Tackling the housing crisis through collective learning and philanthropy

SVCF 'donor circle' brings together philanthropists committed to a cause

As Silicon Valley faces an unprecedented housing crisis, a group of SVCF donors has come together to pool their resources and collaborate on philanthropic solutions through the Donor Circle for Safety Net: Housing at SVCF.

The donor circle, one of four at SVCF, is open to any SVCF donor, and provides a way for like-minded philanthropists to join together to have greater impact on specific causes.

Judy Mendelsohn, a longtime SVCF donor and one of the founding members of the Donor Circle for Safety Net: Housing, says that the donor circle helps her learn more about housing issues from guest speakers and experts.

“Housing is such an important and complex problem in the Bay Area,” Mendelsohn says, “and the donor circle provides a great way to hear from people working on many types of housing in different ways. The speakers at our meetings have been informative and inspiring.”

For Mendelsohn, being part of the donor circle is a way for her to take action on the lack of affordable housing, which she sees as not only a quality-of-life issue, but also a “humanitarian crisis.”

“The growing homeless population and shortages of workers for stores, restaurants and schools affect everyone who lives in the area,” she says. “Having no home, or constantly worrying about losing their home, puts an enormous strain on individuals and families, which takes a toll on their physical and emotional health – and particularly affects children and their ability to grow and learn.”

Making an impact through learning and grantmaking

Since 2015, the Donor Circle for Safety Net: Housing, has promoted and invested in policy, advocacy and civic engagement around housing issues in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in California. The circle works to understand the complexity of the issue through collective learning and leverages their resources to increase impact on vulnerable populations. SVCF helps facilitate the donor circle, and vets the organizations and projects the circle funds through grant awards.

This year, the Donor Circle for Safety Net: Housing members awarded their first round of grant funding:

  • The Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA) received $50,000 for their work to prevent homelessness in Mountain View, Calif. Mountain View has new protections in place that can keep longtime residents in affordable housing and in our community. Families need legal assistance to benefit from these new protections and remain in their homes. CLSEPA will use the funding to educate families about their legal rights and responsibilities, advocate on behalf of families, and help prevent families from becoming homeless.
  • Faith in Action Bay Area received $50,000 to support their “Accessory Dwelling Unit” project in East Palo Alto, Calif. Faith in Action Bay Area will work with residents and city council and staff to ensure the well­being of thousands of East Palo Alto residents by upgrading existing second units and garage conversions to healthy, safe and legal homes for low­income families and seniors.

The donor circle members meet every other month to collaborate, learn from guest speakers and discuss upcoming grant opportunities. The circle plans to award their second round of grants in summer 2018.

Donors who are interested in joining the circle are encouraged to contact SVCF staff at donorcircleforsafetynet@siliconvalleycf.org to get started.

Whether it’s working to change housing policies, build more housing or donate to organizations focused on housing issues, the circle is exploring solutions, Mendelsohn says.

“These are all ways to support change which will directly help individual families who need affordable housing,” she says, “and will indirectly improve quality of life for all of us who live here.”

For more information, visit the donor circle webpage, or contact SVCF staff at donorcircleforsafetynet@siliconvalleycf.org

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