Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

 December 2012 


a newsletter for our donors and colleagues  


What Our Family of Donors Makes Possible  


Philanthropic Ventures Foundation is trying out a new idea to enrich the relationship between the foundation and our grantees. We are inviting personnel from grantee programs to visit new programs applying to us for funds, to help provide us with a frank assessment based on their own experience.   


For example, recently a street outreach program serving the homeless applied to PVF, and we asked a grantee director with extensive experience in working with the poor and day laborers: "Would you be available to visit this applicant and give us your feedback?" His job would be to use his insight and sensitivity to make an assessment of the applicant and report back to PVF. Subjective? You bet. But isn't all grantmaking subjective with a final decision based on "do I like it, or not?"      


Larry Purcell
To learn more about the programs PVF supports, see our latest blog post, "Getting to the Grassroots," below!

We believe in democratizing the giving process. By using the talent of program personnel with whom we have worked for years, there are many positive outcomes. It is a compliment to the grantee to recognize one's expertise and experience in the field.  It brings to bear special insight on issues that we might not have. And it enhances the collegial relationship between us and the grantee.


This system of grantee visitor could also be used to help evaluate a program funded by PVF.  Such an evaluation would provide us with a straight-forward, insightful commentary regarding the work of the non-profit program, which will be added to the foundation staff's assessment.


So, what was the feedback that our grantee program director shared with us after his visit to the street outreach program? He said the person is new to his work and seems confident and competent. He said they are just getting started and seem realistic in what they are trying to do. He told us what they wanted money for.  


It turns out that we most likely will give funds to help buy a used van for transporting people to jobs.  


At PVF, we thank our family of creative donors who make it possible for us to continue to try out new ideas in grantmaking to be more effective in our work.

New Blog Post: Getting to the Grassroots  

By: Ashley Murphy, Program Associate  


As the newest member of the PVF team, I am busy familiarizing myself with our various programs and grantees within the Bay Area. As part of this process, I have been doing some site visits, a la Bill Somerville fashion, to meet PVF's repertoire of outstanding individuals. Bill frequently reminds me of the importance of getting out of the office to observe the daily lives of the programs and people we fund. It is the key to grassroots giving.        


Recently, I was able to put Bill's advice into action when I traveled to Redwood City to visit Larry Purcell of Catholic Worker House. Founded in 1975 by Larry, Catholic Worker House provides basic but needed services to the immediate community's poorest.  


The Catholic Worker House is unassuming. It is a small house in a quiet neighborhood, and I would have mistaken it for a typical residential home if not for the large sign outside which reads "No Camas/No Beds." Once inside, I met a volunteer, Catholic Worker HouseRonnie, who sat at the kitchen table folding their newsletters which would later be mailed out to their supporters. I was impressed with their simple approach to here to read more. 


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 PVF 


PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and conducting innovative philanthropy. Our primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.


About the Editors

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. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations in the United States, Canada, and the U.K., on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker.

James Higa

James Higa brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley to PVF, working alongside Steve Jobs to change the face of technology. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and was deeply involved in the creation of many breakthrough products and services at Apple over the last three decades. James has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts during the 2011 Tohoku and 1995 Kobe Earthquakes in Japan.

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,


Want to Know More?


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

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