Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

 January 2013  


a newsletter for our donors and colleagues  


What is a Hero?  

Bill Somerville, President & CEO 


At Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, we have come to think that the people we fund and work with are heroes. Their dedication to service, willingness to take serious risks, their ability to run programs on a shoe string, this is heroic.


Celebrity doesn't make a hero. What does is the ability to take the initiative, being self-motivated, and a deep concern for others and their welfare. The people we work with clearly have leadership capabilities. In addition, they are selfless, tireless and modest.


At Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, we have always believed in finding outstanding people and funding them. We fund the person, not the proposal, no matter how persuasive it is. Our funding is our way of investing in people and the work they do.


So, what is a hero? In a sense there is a hero in each of us, in how we live our lives, how we cope, how we exercise courage in meeting downturns. All of us have an image of someone doing something heroic. At PVF we have found and continue to find individuals who have heroic qualities. That's what we look for in our continuing search for outstanding people.


We have come across individuals who start a program with nothing and stick with it until it becomes self-sufficient; people who will focus their work on the most needy in our society; people who refuse to be dependent on outside support, they will just make do with what they have. Their ability to cope is itself heroic.


It's heroic when a young couple settles into an unfamiliar community to start a program serving the poor. This is what Eric and Alice Debode of Kelly Avenue Catholic Worker House have done in Half Moon Bay. Before you know it, they befriended a church congregation that was skeptical of their motives and now these same congregation members cook and serve breakfast to impoverished farm workers. 


The couple convinced a farmer to share his land and they started a community food garden to share vegetables with low-income people. Between May and November, they were able to harvest more than 15,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce which was given away to families. Now they offer a small amount of housing to families without shelter. All in all, this couple and the work they do represents the kind of people the foundation looks for, works with, and funds.


Teachers are our heroes. They are the real youth workers of our society. They are the frontline workers in constant contact with children, guiding their growth and developing their character. And they do it with a sense of modesty that is impressive. This is why we have developed an array of teacher grant programs to fund creative efforts in the classroom.


Philanthropic Ventures Foundation has come to depict exciting philanthropy - grassroots giving that is born out of creative thinking. This creative thinking includes tracking down the heroes in our community and finding ways to support them. If readers would like to explore new possibilities in funding like this, we are ready to meet at your convenience. We believe your giving should be fun, satisfying and significant. Join us.     

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

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