Philanthropic Ventures Foundation
November 2013

a newsletter for our donors and colleagues

About PVF

Symbiotic Relationships in Philanthropy

by: Bill Somerville, President & CEO 


If one looks at philanthropy carefully, one can see that the relationship between the giver and the receiver is symbiotic - a mutually beneficial association. In other words, we need each other.


The funder needs people doing significant things and the receiver needs funds to do these things.


Thus we can drop the terms recipient, grantee, and applicant, and substitute colleague because, in reality, it is a collegial relationship. This is to say, a co-equal relationship. Both parties are equally important.

Click above to watch Sister Christina of the Saint Francis Center speaking about her continued partnership with PVF.

This is the case with our work with Larry Purcell of the Catholic Worker Program and Sister Christina Heltsley of the Saint Francis Center. Or Suzanne Abel of Puente in Pescadero. There is a whole list of people we work with who we consider to be colleagues. 


With all this said, one realizes philanthropy is not "giving money away." It is finding outstanding people capable of doing outstanding work and investing in them. Philanthropy, we argue, is the timely investment of funds in leadership.


By timely investments, we mean "do it now". Give funds when they are needed. Don't have people wait. Many foundations say they give funds on a set schedule but in reality, the word "schedule" means "at our convenience." Philanthropic Ventures Foundation gives funds on a 48 hour turnaround basis and has done so for 20 years.  


Note that we said "funding leadership." Too often if a request for funds sounds compelling, exciting, worthy, it gets funded but it is nothing unless there is strong leadership involved. We urge: fund people, not paper.


Our job at PVF is to help people be successful in what they do. Their success is our job. The joy of our work is that our relationships with outstanding people evolves into friendships. We respect each other, we share our ups and downs, and philanthropy prospers.  


We invite you to join us to be a part of this process.

New Roots Garden Helps Resettled Refugees Plant their Roots


Kathy Ahoy knows a good project when she sees one. With decades of public health nursing experience under her belt, she has a unique ability to identify individuals and organizations working at the grassroots level to incite change. Because of this, we selected Kathy to be a PVF Ambassador, providing her with $10,000 to fund important grassroots initiatives on behalf of PVF.


It was through Kathy and her ambassadorship that we were introduced to the New Roots MicroProducer Academy, a project of the International Rescue Committee. The project works with resettled refugees to become farmers in their new communities. In Oakland, the New Roots training garden is located at Laney College, where refugees learn farming skills and how to sell produce. Participants can choose to graduate to the Pinole Farm, where they produce food at a larger level to feed the community.  


The New Roots project creates a bridge between resettled refugees and the local community through collaboration. For example, Laney horticulture students work side-by-side with New Roots participants to gain skills, and vegetables harvested at the community garden are given to Laney culinary students to practice their cooking skills.  


Having worked with many immigrants during her career as a public health nurse, Kathy often observed how quickly a person's health can plummet upon arriving in the U.S. The New Roots garden addresses this issue by promoting healthy eating among resettled refugees while also creating livelihood opportunities and forging a sense of community. It is for these reasons that Kathy elected to fund supplies for the project on behalf of PVF, in turn helping the New Roots garden and its gardeners thrive.  

PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and 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.

Help Support Computer Workshops
Help us send low-income students to the Computer History Museum for build-your-own computer workshops.

Students will learn how to use a credit card-sized single motherboard, developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, to build their own computer and explore basic computer science. These workshops plant the seeds for youth to take the first step towards a STEM field.

Read about our 1st computer-building pilot project here!

$5,000 will fund workshops for 10 low-income classrooms.

Contact Us

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Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, 1222 Preservation Park Way, Oakland CA 94612-1201
Telephone: (510) 645-1890  Fax: (510) 645-1892
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