Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer, SVCF CEO Nicole Taylor, Fair Count and Fair Fight founder and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams, and Californians for Justice Organizing Director Rosa De León discussing civic engagement during a webinar in August 2020. SVCF has been regularly hosting educational webinars to spark critical conversations about current events.
As I write this, there are more than 25 major wildfires still burning in California, including those in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. My heart goes out to the thousands of families that have been forced to evacuate from their homes, to the farmworkers who are braving hazardous air to put food on America’s tables, and to our unhoused neighbors who may have no safe place to shelter from recent heat waves and smoke. On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exert its health and economic tolls.
In many ways, our work has not changed; responding to crises and disasters has always been embedded within the DNA of community foundations. But recent events have made it painfully obvious that the world’s catastrophes are heavily impacting some more than others, further exposing the stark social inequities and the racial injustices that pervade our society.
As we continue to address multiple crises, I wanted to update you on the work of SVCF over the past several months.
Wildfires response updates
In response to the CZU and SCU fires that erupted a few weeks ago in our region, SVCF quickly set up a Wildfire Relief Fund, which provides emergency grants to local nonprofits that are working to help those affected by the fires. I am proud to report that in the first two and a half weeks, we raised $1.2 million, and counting. That’s significant – though we have a long way to go. Officials have said that this is the worst wildfire season in our state’s history, and the reality is that we have not entered official wildfire season yet.
Right now, SVCF is focused on supporting organizations working on immediate response and relief efforts; we can only hope that firefighters will gain the upper hand soon, and that we can begin focusing on rebuilding and recovery for all those who have been affected. Learn more about our fund and contribute here.
COVID-19 response updates
Since early February, SVCF has been working to raise funds to support those facing hardships because of the pandemic. Our fundraising has enabled organizations to provide food assistance to about 562,000 residents in 10 Bay Area counties, and housing support to more than 26,000 households. Through our Regional Nonprofit Emergency Fund, we’ve supported more than 350 nonprofit organizations working on the front lines to help those facing difficult circumstances. I am proud to report that, thanks to the generosity of our donors, SVCF has granted $200 million to support COVID-19 related causes. You can learn more and support our various funds here.
Pursuing equity and racial justice, in recovery and beyond
COVID-19 and the renewed calls for racial justice have catapulted us into living out our new strategic plan, which calls for us to place equity squarely at the center of our work. While we have been concentrating on response to crises and disasters, we have also been planning for how we can rebuild and reshape our communities to be more equitable and inclusive for everyone.
Over the last few months, I served as co-chair for the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable, a group of cross-sector leaders who joined together to examine how we can rebuild and reimagine a better Silicon Valley. Gina Dalma, SVCF’s executive vice president of community action, policy and strategy, joined me in ensuring that we brought a lens of equity and racial justice to all of the conversations. We both recognized that we carried the immense privilege and responsibility of bringing to the table the voices of those who couldn’t be in the room, which was especially important given that the recommendations being forged could impact so many people’s lives in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. After 100 days of planning, the Roundtable released a roadmap for “Building a Better Future” to prepare our communities for recovery.
SVCF’s commitment to pursuing racial justice extends to our daily work. Recently, we established a grants program that focuses on organizations led by people of color, launched a President’s Community Advisory Council that elevates the voices of community leaders of color, and stood up a giving guide that supports Black-led organizations in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. To date, donors have provided more than $3 million to the organizations listed in that guide and an additional $4 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
The road ahead
That the current crises have disproportionately harmed certain groups – low-income families, communities of color and undocumented residents — is a direct result of the fragile safety nets and the racist policies and systems that have been baked into our society. We know that returning to “normal” is not an option, and that we must rebuild back better to ensure long-term stability and resilience for all members of our communities. Civic engagement is critical at times like these: completing the census and exercising our right to vote in the upcoming election are steps that we can each take.
I am heartened by so many generous people, organizations and companies in our region who have stepped up to help our neighbors in need. There is no sugarcoating it: this year has been hard. But I have been continually inspired by the resilience of our communities. And it is during these trying times that I feel incredible purpose and privilege in my role leading Silicon Valley Community Foundation. I thank you for your support as we confront these times together and plan for the future.
The need is continuing to grow each day. Please continue your generosity and consider giving more to support the following: