The Silicon Valley Community Foundation Seeks to Do Things Differently

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Silicon Valley Community Foundation Seeks to Do Things Differently

From the start, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation sought to do things differently. Its mission, which Carson calls a “radical departure” from the way other community foundations operate, is emblazoned on the wall right outside of Carson’s office, and says that its goal is to “partner with donors to strengthen the common good locally and throughout the world.”

Many top community foundations focus on large and concentrated metropolitan areas that have cohesive nonprofit ecosystems. That was the case with the Minneapolis Foundation, which Carson previously led. But when he got to Silicon Valley, he said he encountered a very different situation at a new foundation aiming to work across nine counties that includes dozens of communities.

What’s more, said Carson, some of the region’s biggest challenges—especially housing and transportation—aren’t easily solved through grantmaking. Rather, he said, “systemic change happens” through shifts in public policy.
That view has led SVCF to put a lot of energy into policy advocacy, far more than is typical for most community foundations, claimed Carson. It keeps a staffer in Sacramento to push its agenda in California’s capital and has worked with professional lobbyists. It’s been part of a number of coalitions aimed at making policy change, either state-wide or regionally….


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