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NCG in DC: Reflections from Foundations on the Hill

We walked out of the Cannon House Office Building at the end of a cloudy Tuesday afternoon and stopped in front of the U.S. Capitol to snap a quick photo with Kaying Hang, Senior Vice President of Programs and Partnerships at the Sierra Health Foundation, one of the funders who joined Philanthropy California’s delegation to Foundations on the Hill (FOTH). Our delegation had wrapped up a full day of meetings with congressional and agency staffers where we elevated some of the most pressing issues facing our state: housing and economic security, climate and disaster resiliency, nonprofit resiliency, and democracy and civic engagement. We stressed the opportunities to work in partnership together and emphasized the role philanthropy can play as a bridge between government and community organizations. 

Liana, Kaying, and Victoria in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Liana, Kaying, and Victoria in front of the U.S. Capitol

FOTH is one of  United Philanthropy Forum’s signature annual events, where our colleagues from other philanthropy-serving organizations bring a delegation of their member-foundations to the nation’s capital for several days of inspiring conference sessions, advocacy meetings, and networking. This is an opportunity for the sector to elevate their work on various issues and build relationships with the offices of key agencies and elected representatives.  

Our advocacy days in D.C. represented an integral part of the everyday workings of a thriving multiracial democracy, where constituents can sit down with their elected representatives and can advocate on behalf of their communities. Ideally, everyone one of us has access to our representatives, but we recognize that this promise of a representative democracy isn’t fully realized for many low-income, Black Indigenous, people of color communities, and other historically marginalized communities. Many members of our communities might never have the opportunity to travel to D.C., or to speak  directly with their congressional representative, which is why building and sustaining  a thriving multiracial democracy at the local level is critical. Dozens of community organizations across California work year-round to engage everyday people in all levels of civic life – from voting in the next election to showing up at a city council meeting. Federally and locally, this type of civic engagement can shape the priorities and policies that affect our daily lives.  

The opportunity to participate in FOTH with dozens of other funders unveiled the privilege and power we hold as a sector. Philanthropy alone can’t fund our way out of deeply entrenched social and economic problems. We have an important role to play in the ecosystem. We must show up as active partners to grassroots leaders by making deep lasting investments in the broad infrastructure necessary to advance racial equity and democracy. We ask you to envision the lasting impact we can have across our state if we fully resource those working to make a thriving multiracial democracy a reality. 

And we don’t have to do it alone. We returned from FOTH inspired by the work of conference speakers. Diana Colin from Powerful Innovations for Voter Organizing and Tranformation (PIVOT) and Ebony West from the Democracy Fund, who spoke about funding voter engagement initiatives and the ways they work collaboratively with other funders to support grassroots leaders in civic engagement. PIVOT is a pooled fund housed at the California Community Foundation which supports new and large-scale investments that are necessary to sustain power-building experiments and innovations to win structural change in California. Democracy Fund shared their “All by April” pledge, a call on funders to commit dollars earlier and disburse funds to grantees by the end of April to promote free, fair and representative elections. We encourage funders to learn more and join these efforts.    

The Philanthropy California Delegation

The Philanthropy California Delegation at the conference hotel ready to kick off a day of meetings in D.C. Front row: Kaying Hang (Sierra Health Foundation); Lily Bui, Matthew Vang, Emily Michels, and Karla Mercado (Southern California Grantmakers); Katie Oran (Northern California Grantmakers). Back row: Dr. Gabino Aguirre (Ventura County Community Foundation), Elena Perez (Magic Cabinet), Laura Seaman (League of California Community Foundations), Meghan Thomas (Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties) Anna Hasselblad (United Ways of California), Victoria Rodarte, and Kirin Kumar (Northern California Grantmakers). 

At NCG, we will continue to support our members with the tools and collaborative spaces they need to make deep and long-term investments in democracy and power-building. We remain dedicated to showing up as a partner to our members and to the movement leaders doing the work to realize a thriving multiracial democracy in California.  

If you’d like to learn more about FOTH, our democracy and power-building work, or find other ways to partner, please reach out to Victoria Rodarte at or Liana Molina at 

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