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Don’t Start Trouble: Real-Life Examples on Advocacy and Lobbying

Thursday, September 20, 2018 -
10:00am to 12:00pm PDT
Northern California Grantmakers
160 Spear Street, Suite 360 | San Francisco, CA 94105
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Watching the news and wondering if there’s a way to make your dollars and your voice count a little more? Join members as they share their experience jumping into the fray of advocacy and making changes in how they support grantees to pack some punch into changing policies for the better.

We are in a roller coaster ride of policy and politics. The midterm elections are near and state ballot measures could reshape California’s housing and transportation policy. Foundations have a unique opportunity to support efforts to promote a fair and democratic process.  Knowing the state and federal rules is critical to maximizing impact.

The line between advocacy and lobbying, particularly for private foundations, can be confusing. Knowing what questions to ask and when to seek expert guidance is the first step to maximizing your foundation’s and grantees’ voices on today’s most pressing issues.

Join our panel of legal experts for a discussion on how to support advocacy through grantmaking, the common pitfalls around lobbying and electioneering, and when to seek the advice of counsel.

We will also touch on other issues such as dealing with government officials and how to keep bright lines between charitable and non-charitable work.


Sasha Abrams, General Counsel, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Sasha Abrams is an experienced leader in the area of private foundation law. Her areas of legal expertise include advising on the federal tax laws and regulations applicable to private foundations, intellectual property, and corporate governance. As the general counsel for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, she handles a broad range of legal matters affecting the foundation, and serves as secretary to the board. Sasha is a frequent local and national speaker on legal topics such as private foundation law and international grantmaking. She is the co-author of several online legal courses on private foundation law available at, including courses on lobbying and advocacy, expenditure responsibility, and working with government officials.

Previously, Sasha worked at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, where she represented public agencies in municipal bond financings, and in the corporate securities practice at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati. Sasha earned her undergraduate degree from Stanford University, with honors, and her law degree from Boalt Hall, University of California, Berkeley. She is admitted to practice law in California. She currently serves as board chair emeritus of Silicon Valley Shakespeare.

Joya Banerjee, Senior Program Officer, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation (moderator)

Joya joined the Foundation in 2009, and she is a senior program officer in the Environment Program. Joya leads the Foundation’s Water portfolio, which advances the integrated management of California’s water resources. Prior to joining the Foundation, Joya was an attorney at Latham & Watkins and worked for the City of New York, first with the Mayor’s Office of Operations and later with the Economic Development Division of the Law Department. Joya graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, and she received a Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School, where she was senior articles editor for the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law. Joya currently serves on the board of 826 Valencia, a nonprofit organization that helps students develop writing skills and cultivate an affinity for writing.

Laurence Mendenhall, Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, Humanity United

Lawrence is Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel at Humanity United. In this role, he is responsible for leading the organization’s principal operations functions, including legal, finance, grants management, information technology and facilities, and counseling the Board of Trustees on legal, governance and risk-management matters. He also serves as corporate secretary. During his time at HU, Lawrence has held a variety of roles and managed a range of special projects, from the creation of HU’s fundraising arm, the HU Charitable Fund, to the relocation of the organization’s headquarters.

Before joining HU, Lawrence served as the Hewlett Foundation’s inaugural general counsel, responsible for successfully establishing its first legal department, and as deputy director of legal affairs at The Pew Charitable Trusts, where he helped spearhead Pew’s change from domestic grant-making foundation to international operating non-profit. Lawrence began his career advising high net-worth individuals, private foundations, and public charities as an associate at the New York law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, after clerking for the Hon. Michael R. Murphy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

Lawrence holds a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in political science from the University of Colorado at Boulder; a law degree cum laude from New York University School of Law, where he was executive editor of the New York University Law Review; and a master of business administration with a concentration in strategic management from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is a frequent speaker and writer on issues affecting strategic philanthropy.

Mary Anne Rodgers, General Counsel, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation

Mary Anne Rodgers is General Counsel and Secretary of The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. She is responsible for overseeing the Foundation’s general legal work worldwide and for providing guidance and solutions to meet the Foundation’s programmatic goals. Mary Anne has extensive experience in international grantmaking issues and in mission investing. Mary Anne has served on the Council on Foundations Global Philanthropy Working Group and was a founding member of the Mission Investors Exchange. She has served on governing or advisory boards of numerous charitable organizations in her community. Prior to joining the Foundation, Ms. Rodgers was a partner in private practice specializing in business and commercial litigation. Ms. Rodgers received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at San Diego, and her J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles. She is admitted to practice in California and New York.