November 2015
Progress Newsletter
Compassionate Philanthropy
by: Bill Somerville, Founder

Compassionate philanthropy is when funders get personally involved in the work in which they are funding. This means being people-oriented as opposed to funding categories and abstract ideas such as poverty, education, etc. This is why PVF has always emphasized working directly with people on the ground who are creating change.   

Recently a donor expressed admiration for our foundation's giving to programs helping disadvantaged people and he gave $25,000 with the hope that it could be given out in the usual compassionate manner in which the foundation works.

We contacted our grassroots partners, people we know, trust, and admire for their social welfare work, and we asked them for funding ideas of immediate needs. This is what they came up with:
  • Stanford University gives abandoned bikes to the Multicultural Institute in Redwood City for day workers. Trouble is, they work from dawn to dusk and need bicycle lights for safety and locks for security. Thus, we gave the Multicultural Institute $2,000 to buy bicycle lights and locks for 50 day workers. This will allow them to travel home from work safely and work without fear of their modes of transportation being stolen.
  • Larry Purcell of the Catholic Worker House 
    Photo credit: Martin Klimek
    Thanksgiving and Christmas are honored occasions for many in the U.S., but not everyone can participate.
    Catholic Worker House, which serves a large number of poor people in Redwood City, recommended giving 150 families $20 food vouchers at Thanksgiving and 150 families $20 food vouchers at Christmas. $6,000 was given to Catholic Worker House to distribute these vouchers, which allows for happy families and full stomachs during the holidays.
  • Sister Christina of the St. Francis Center
    Saint Francis Center in Redwood City operates a school in which the criterion forselection is choosing families with the lowest incomes. It's noteworthy that this school brings non-English speaking Kindergarten children to the 80th percentile of reading in English in 18 months. Now they are ready for the third grade and we are providing an $8,400 grant so iPads can take the place of heavy books.
  • Jill Vialet, who founded Playworks, is launching a new initiative called Substantial to recruit, train, and support substitute teachers with an emphasis on older individuals. Stanford University's Institute of Design is involved in this unique effort, which benefits both seniors with time to give as well as schools in need of qualified substitute teachers. An initial training focusing on a new approach to recruitment will be held in January for 60 people. Videotaping the training programs was funded at $2,500.
  • Sister Trinitas Hernandez of the Rosalie Rendu Center
    An emergency is something that needs attention now. When you are low income, the magnitude is intensified when there is an emergency. Small amounts of money can often take care of the emergency, but one needs to be on the ground to identify these emergencies and the best person is the neighborhood poverty worker. Thus, we are giving $5,000 to Sister Trinitas Hernandez of the Rosalie Rendu Center, who has served the poor for her entire adult life. This grant will allow her to give out small emergency funds where it is needed most.
These are examples of compassionate philanthropy, in which a donor chose to invest in specific projects at the grassroots level. If you would like to engage in compassionate and customized philanthropy like this, please join us
Providing Quick and Focused Aid 
to the People of Nepal 

by: Duncan Beardsley, PVF board member and Director of Generosity in Action

On April 26, 2015, a magnitude 8.6 earthquake impacted Nepal. Within hours, Generosity in Action - a Designated Fund at Philanthropic Ventures Foundation - was working with Mountain Travel Sobek - a travel operator who has taken over 5,000 adventure travelers to Nepal - to set up a program to aid the people of Nepal.

Generosity in Action was able to quickly set up a web page with news about the earthquake and information on how to make donations that would be targeted for those areas in Nepal that were along the hiking route of the travelers. By nightfall Kevin Callaghan, President of Mountain Travel Sobek (MTS), had sent an email to all past travelers, and within 24 hours donations were flowing in more on our blog!

About the Editors

James Higa
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.

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.