The San Joaquin Valley Funder Working Group is comprised of representatives from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the Central Valley Community Foundation, Ceres Trust, the Energy Foundation, the Latino Community Foundation, the Sierra Health Foundation, the Water Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and an anonymous funder.
- Elliott Balch
Central Valley Community Foundation
- Joya Banerjee
S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation
- Ellen Braff-Guajardo
Sierra Health Foundation
- Jose Carmona
- Masha Chernyak
Latino Community Foundation
- Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith
The Water Foundation
- Michelle Chung
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
A Fresno native, Elliott Balch is chief operating officer at the Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF), where he coordinates CVCF’s programmatic growth, new investment practices, and staff talent recruitment. Previously as the City of Fresno’s Downtown Revitalization Manager, Elliott worked to fund and design the Fulton Street reconstruction project, create a property assessment district, draft new land use laws, and support development projects. He earlier held district and Capitol staff positions for California Assembly Member Juan Arambula. Elliott is fluent in Spanish, holds a master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago, and received a bachelor’s in physics from Harvard.
Joya is a senior program officer at the Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. She leads the Foundation’s grant program that is designed to advance a more sustainable water system that meets the needs of people and nature with a primary focus on California and the American West. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was an attorney at Latham & Watkins and worked for the City of New York, first with the Mayor’s Office of Operations and later with the Economic Development Division of the Law Department. She currently serves on the board of 826 Valencia, an organization that works with San Francisco students to improve writing skills, develop confidence in their voice, and inspire wonder in the world around them.
Ellen Braff-Guajardo, based in Fresno, California, is the Director of Regional Programs with the Sierra Health Foundation. Ellen serves as senior staff supporting the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund (SJVHF), a community-first funder collaborative whose mission is to advance health and racial equity across the vast San Joaquin Valley region of California. The SJVHF’s community-driven 2019 IHHEEL policy platform prioritizes immigrant rights, health access, housing, education equity, environmental justice and land use & planning.
Ellen draws on her extensive philanthropic and nonprofit knowledge and experience to support organizations and leaders tackling some of the worst health outcomes and environmental conditions in California. Prior to joining the Sierra Health Foundation, Ellen served five years as a national program officer for W.K. Kellogg Foundation on the Healthy Kids Team, where she developed and led a national strategic grantmaking portfolio in support of healthy community and health equity with a focus on policy and systems change.
Before joining the Energy Foundation as Program Director, California, Jose was the Chief of Staff for the Assembly Democratic Majority Leader V. Manuel Perez (56th AD); in that role, he advanced energy-related legislation. From 2003 – 2008, Jose was the Advocacy Director for the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, Clean Power Campaign, and V. John White & Associates, where he tracked, analyzed, and lobbied for clean energy and climate legislation on behalf of renewable energy affiliates and environmental nonprofit organizations.
Jose has extensive legislative advocacy experience in the California State Senate and Assembly where he advocated for the passage of California’s landmark climate change law, AB 32, the Renewable Portfolio Standard, and the California Solar Initiative. Jose served as the lead energy advocate for the AB 32 Environmental Justice Advisory Committee from 2006 – 2008.
Masha is a strategic visionary, community organizer, and an experienced advocate for the Latino immigrant community. As vice president of Programs and Policy for the Latino Community Foundation (LCF), Masha leads LCF’s change-making strategy.
In 2017, Masha launched the 1st ever Latino Nonprofit Accelerator to unleash the power of grassroots Latino nonprofits. Masha has also been instrumental in launching two key pillars of LCF’s work – the California Latino Agenda, LCF’s advocacy platform and the Latino Giving Circle Network™, now the largest network of Latino donors in the country. In her leadership role, Masha also provides strategic guidance for LCF’s communications, branding, and social media presence. Masha is driven by a deep sense of urgency to elevate the voices of immigrants and their contributions to this country.
Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith
Juliet Christian-Smith brings more than a decade of scientific research and policy analysis experience to her role as Senior Program Officer at the Water Foundation, with expertise in water, climate and sustainability issues.
Juliet came to the Water Foundation from the Union of Concerned Scientists where she helped lead water and climate work as a Senior Climate Scientist. She also brings a comparative perspective, having received a Fulbright Fellowship to study the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive in Portugal and having been a Murray Darling Basin Futures Fellow in Australia. Juliet has a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management from UC Berkeley.
Michelle leads the Central Valley strategy for the Housing program at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), which works to support the efforts that generate housing supply, ensure equitable access, and build public and political will for housing. To this end, CZI seeks to support the intersectional work that champions equitable, sustainable land use policies. Prior to CZI, Michelle worked as a land use economics consultant in communities across the Western United States, focusing on affordable housing and community benefits policy and financing. She holds a BA in Urban Studies and Planning from UC San Diego and an MA in Urban and Regional Planning from UC Los Angeles.
