Philanthropic Ventures Foundation            Progress Newsletter  -  April 2014
Philanthropic Ventures Foundation
as an Agent of Change

by: Bill Somerville, President & CEO  


PVF has been in the vanguard in its work. Over the years, we have consulted at 400 foundations in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. on creative grantmaking. We have published over 80 bulletins relating to effective foundation work, and we are willing to try new approaches to philanthropy such as 48 hour turnaround in giving grants and minimizing the application process to the point of paperless giving. 


PVF provided funding to A.L.A.S. to support their cultural dance programs on the Coastside.

We customize giving by finding people doing outstanding work for donors to choose from. An example would be Belinda Arriaga, a social worker on the Coastside who created dance ensembles for children of farmworkers and also involving parents. She started this program, A.L.A.S., with her own money, and it grew into a project that also educates families about immigration issues and helps to strengthen the community.    


The donor who wanted PVF to "do something for teachers" actually started our teacher grant program, wherein teachers merely send us a one-page request and we give a grant in 48 hours. So far we have given out close to $7 million to teachers in small grants over the past 12 years for math materials, arts supplies, excursions, after school programs, visiting artists, and special education resources.      


A donor challenged us to get low-income parents involved in their children's education and we did. PVF hired and trained low-income women to work in an East Palo Alto middle school. The principal now states: "I couldn't run the school without them." These women are change agents, and their own lives have changed as well.    

In this video, grantee Sister Christina Heltsley of the Saint Francis Center, discusses her continued partnership with PVF.
A change agent brings about change. Hopefully, change implies doing things better. Change also means taking a risk, and we are willing to do just that. Take Sister Monica, an expert on mosquitos at UC Berkeley. Many years ago PVF provided her with the seedfunding needed to start a program in Fair Oaks serving the poor with food, clothing, and housing. This effort has grown into the Saint Francis Center, which holds 41 units of low-income housing, serves hundreds with food and clothing distribution, and includes a school and gymnasium.

There is no better role for philanthropy then as an agent of change. We are the entrpreneurial dollar of society. If donors want to see change, they might consider using PVF as their agent.


We believe - start small, think big, act quickly. This is what PVF does.  

Nutritious Breakfasts Support EPA Students' Learning

The following guest post by Lauren Finzer, Regional Partnership Manager of Revolution Foods, discusses how a small grant from PVF made a big impact in feeding healthy breakfasts to students.


Middle schoolers are rarely quiet, but the first few minutes of Ashley Baker's class at Aspire East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy (EPAPA) are the quietest all day. Her seventh graders are busy munching on whole-grain bars as they concentrate on the first task of the day: watching and analyzing a recent news clip.


Before last spring, few of Baker's students had a healthy breakfast every morning. Many skipped breakfast entirely. Others started the day with only "junk food" such as a sugary Starbucks drink or at best a packet of Cheetos. Baker and other teachers would use their own scarce funds to buy snacks from Costco or Safeway to keep in the classroom for students who felt nauseous or lightheaded from hunger.


Last spring, Baker got frustrated and became determined to find a lasting solution, especially during high-stakes testing periods. She learned that nationwide, a best practice for ensuring that students start the day well-nourished and ready to learn is to serve them a healthy breakfast in the first few minutes of more here!   


About PVF
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
James Higa
Executive Director
Bill Somerville

James Higa brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley, working with 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 products and services at Apple over 3 decades. He has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts.
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, on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker.

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