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Shifting Leadership | 5 Shifts

Philanthropy Already Has Leaders to Follow

Philanthropy is often thought of as “society’s risk capital.” Donors enjoy the benefits of both government and markets, combining a tax-subsidized focus on the public good with the freedom, flexibility, and innovation of the private sector. However, mainstream philanthropy’s operating model needs a serious upgrade. 

The magnitude of problems facing the region calls for a radical rethinking of philanthropy’s catalytic role in local and regional problem-solving. Donors have amassed enormous capital. Billions of dollars held in donor-advised funds and foundation endowments can immediately fuel changes that not only close gaps but set generational shifts in well-being in motion. Philanthropic leaders’ relational assets—trust built with local decision-makers, policymakers, community leaders, and nonprofits—coupled with robust financial assets can support risk-taking and enliven bold approaches with the potential to generate greater impact.

In Get It Right: 5 Shifts Philanthropy Must Make Toward an Equitable Region, we've highlighted 5 case studies from regional leaders who are already doing this work. Take a look at the case studies below.


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Castellano Family Blueprint for Change


Sobrato Philanthropies Champions English Language Learners


Akonadi Foundation Build Black Movements


Pooled Funds and Donor Collaboratives


Packard Foundation Invests in Pajaro Valley





Latinx communities comprise more than one-quarter of the Bay Area population. When compared to their white counterparts, this growing demographic of Californians experiences widening disparities in income, education, health, and housing. These gaps are exacerbated by longstanding and persistent
lack of access to philanthropic dollars among Latinx nonprofit leaders and Latinx - focused organizations. Barely 2% of private foundation CEOs are of Latinx heritage. Latinx groups receive approximately 1% of all philanthropic investment,29 a proportion that has not changed since data gathering began decades ago.

The Castellano Family Foundation’s (CFF’s) bold vision for closing this gap has spurred local philanthropies to invest more in Latinx-led nonprofits. CFF’s Blueprint for Change provided the field with a data-backed understanding of the funding gap while articulating the business case for investing in Latinx-led groups.






Now five years later, while there are some breakthroughs and bright spots, the philanthropy gap has only grown. The expansion of the global technology sector—and the staggering individual wealth it generates for a disproportionate few—has continued, as has the prosperity paradox the report revealed. The intersecting crises of 2020—a global pandemic, a stark racial reckoning, climate-related wildfires, and threats to our democracy—have illuminated these gaps, with exponential wealth increases for some paralleled by largely preventable destitution and death for far too many. Failing bold, sweeping actions, many community members, including essential workers—childcare and elder care providers, farm and food system workers, service workers, educators, and healthcare workers—will risk deeper entrenchment in poverty even as the region swims in wealth and abundance. We can and must do better for one another.





California’s 1.1 million English language learners comprise 19% of the state’s total K-12 student body in the state, the largest population of its kind in the country. These children and youth are learning the English language alongside math, reading, science, and social studies curricula. These young people are
twice as likely to come from low-income families and are more likely to drop out of school than their native English-speaking peers. Nearly half of California English language learners who enroll in kindergarten are likely to become “longterm English language learners,” students for whom gaps accumulate as they move through school, with proficiency out of reach.

To address this problem in the Bay Area, Sobrato Philanthropies launched a preschool and elementary program, Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL), in 2008 in San Jose and Redwood City schools. SEAL provides professional development, curriculum support, and technical assistance for teachers of English language learners.






The Giving Code revealed a host of barriers to significant local giving. Placebased donors often don’t know where to start giving, nor how to give in amounts and over timeframes that support meaningful and durable change. Donors often find the local nonprofit ecosystem difficult to navigate, don’t have direct knowledge of local communities, and struggle to comprehend social issues, including systemic racism, that have long histories and multiple interacting root causes. 

Donor collaboratives encourage donors to give while learning from their peers or issue leaders and outsourcing the expertise, management, and grantmaking to experienced intermediary organizations. Further, donor collaboratives can aggregate significant capital, opening up the potential to address issues at a much larger scale.






Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) raids increased in 2017, with significant negative impact on residents of the rural Pajaro Valley of Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, especially immigrant children and their families, and the nonprofits serving them. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s grantee partners and other community stakeholders in the Pajaro Valley communicated their concern and described the devastating effects the raids had on community security and well-being. Given the Foundation’s longstanding commitment to this area, the Local Grantmaking team knew they needed to be an ally to support the community at this critical time. Foundation staff began by listening to community experts closest to the situation, asking them for ideas, and providing resources to implement solutions bubbling up from the community.