Investing in our collective future: Nicole Taylor’s Regional Meeting update

Investing in our collective future: Nicole Taylor’s Regional Meeting update

The following was adapted from SVCF President and CEO Nicole Taylor’s update at the 2019 Regional Meeting on Nov. 13 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

Thank you to joining us here today, and thank you to Jose Antonio Vargas and Damian Trujillo for that inspiring conversation. The importance of civic participation cannot be overstated. 

Jose's story resonated with me because I am the daughter of an immigrant. My story is that my mother came here from Jamaica and worked as a domestic. Growing up, she impressed upon me that as a woman of color, I would need to work twice as hard just to be seen. I couldn’t just be good, I had to be one of the best. Luckily, that drive to succeed led to me attending Stanford, which opened a lot of doors for me. And now, after a few years working in Arizona, I’m back in Silicon Valley. In Arizona people always said, “We want to be like Silicon Valley,” but I’d warn them that it is a tale of two cities. It is because of this connection to this local community and this region that I am honored to be serving as the foundation’s CEO.

I just finished 10 months in my role. We launched our strategic planning effort at the end of summer, and it will conclude in April. While we have been doing this critical work, we have kept our foot on the gas in terms of our efforts in local communities, and our partnerships with donors, clients and other foundations and nonprofits.

I’d like to share some of our other recent accomplishments, and speak with you about the path forward.

As a community foundation, we have a dual mission: service to our donors to help them have greatest impact, and responsibility to support vital and sustainable communities in our two counties. Over the past year, we have doubled down on both these two critical prongs of our mission.

In 2018, through SVCF our donors directed $1.4 billion in grants to nonprofit organizations. Over $500 million of that went to Bay Area nonprofit organizations – supporting causes ranging from arts and education to safety-net services. It is our generous donors that make this all possible. Because of them, we have become the largest funder of Bay Area nonprofits. We are very, very thankful for our donors' generosity.

Donors like those involved in The Women Giving Opportunity (WomenGO), one of our five donor circles. WomenGO has awarded more than $1 million to support low-income women and girls in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties through education, job training and leadership development.

Or donors like Kelly Younger, whose giving focuses on social justice and immigration, as well as a scholarship fund for Menlo-Atherton High School.

I am pleased to report that we’ve raised over $2.6 million to fund census outreach efforts in the Bay Area and $1.7 million for our two counties. Many of our donors and local foundations have been active in our census campaign, and scores of local organizations represented by many people in this room are getting the message out already. An accurate count translates to billions of dollars from the federal government for our state and to representation in Congress.

Why is all of this work important? Despite an economy that is the envy of people across the world – our systems haven’t met the needs of all of our residents. Too many are struggling to stay housed. Too many are driving hours to their jobs. And too many are being pushed out and either leaving our region or ending up on our streets. How do we join together, across economic, racial and political divisions to develop solutions that will raise us up together?

That’s why we are focused on deepening the connection between our community and donors. We cannot make the kind of changes we need without engaging more deeply with both donors and community leaders, as well as our local governments. But what does that really mean?

We have a few examples. First, housing.

Earlier this year we hosted our first Community Connections Forum, where community leaders shared their perspectives with donors on why so many of our local residents can’t find or stay in homes they can afford, as well as potential solutions.

It means committing $1 million to collaborations like the Partnership for the Bay’s Future – corporations, government and philanthropy – working together to protect homes for 175,000 people and produce more than 8,000 homes over the next five to 10 years!

It means supporting Destination: Home's successful solutions like finding permanent homes for 1,600 homeless veterans, and leading an effort to prevent those living on the brink of homelessness stay housed.

Then there is education and early learning. We have a deep partnership with San Mateo County and the San Mateo County Deptartment of Education on The Big Lift, which this past summer served 3,000 early elementary students. The four-week-long Inspiring Summers program provides these scholars with the opportunity to read, do science and art projects, go on field trips, learn yoga, and helps them advance 1-2 months in reading skills! Thank you to Supervisor Carole Groom and Superintendent Nancy Magee for your leadership on this important initiative. We're also excited to be having conversations with Santa Clara County leaders about what we can do collectvely to ensure all children are ready for school.

And then there are our new community leadership partnerships. I’m excited about our team reconnecting with local leaders of color. We are partnering with an effort led by the East Bay Community Foundation to support ASCEND: BLO, – an initiative to strengthen Black-led organizations. We hosted the first ever meeting here in Silicon Valley. We are also reaching out to the Black Leadership Kitchen Cabinet, La Raza Roundtable and the Asian Pacific Islander Justice Coalition as well as other leaders of color across the region. Walter Wilson is here – and is keeping us honest about our engagement and partnership!

We also have been able to assist our regional sister foundations. When the terrible shooting happened in July at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the Gilroy Foundation was overwhelmed by the outpouring of donations. We offered to administer a charitable fund to benefit the victims – and executive director Donna Pray and her team accepted our offer. It’s gratifying to know that the majority of the $1.7 million raised has now been distributed to victims and their families.

We have also increased our reach into northern San Mateo County. In response to surging evictions before a protective state law kicks in, SVCF voiced our support to Daly City’s mayor and city council for an emergency ordinance protecting renters sponsored by a trio of community organizations – Faith in Action, Youth Leadership Institute and Urban Habitat. The ordinance not only passed with unanimous support, but now is being replicated and passed in other Silicon Valley cities.

And I want to give a special notice to our donors and community leaders joining us today. I want you to know that we are serious about recommitting to you. We are reconstructing our teams with new leadership and I hope you’ve had a chance to meet our new heads of Finance and Operations, Legal Affairs, Business Development and Fundraising, Donor Engagement, Corporate Responsibility, Human Resources, and IT.

We also want our donors to know that we are committed to connecting you to our local communities. We can introduce you to other donors with similar interests, connect you with community solutions, and offer curated portfolios of the organizations addressing the issues you care about. We are committed to making our transactional work with you as smooth and efficient as possible, and to help your philanthropy become transformational.

In closing, I want to thank each and every one of you for coming today. We have an extraordinary opportunity to build together a stronger, more vibrant region. We can deploy this region’s spirit of innovation and ingenuity to create a new model for inclusive, vital and sustainable communities. I invite you to join us, to create and to invest in our collective future.

Before you leave, please watch this incredible video on the census -- featuring the voices of our staff -- on why the census is so important to all of us here at SVCF. Thank you!