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? 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.
Northern California harbors some of the most extreme economic inequality in the nation. The expansion of the global technology sector—and the staggering individual wealth it generates for a few—has continued, with exponential wealth increases for some paralleled by largely preventable destitution and death for far too many. The intersecting crises of 2020—a global pandemic, a stark racial reckoning, climate-related wildfires, and threats to our democracy—have illuminated repercussions of unaddressed extreme inequities. If the philanthropic sector neglects these, it will squander a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a region where everyone flourishes.
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.
The authors thank the Bay Area philanthropic leaders who helped develop the framework and provided guidance and feedback on the report’s direction. The ideas and practices outlined result from their incredible generosity of thought and collaboration.