credits SCG and early philanthropic mentors with helping her see the importance of building strong relationships founded on trust. “Our nonprofit partners and their constituents know what's best for their communities and what’s needed to accomplish transformational change.” While she recognizes that not all foundations can immediately enact a comprehensive trust-based strategy, she is hopeful that the sector will gradually embrace more of its principles. “I hope some of our funder colleagues will let go of the ‘power over’ framework reliant on directives and bureaucracy and shift toward a ‘power with’ model founded on a collaborative spirit and willingness to make change together.  Community transformation requires all hands on deck.” 

Given the devastation wrought by the crises of this year, Jennifer is proud of the bold actions The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation has taken to support their nonprofit partners. At the beginning of the pandemic, they signed onto the Council of Foundation’s pledge advocating for more flexible and equitable grantmaking, canceled all their grant reporting, and distributed nearly half a million dollars of emergency funding outside of their typical board cycle. In June, the Board of Directors decided to increase the Foundation’s payout by 10%, bringing their total payout to $20.5 million for 2020. With the additional funds, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation doubled down on its support of the Nonprofit Sustainability Initiatives (NSI), a pooled fund designed to support nonprofits’ strategic restructuring. The Foundation also made one of the largest grants in its 40-year history: $2 million toward a pooled fund supporting relief and recovery for Los Angeles arts organizations. Seeded with an initial $10 million investment from the Getty Foundation and housed at the California Community Foundation, the fund will launch publicly in early 2021. Given that one in seven jobs in Los Angeles is in the creative economy, Jennifer is confident that profound economic recovery can happen through supporting the arts and culture in this dire moment. Personally, Jennifer also knows that the arts will be necessary for our spiritual recovery. “We need to support creativity — it is one of our community’s greatest assets, and it is essential for our collective wellbeing,” she asserted. “There are opportunities for healing that only the arts can provide.” 

When asked what is giving her hope at the moment, Jennifer elevated philanthropy’s recent recommitment to equity and racial justice. However, she’s also cautious, “I don’t want racial equity to be philanthropy’s bright and shiny object of the moment. I want the sector to stay true and committed in its demand for racial justice.” Jennifer hopes that funders maintain a bias toward action, moving beyond statements and taking concrete steps to keep equity at the forefront of their efforts. She encourages foundations to codify racial equity in their policies and practices while including those who have been most impacted by structural racism in decision-making processes. Looking ahead, Jennifer is hopeful that philanthropy can keep itself accountable to the values and aspirations it set for itself this year. Given the deep polarization fracturing our country, she believes the sector can play a role in promoting civic dialogue and exchange while protecting everyone’s integrity. 

Today, Jennifer couldn’t be more excited to join SCG’s Board of Directors and further the vision, mission, and values that align deeply with her own. Jennifer looks forward to helping the SCG network continue to grow and embrace the importance of the arts, racial equity, and trust-based philanthropy. She feels fostering meaningful dialogue on critical issues while working across differences and diverse perspectives can and should be at the heart of our collective work. “I believe SCG stands for the best of what we can be as a social impact sector,” Jennifer declared. “Our network holds so many brilliant people who are deeply committed to transformational change and equity in our community. By continuing to put the community first, each member of the SCG network can stand for something larger than themselves.  We are better together.” 


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