Philanthropic Ventures Foundation

August 2013  


a newsletter for our donors and colleagues  


A High Return on Investment for PVF Donors

by: Bill Somerville, President & CEO   


Philanthropic Ventures Foundation is here for donors who are serious about their philanthropic giving, who want to support things off the beaten path, who are deeply concerned about social issues, and who want to feel good about what they are doing.


The funding programs of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation are unique. Many years ago we started giving grants directly to teachers. These are "fax grants," in which the teacher submits a one page request and we respond in 48 hours. We have funded thousands of classrooms, supporting science, math, and art curriculum as well as excursions and after school programs.  We created these teacher grant programs to meet the giving focus of private foundations we worked with, such as putting more science and arts resources into low-income classrooms.  We provide these foundations a new dimension for their giving, allowing them to do something they wouldn't be able to do.


Then we have Donor Venture Funds, where donors can hold money with PVF and also use us to help make their giving exciting and impactful. These funds are a depository with a high return on investment in terms of satisfaction. This is customized giving at its best, something which is not offered by commercial donor advised funds.  For these donors, we offer field trips to see outstanding human service programs firsthand and to meet committed people running these programs. 


Donors can tell us a social issue they are concerned about and we will present funding scenarios for discussion and then actuate the ideas. For example, when a donor was interested in bringing more young people into philanthropy, PVF started two fellowship programs for Stanford University students. So far 100 university students have participated and 8 former fellows are now full time in foundation work. Recently we have started four more fellowship at UC Berkeley modeled on our Stanford University philanthropy fellowships.

Participants of the New Roots Program in Pinole, a project supported by PVF Ambassador, Kathy Ahoy.  


Another form of fellowship is our Ambassador Program:  when we come across someone doing solo outstanding human service work in the community we set aside $10,000 for them to give out to other programs doing outstanding work. It is a lovely, modest way to recognize people, give them a vote of confidence, and to learn about effective grassroots programs.  Currently we are proud to partner with Ambassador Kathy Ahoy, a long-time public health nurse with Alameda County serving low-income immigrant populations.  Kathy Ahoy has deep roots in the community, and brings to our attention small but high-impact efforts such as the New Roots Program, an urban farm training program serving economically vulnerable refugees and asylees. 


PVF actively seeks out those doing valuable community work.  We are proud to work with donors who want to offer support that is off the beaten path.  Give us a try.  

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, President & CEO
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 President. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations in the U.S., 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, Executive Director
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.

Connect With Us 

We frequently meet with individuals operating at a grassroots level in an effort to learn about the current face of poverty. Earlier this summer, our staff sat down with three Alameda County employees to hear their stories. These employees work with Your Family Counts, a family support program for very low-income pregnant mothers and families with newborns. The program sends practitioners to the home to guide families through the parenting process and connect them to community services. The home visitor staff is multidisciplinary; they are community outreach workers, public nurses, infant feeding specialists, family counselors, and early childhood specialists. Needless to say, they are all well-equipped to provide a range of support to new more here!   

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

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