Foundations Lead Community Convening for North San Mateo County
by Cheryl Chang, Pacific Foundation Services
The Bay Area’s global reputation for innovation, natural beauty, and a high quality of living can make it easy to underestimate the depth and range of needs facing many across the region. In particular, North San Mateo County—a diverse yet overlooked cluster of towns nestled between San Francisco and Silicon Valley—is home to more than 320,000 people, 20% of whom struggle to make ends meet. A family of four living in this high-cost region needs a baseline of salary of $148,000 annually just to make ends meet. That’s a staggering number; nearly three times higher than the national average.
Embodying our shared commitment to championing effective, meaningful philanthropy, three Pacific Foundation Services clients, Atkinson Foundation, Sunlight Giving, and Sand Hill Foundation, joined forces with Magnify Community (formerly known as, Give Local Silicon Valley) and Thrive Alliance to co-host a convening on February 26 to shine a light on the interrelated needs and opportunities facing children and families in North San Mateo County.
“About a year ago, a few of us in the funding community began having conversations about our work in San Mateo County, and where we saw potential gaps,” explained Stef Willis, Atkinson Foundation Program Officer. “Community leaders and nonprofits told us that the needs and the work being done to address them in North County have largely gone unnoticed.”
Under the leadership of Atkinson Foundation and Sunlight Giving, the event included 80 representatives from other foundations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporate partners to network, share knowledge, and explore creative solutions.
Through data collection, a survey of nonprofit leaders, and stories from community panelists, participants learned about the most urgent needs facing families in the area, where one in five people live in poverty and 50% of households are rent burdened. North San Mateo County is highly diverse—38 languages are spoken and 40% of people are foreign born, including 13% non-citizens—underscoring the need for immigration and legal support, as well as employment and training services for workers. The County is also undergoing an acute shortage of childcare and preschool programs, and in the north part of the county nearly 4,000 additional after-school care spaces are needed, while 76% of the demand for infant spaces also goes unmet. At the same time, nearly 20,000 north San Mateo County residents are living without health insurance, making access to basic health, dental and mental health services desperately needed.
As a next step, attendees have been invited to join an online group coordinated by Thrive to stay connected to the issues. Thrive is also hosting a series of related upcoming events including the Leadership Circle Luncheon with Magnify Community and monthly Thrive Action Group Meetings. Potential donors and members of the funder community were also encouraged to connect directly with Magnify Community to learn more about supporting targeted local need.
For the staff and board members present from the Atkinson Foundation, Sunlight Giving, and Sand Hill Foundation, the convening provided updated perspective and insight. Each will continue to explore how the data and stories shared might impact future funding strategies as part of their deep commitment to supporting the local region.