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5 Shifts Towards a More Equitable Region

If we want to transform our region, we need to realize the region won’t change unless philanthropy does.


Created for donors and trustees, Get It Right: 5 Shifts Philanthropy Must Make Toward an Equitable Region is a resource of entry points that can be embraced and adopted one by one, in no particular order. We offer 5 shifts as a framework for deep-seated change.


If we want to transform our region, we need to realize the region won’t change unless philanthropy does. Can we revitalize philanthropy’s vision, boost its ambitions, and update how we contribute to a region sustained by equitable systems? Northern California harbors some of the most extreme economic inequality in the nation. We must urgently confront existential challenges—income and racial disparities, convergent large-scale climate disasters, and woefully inadequate housing and infrastructure—with a coordinated and long-term response. We must eliminate inequitable structures, policies, and practices and advance opportunities to generate security, healing, and new possibilities for those currently living on the margins. 

To chart a course toward a more caring, connected, and equitable region powered by the philanthropy sector, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation supported a unique partnership between Northern California Grantmakers and Open Impact. The partnership capitalized on each entity’s strengths, combining Open Impact’s expertise and research capabilities around donors’ impact with the collective wisdom of the 210+ members of Northern California Grantmakers who are committed to effective philanthropic practice and organized, pragmatic action to address complex societal challenges and propel systems change.


Read the Executive Summary

Call To Action

Shifting philanthropy’s outmoded ways of working is the challenge that will define the sector in the coming decade. Committing to transforming our region means that everyone rolls up their sleeves and puts the good of the whole—a shared vision of inclusive regional prosperity and well-being—above individual organizational mandates and missions. This requires funders to embrace new narratives of possibility and inclusive decision-making, invoke new mental models, shift organizational and philanthropic sector culture, change default behaviors, and make bolder, more generous, and community-responsive commitments... and to act on them. The case studies included here demonstrate that nonprofits—especially those led by and serving BIPOC populations—are already exercising leadership to affect these shifts. It’s time that we joined them.

Northern California Grantmakers is enacting an action plan to support philanthropy in making these 5 Shifts toward sharing power, leveraging multiple forms of capital, centering racial and other forms of equity, and philanthropic practices demonstrated to yield significant and lasting change. Taken together, this suite of actions can seem daunting. Every philanthropic entity has the capacity to start the journey somewhere, remain steadfast in transforming their practice, and accumulate colleagues, allies, and supporters along the way that will evolve these approaches from aspiration to reality. This work is urgent because both the needs and the opportunities are pressing. The future of our communities is at stake.

Amplify. You can find graphics, language, and information about the 5 Shifts for media use here.

Get Involved. Are you a donor or trustee looking to improve your practices? Do you know someone who would benefit from getting involved? Contact our team at for individual support. 

Act. This report is meant to give you an entry point to embracing and applying the 5 Shifts. NCG is kicking off an action plan to help you. If you'd like to be the first to know about events, trainings, and planning, sign up here. 

Case Studies

Philanthropy is often thought of as “society’s risk capital.” Donors enjoy the benefits of both government and markets, combining a tax-subsidized focus on the public good with the freedom, flexibility, and innovation of the private sector. However, mainstream philanthropy’s operating model needs a serious upgrade. 

The magnitude of problems facing the region calls for a radical rethinking of philanthropy’s catalytic role in local and regional problem-solving. Donors have amassed enormous capital. Billions of dollars held in donor-advised funds and foundation endowments can immediately fuel changes that not only close gaps but set generational shifts in well-being in motion. Philanthropic leaders’ relational assets—trust built with local decision-makers, policymakers, community leaders, and nonprofits—coupled with robust financial assets can support risk-taking and enliven bold approaches with the potential to generate greater impact.

In Get It Right: 5 Shifts Philanthropy Must Make Toward an Equitable Region, we've highlighted 5 case studies from regional leaders who are already doing this work.

Castellano Family creates Blueprint for Change

Sobrato Philanthropies Champions English Language Learners

Akonadi Foundation Builds Black Movements

Pooled Funds and Donor Collaboratives

Packard Foundation Invests in Pajaro Valley



Woman with long brown hair and a white collared shirt

Nicole Garzino, Senior Manager for Donor & Trustee Programs, Northern California Grantmakers

To learn more about how to engage with this work or to engage your organization's donors and trustees, contact:

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Get It Right: 5 Shifts Philanthropy Must Make Toward An Equitable Region Executive Summary

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Get It Right: 5 Shifts Philanthropy Must Make Toward an Equitable Region Full Report

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