Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

 September 2012 


a newsletter for our donors and colleagues  


New Executive Director of PVF

We are very pleased to announce that Philanthropic Ventures Foundation has a new executive director:  James Higa.  James comes to PVF from Apple Inc., where he was Senior Director in the Office of the CEO working directly for Steve Jobs.

James Higa Since joining the Macintosh team in 1984, James has had a hand in many of Apple's products and services over the years including negotiating the iTunes agreements with the music labels,  and launching iTunes University which makes available over 500,000 free lectures from schools such as Stanford, MIT, and the University of Edinburgh.  James' penchant for innovation with a global reach relates to his deep concern for improving the lives of poor people locally and globally.

Bill Somerville will stay with PVF as President and CEO. "This is the right change at the right time," states Somerville, "I'm looking forward to working with James who brings to our work the very latest in social innovation."

"I have spent my career endeavoring to think different and change the world through technology," states James Higa. "Now I want to carry on that work at PVF through people and communities."



Philanthropic Ventures Foundation is playing a key role in assisting the CalFresh food stamp program in San Mateo County. The county has one of the lowest enrollments of any county in the state (18% of those eligible enroll), not because it is a wealthy county but because poor people are not clear on whether or not to apply and how to do it.
PVF has researched the issue and is moving on a number of initiatives. One of these is a grassroots program with the Parent Involvement Workers who the foundation funds at the middle school in East Palo Alto. The Parent Involvement Workers would now contact parents, help determine eligibility, and help them apply for the program. This means getting the parents over their fears, coming to the school and learning how to fill out the applications, and then having a county social worker come to the school to conduct the required personal interviews. We are very grateful to a PVF donor for funding this project.  

Join Us

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation has come to depict exciting philanthropy - grassroots giving that is born out of creative thinking. If readers would like to explore new possibilities in their giving, we are ready to meet at your convenience. We believe your giving should be fun, satisfying and significant.

We can be reached at (510) 645-1890.

About the Editor

Bill Somerville has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991 founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation where he serves as Chief Executive Officer. PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and conducting innovative philanthropy. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations in the United States, Canada, and the U.K., on creative grantmaking and foundation operations.  His primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.

Board of Directors

Duncan Beardsley, Chair

Director, Generosity in Action


John P. Carver 

Retired Senior Vice-President

The Gap Inc.


William E. Green


William Green & Associates


James Higa

Executive Director

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation   


Albert J. Horn


Carr, McClellan, Ingersoll,

Thompson & Horn PC


Bill Somerville, President


Philanthropic Ventures Foundation


Jackie Speier

U.S. Representative

12th District of California
Moira C. Walsh

Attorney and

Philanthropic Advisor


Colburn S. Wilbur

Trustee and Former President, 

David and Lucile Packard Foundation 

Board of Advisors

Janet Camarena

Director, San Francisco Office,

The Foundation Center


Leonard Edwards

Judge-in-Residence, California Administrative Office of the Courts


Kathy Kwan

Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation 


Dien Yuen

Chief Philanthropy Officer,


Press Release - James Higa Joins PVF   

James Higa, former Senior Director in the Office of the CEO at Apple Inc., has joined Philanthropic Ventures Foundation as the new Executive Director - marking the first change in leadership since PVF was founded by pioneering philanthropist Bill Somerville in 1991.


Mr. Higa will assume responsibility for Grantmaking and Special Initiatives at the PVF headquarters in Oakland, CA. His initial efforts will focus on the foundation's ability to respond rapidly to urgent needs (often within 24 hours), create imaginative strategies to here to read more

Want to Know More?


Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, 1222 Preservation Park Way, Oakland CA 94612-1201

Telephone: (510) 645-1890  Fax: (510) 645-1892