As I prepare to transition away from Smart Growth California and coordinating the San Joaquin Valley Funders Collaborative, Ron asked me to reflect on the last seven years and share a few of my highlights and learnings that I will take on my journey forward.
- Wow – funders are smart! Right after I began with Smart Growth California in November of 2016, we hosted our Funder Summit in San Diego and held a Statewide Steering Committee meeting before the convening began. We had just gone through a major national election and were reflecting on what the results might mean for the work towards healthy, equitable and sustainable communities. I’d never sat in a room of funders before; I had always been on the non-profit side and had cultivated individual relationships but had never heard funders reflect and strategize collectively. I will never forget sitting wide-eyed as I listened to this group of intelligent, strategic and thoughtful colleagues talk through their personal and professional reactions. I was taken aback at the depth of insights and thought to myself that in my previous jobs at NGOs, I most certainly did not engage my funders deeply enough. To this day, when I talk to our field leaders, I encourage them to consider engaging with funders to the fullest extent, not just as grantmakers but as strategists and thought partners who have different views with meaningful and useful insights to advance the work.
- You CAN teach an old dog new tricks. All of the negative preconceptions about philanthropy were challenged when the pandemic hit. I think we were all a bit surprised at how nimbly foundations pivoted to move more money, faster, and with fewer restrictions. It was inspiring to see such a strong and collective response. Many SGC funders took these practices into their grantmaking beyond the pandemic, asking hard questions about how to do philanthropy well. It was an honor to watch as you all challenged yourselves individually and institutionally to show up more equitably for long-term community change.
- Seeing home through new eyes. Having been born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley, it was fulfilling to become the Coordinator of the San Joaquin Valley Funders’ Collaborative in 2018. I was able to reconnect with my roots. The role taught me about some of the regional dynamics, challenges, and diverse leadership that my childhood had never exposed me to. I now love the Valley with a more complete picture of all the amazing work being done there.
- Trust-based philanthropy in action. What stands out above all during my time with the SJVFC are the incredible funders looking to uplift the people of the Valley. This group accomplished some amazing collaborative projects during my time there, but most of all, it’s the integrity, wisdom and humility of these funders that I will never forget. I learned so much from the individuals in this working group and will truly cherish the lessons learned from you all on how to center the voices and needs of community leaders in funding decisions.
Smart Growth California was my first foray into the philanthropy-serving space. It opened a whole new career path for me as I now serve in several other funder network spaces. I will always be grateful to the people who make up this network and for the intelligence, humor and honesty with which you approach your work.
I trust that our paths will cross again. I will continue on with TFN as the Coordinator of the Urban Water Funders and also as the Coordinator of the new Wildfire Resilience Funders network which is housed at Climate Resilience Fund. Please stay in touch.