March 2016
Progress Newsletter
Ambassador Grants: Leveraging the Expertise of Community Members
by: Bill Somerville, Founder

Over the past 25 years, we have found that some individuals know their communities better than anyone and have very significant insights. These individuals are able to identify grassroots and critical needs within their communities that are not always visible to foundations.
When we find such people sometimes we ask them to be Ambassadors for our foundation. In a sense, they act as miniature foundations as they have the ability to make grants on PVF's behalf as needed. These Ambassadors practice compassionate philanthropy, which involves working directly with individuals, getting to know them, and finding out how the philanthropic dollar can help them.
PVF Ambassador, Kathy Ahoy, out in the community providing medical support.
One such PVF Ambassador is Kathy Ahoy, who has used her Ambassador Grant to support a range of community projects, from an Eritrean Asylum Seeker Assistance Fund to a refugee farming training program. As a retired public health nurse active in the immigrant community, Kathy founded Street Level Health Project, a nonprofit that aims to support the health needs of immigrant communities within the Bay Area. One of Street Level's initiatives includes street outreach, delivering food, and providing health screenings to day workers in Oakland. In the spirit of compassionate philanthropy, I recently joined Kathy on an outreach day.
At 8:30am on the morning of the food delivery, armed with a van carrying hot coffee, bananas, and oranges, we visited five locations where day workers gather. In addition to delivering food to the workers, Kathy took their pulse and heart rates, and pricked their fingers to check for diabetes. Health records are kept for the men, who range in age from 18-45 years.
"These Ambassadors practice compassionate philanthropy, which involves working directly with individuals, getting to know them, and finding out how the philanthropic dollar can help them." 

These day laborers are people who want to work and are willing to get up early and wait hopefully for a job of any kind. I asked one man what he hoped to make and he said $100 would be good but that doesn't always happen. Throughout the day I kept saying to myself, "This is the face of poverty in America." Kathy says, "There is so much to be done."
This type of grassroots work is exactly why we chose Kathy to represent our foundation as a PVF Ambassador. We recently selected another involved community member, Nancy Alvarez, to be a PVF Ambassador as well. For 15 years she has been a Parent Involvement Worker at an East Palo Alto middle school and just recently created a  program for mothers to be taken to the bookstore to get books to read to their children.
These Ambassadors have a unique ability to determine where small grants can have a big impact. Simple can be significant.
PVF's Founder, Bill Somerville, takes the blood pressure of a day worker.
When Reducing Opportunity Gaps Among 
Children, It's All Hands on Deck
Prioritizing learning as early as the age of three helps ensure children are Kindergarten-ready, and can have a positive impact that reverberates throughout the child's life. However, many families are unable to afford costly preschool education, which creates an opportunity gap between their children and the children whose families can afford to send them to preschool. This is a reality for many families in San Mateo County, where there is an ever-widening Inequality Gap.

Recognizing the need to address this opportunity gap, a bold social venture known as The Big Lift was formed to make early childhood education a reality for all within San Mateo County. This is accomplished by providing connected learning experiences for preschool to third grade-aged children, reducing chronic absence and summer learning loss, and encouraging families to support learning both in school and at more on our blog!

About the Editors

James Higa
James Higa, Executive Director, 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, Founder, 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.