Q&A with Donna Pray: Gilroy Foundation leader reflects on the Nonprofit Investment Partners program

Through its Nonprofit Investment Program, SVCF helps more than 80 nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions. NPIP supports its partners through a set of services, chief among them being investment management. For organizations that choose to establish a nonprofit fund, SVCF manages the assets and reserves to ensure the partner organization can continue to serve the community for years to come.

“We help nonprofit organizations steward their assets, and SVCF’s investment portfolio and expertise is a real advantage to our partners,” said Michelle Fries, director of the Nonprofit Investment Program at SVCF. “In addition, we offer other best-practice support that extends beyond investments, and we provide regular opportunities for participants to learn and network.”

Donna Pray
Donna Pray
Executive Director
Gilroy Foundation

In the Q&A below, SVCF spoke with Donna Pray, executive director of the Gilroy Foundation, about her perspectives on both the important work done by her organization and how the community foundation she leads has benefited from participating in SVCF’s Nonprofit Investment Program for many years.

SVCF: Tell us about the work of Gilroy Foundation. What are you most proud of in terms of serving the community?

Donna Pray: The Gilroy Foundation, which was started in 1980, has created a conduit between our residents’ philanthropic goals and the community’s needs. With grants and scholarships combined, Gilroy Foundation has moved over $7.5 million to where it can do the most good. Our vision is to mobilize public and private financial support in order to grow our endowment and facilitate pass-through funding.

Our goal is to become widely known as Gilroy’s foremost charity and problem-solving resource. We want to foster unity and cooperation between the Foundation and other grant-giving organizations. And, finally, our heart lies in allowing philanthropy to make a real difference in people’s lives.

How did the Gilroy Foundation begin working with SVCF? Has this partnership evolved over time?

In 1983, the foundation’s board of director’s voted to affiliate with the Community Foundation of Santa Clara County (one of the two community foundations that merged in 2007 to become SVCF). The board hoped the association would provide highly qualified administrative services, financial resource management and assistance in community needs assessment. The relationship has not only met those goals, but has brought many other benefits to the Gilroy community. The educational opportunities for Gilroy Foundation members and staff have been well utilized, and SVCF has been instrumental in our growth through example and referrals.

How has the Nonprofit Investment Partner program supported and/or benefited the Gilroy Foundation?

The obvious benefit of our affiliation is the investment management services. Our endowment has grown not only because of donations, but because of the growth of our investments. Gilroy Foundation knew that to be stewards of our community’s “savings account,” it needed to have that money in the safest and most capable hands.  SVCF has provided that.

Another benefit is the networking system we call the “City Affiliates.” This is a small group of foundations in Santa Clara County cities that meet together three or four times a year to share ideas, challenges and successes.

Can you share an example of an experience that was especially valuable?

When our nation experienced an economic downturn in 2008, SVCF’s investment team was there to come to one of our board meetings and report on investment strategies to our members. The face-to-face meeting gave our board members the comfort of knowing our small percentage of SVCF-managed funds were considered equally important. The representatives were knowledgeable and open to all questions.

What would you say to other nonprofits considering being part of the Nonprofit Investment Partners?

I would highly recommend that any nonprofit that is looking for a smart, successful investment strategy and support for their various departments – including donor engagement, grantmaking and scholarship procedures – should not hesitate to get in touch with SVCF to learn how to become a Nonprofit Investment Partner.

Anything else you’d like to share?

One of the things I appreciate most is the accessibility of SVCF’s staff. If I have a concern or a development question, whether by email or phone, I can always count on a timely response from staff!