Christiana DeBenedict (Co-Chair)
Christiana DeBenedict serves as Director of Environmental Initiatives, leading programs and directing resources to build a more equitable and resilient San Diego. She has built her career locally, developing capacity, resources, programs and networks in support of our regional and binational environment and community.
As the Director of Environment Leadership Initiatives at The Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego, Christiana managed The Equinox Project and the Outdoor Leaders Initiative. She also directed the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative, a network of cities and public agencies working to advance local climate solutions. Previously, Christiana served as Assistant Director of Climate Education Partners, a $5 million National Science Foundation funded project that engaged and informed government, business and community leaders on local climate impacts. As Director of Member Services and Operations at the US-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership, Christiana supported a network of 21 community foundations working to strengthen philanthropy, leadership and collaboration in the US-Mexico border region.
Christiana graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Languages and Bilingual Issues and holds an International MBA from IE Business School in Madrid, Spain.
Andrea Sanchez Davidson
Andrea Sanchez Davidson develops, implements, and oversees projects for Ocean, Coast, and Fisheries programs. Before joining Resources Legacy Fund, Andrea was Research Director for Intertidal Agency, providing strategic direction for new and developing ocean data projects. She is co-founder of Surfgrass Productions, a communications and film production company working to connect science, conservation, nature, and environmental justice through film, and worked for the Energy Foundation as Senior Associate for West Campaigns. Andrea holds a BA in International Relations from San Francisco State University and a Master of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
Kara Ballester is the President and Co-founder of the BQuest Foundation, a private family foundation located in San Diego. Kara turned a concern about climate change, an interest in conservation, and a professional background as an educator into a calling to support and implement equitable solutions to the climate crisis while developing the mission of the BQuest Foundation.
Since it’s founding in 2016, the BQuest Foundation has developed an extensive program of granting and investing to fund projects and partner with organizations that reduce carbon emissions, expand the use of renewable energy, and advocate for the policy changes that we need to transition to a zero carbon future. To date, BQuest has funded dozens of solar installations benefiting nonprofit organizations and affordable multifamily housing locations, supported the construction of hundreds of new housing units addressing housing insecurity, funded programs expanding access to electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in underserved communities, provided grant support to climate advocacy organizations big and small, and mitigated over 50,000 metric tons of carbon emissions in the process.
While studying at San Diego State University, Tara’s passion for climate advocacy was born. Her experience as the Sustainability Commissioner led to her first job, which turned into a nine-year career with a San Diego-based clean energy firm where she held a top leadership role for several years. In February 2020, Tara wanted to do more to stop the climate crisis – Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation, a 501(c)(3), was founded to expedite positive change for a just and livable future. The nonprofit specializes in climate project management, policy and advocacy and advising. Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation is focusing on launching climate pilot programs that can lay the foundation for jurisdictions and states to adopt large-scale, bold climate programs. One of Tara’s favorite initiatives that Hammond Climate Solutions manages is the Solar Moonshot Program, which helps nonprofits across the country afford the switch to solar power.
Tara is the Manager of the San Diego Climate Hub, Chair of the California Solar+Storage Association San Diego chapter and Board Member of Climate Defenders Action Fund in addition to being involved in various coalitions that advocate for environmental and climate justice. Tara recently served two terms as the Vice Chair of the San Diego Community Power Community Advisory Committee, was a founding Steering Committee Member of the San Diego Green New Deal Alliance, served as an Executive Committee Member of Surfrider San Diego, and Board President Emeritus and six-year Board Member of GRID Alternatives San Diego.
Tara is a proud recipient of the the 2021 San Diego Business Journal’s Next Top Business Leaders Under 40 award, 2021 SDSU Rising Aztecs award, 2021 Business for Good San Diego Environmental Champion of the Year award, 2019 San Diego Business Journal’s Next Top Business Leaders Under 40 award and the 2019 San Diego Business Journal’s Business Women of the Year Rising Star award.
As the President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Community Foundation (ICF), Marisa leads the continuing evolution of ICF’s model of co-powering and strengthening communities and vulnerable natural habitats.
ICF has a bold history and track record of community impact demonstrated by its commitment to getting funding out the door and into communities. Currently, ICF is tracking 77% of funding that comes into the organization and goes out in grants the same year to local leaders and their teams. ICF works collaboratively through its relationship infrastructure with globally active funders and local program partners.
Marisa has served ICF in many roles. She previously served ICF as the Vice President of Culture and Impact, overseeing a growing portfolio of programs and special initiatives. Prior to that role, she was Senior Program Officer for Environmental Conservation, leading ICF’s Environment portfolio, emphasizing marine and terrestrial conservation in Mexico Baja California peninsula, coastal communities of the Gulf of California and the Caribbean. Marisa first joined ICF in 2015, after 7 years at The San Diego Foundation. There, she worked with regional leaders to advance conservation efforts that ensured community access to clean air, water, and nature, while promoting collaborative action on climate change. Her work at The San Diego Foundation led to the creation of the Parks for Everyone report and the Opening the Outdoors Initiative.
Marisa’s dedication to community action at the local, regional, and national levels is demonstrated by her many leadership roles. She is a co-founder of the San Diego Latina Giving Circle; she serves on the Advisory Board for the Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego and is the incoming Board Chair for the Environment Grantmakers Association. Marisa holds a master’s in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego and a bachelor’s in Anthropology and Sociology from Mills College. She is a PLACES fellow, a HOPE graduate, and a former board member for the Center for Diversity and the Environment.
Beyond serving as a leader in a nonprofit organization, she is Latina, bilingual and bicultural, bringing first-hand knowledge of the communities, initiatives, and programs ICF supports. ICF is an organization guided by purpose – to strengthen humanity with community. Marisa’s leadership of ICF sets an ambitious agenda that will advance the organization’s vision of communities as self-sustaining ecosystems of change in the border region, Mexico, Latin America and beyond.
Megan serves as Catalyst’s president & CEO, providing strategic leadership and partnership to the entire Catalyst staff, board, members, and community partners. Megan oversees Catalyst’s facilitation of collaborative efforts among its funder members and other stakeholders; leads the production of philanthropy and impact investing skills-building and issue based learning; and spearheads Catalyst’s work related to championing equity and opportunity. She strengthens Imperial and San Diego County communities through shared learning and pooled and aligned funding strategies, and initiatives fiscally sponsored by Catalyst.
Megan brings 20 years of experience in the nonprofit and philanthropic fields to this role, having most recently served as Executive Director of San Diego Coastkeeper where she built partnerships among the nonprofit, business, and public sectors to advance environmental goals across San Diego County. Megan received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Georgetown University and her Masters in Business Administration from Yale School of Management. She serves on the California Dignity for Families grant advisory committee at Grantmakers Concerned with Imhumans and Humans, the racial equity committee at the United Philanthropy Forum, and the board of trustees at the Museum of Us. She previously served on the board of directors of Hope Horse Ranch, United Way of San Diego County; advisory council for The San Diego Foundation’s Center for Civic Engagement; and the Port of San Diego Environmental Advisory Committee.
Emi is committed to supporting communities of color to achieve their visions and build power. Our neighborhoods have been shaped by racist and exclusionary public policies, and we must double down on community ownership over the solutions. At Greenlining, Emi leads the Capacity Building team, which supports under-resourced communities to gain equitable opportunity and access to tools to lead their own transformations.