Kat Gilje is Executive Director of Ceres Trust. Ceres Trust, whose name honors the ancient goddess of agriculture, provides grants that support healthy and resilient farms, forests and communities; and the ecosystems upon which we all depend. Ceres Trust focuses on grassroots leadership and organizing, equity, and movement building toward systemic and transformational change. An agronomist and community organizer trained by Voices for Racial Justice in Minnesota, Kat previously was co–director of Pesticide Action Network North America; co–founder/director of Centro Campesino; and senior associate at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. She serves on the steering committees of the Bay Area Justice Funders Network and the Health and Environmental Network.
Kaying serves on the senior management team for Sierra Health Foundation and the Center for Health Program Management as the director of health programs. Before joining Sierra Health Foundation, Kaying served as associate director for Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, where she worked with foundations, affinity groups, public policy groups and immigrant rights organizations. Previously, she served as senior program officer at the Otto Bremer Foundation in Minnesota and a program officer and senior consultant with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation.
Before she began her career in philanthropy, Kaying worked in state government as the state coordinator of the Refugee Health Program for the Minnesota Department of Health, and as assistant regional coordinator for the Refugee and Immigrant Health Program for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. She served as the first Co-Chair of the national board of National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) based in Washington DC, and served on the board of Asian Americans in Philanthropy (AAPIP).
Earl Lui is a program director at The California Wellness Foundation where he currently manages grantmaking related to strengthening community clinics and safety-net partners, and fostering healthy environments. His responsibilities include reviewing letters of interest, requesting and evaluating grant proposals, conducting site visits, making funding recommendations and monitoring active grants.
Prior to joining Cal Wellness in December 2006, Lui was senior attorney at Consumers Union’s West Coast office in San Francisco, focusing on health care advocacy. He also worked for Consumers Union on financial services advocacy. Prior to that, he was an associate trainer for Coro Northern California, a leadership training program; a staff attorney for Public Advocates, Inc.; and an associate with the law firm of Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro. Lui is currently cochair of the steering committee for the Health and Environmental Funders Network.
Craig Martinez joined The California Endowment in May 2012 as a program manager tasked with supporting policy and system change efforts to create healthier neighborhoods. Prior to joining The Endowment, Craig served as a health policy advisor in the Majority Health Policy Office of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, first under the Chairmanship of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and subsequently under the Chairmanship of Senator Tom Harkin. His legislative portfolio on the HELP Committee included issues relating to public health, disease prevention, health disparities, mental health, HIV/AIDS, and public health preparedness.
With over a decade of experience in grassroots and grasstops organizing and advocacy, Liz knows firsthand that change must be centered on the people most impacted by inequities and is committed to supporting new paths for communities through bottom–up approaches to policy change. Her role as a program officer for the Marguerite Casey Foundation allows her to leverage these skills and passion, learning about the creative models and collaborative strategies that community–based organizations use to address issues impacting low–income families.
After undergraduate school in Portland, Liz returned home to Alaska and worked in policy, organizing and advocacy for nearly a decade. She ran an award–winning statewide youth civic engagement initiative and eventually headed to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Liz worked for USAID as a senior policy analyst before joining the Marguerite Casey Foundation through the 2015 Momentum Fellowship cohort.
ReFrame It Consulting
Mark Valentine is the founder and principal of ReFrame It Consulting, which works with foundations and individual donors on grantmaking program design, implementation, and evaluation across a diverse array of issues, including: smart growth and sustainable land use, environmental health, energy and climate, marine and coastal conservation, and conservation finance. Amongst his clients is a private donor advisory service for which he manages a portfolio of grants focused on advancing sustainable land use policy in key regions of California. Mark currently serves as co-chair of Smart Growth California.
Prior to founding ReFrame It, Mark was a program director with the Packard Foundation where he helped establish the nation’s largest conservation grantmaking program with initiatives across the western United States, Mexico, China, and the Western Pacific. In addition, he created an innovative interdisciplinary grantmaking initiative that highlighted the opportunities for strategic synergy between reproductive health, environment, and community development initiatives in select geographies within the Foundation’s global portfolio.
enterprise community partners
Kristine is a Program Officer with Enterprise Community Partners. Enterprise is a nationwide nonprofit organization focused on connecting low-income residents to opportunity through supporting and expanding affordable housing. Based in Stockton, Kristine works at the intersection of land-use and climate change. She delivers technical assistance to San Joaquin Valley communities working to secure funds under California’s landmark Cap and Trade programs. To date, Kristine has helped secure over $100 million for sustainable housing and transportation development in the region since 2017. In addition to her regional work, she is the current chair of the Stockton Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable and Workforce Housing.