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A Tribute to Gwen Walden, A Powerhouse for Philanthropy

We recently lost a powerhouse in our field. Gwen Walden was the Senior Managing Director at Arabella Advisors' San Francisco office. She had a long history in our community and sector serving on the Boards of the East Bay Community Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, and the Breast Cancer Fund.

Gwen brought a deep understanding of the issues of the nonprofit sector, worked with a range of philanthropic entities, and brought her expert knowledge of the sector to advance change. She was one of the people we depended on when we had to think through a strategy or how we designed and managed an initiative or program or take on the herculean task of managing a group of foundation peers.

"One of my first forays into the philanthropy sector was through creating a Lesbian and Gay Community Fund housed at the California Community Foundation in the mid-1990s. I met Gwen Walden through this work and had many after-work meetings with a group of queer activists where we talked about the importance of funding. She showed me how to navigate the philanthropic sector and advocate for marginalized communities while remaining steadfast in one's lived identities as a lesbian, a woman, and an activist. I consider myself lucky that I learned from Gwen who practiced a decision-making process led by those most impacted by the issues, supported funding for people of color-led and serving organizations, and used her deep experience in philanthropy to create a fledgling Lesbian and Gay Community Fund that was unheard of the time. I will always remember Gwen for her wisdom, fierce dedication to justice, and generosity to those new to the sector." - Alice Y. Hom, Director of Equity and Social Justice, Northern California Grantmakers

She understood the vagaries of philanthropy and could discern what of the latest innovation really had legs and what might be more of a passing fancy. She was also an extraordinarily strong supporter and partner to NCG, actively participating in a ton of events,  helping to design a number of programs over the years, and working with us closely as we considered new areas of work.

"I was introduced to Gwen early in my tenure as President/CEO of NCG, and she made it a point to welcome me in to the Bay Area philanthropic community. It turned out that we lived near one another, and over the next five years she and I met regularly for breakfast at a neighborhood place we both loved to talk shop, and connect. Gwen was a wise, kind, and generous guide and friend to me, and I always admired her quiet confidence and leadership. I cannot believe she is gone." - Ellen LaPointe, CEO, Fenway Health

We will miss her knowledge, intellect, and spirit greatly. Donations in Gwen’s memory can be made to Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and East Bay Community Foundation and you can share memories and tributes here.

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