Matching grants support fellow community foundations

Matching grants support fellow community foundations
Photo: The Alliance of Community Foundations of Silicon Valley members Joe Eyre of Los Altos Community Foundation, Gary Byrne of Community Foundation for San Benito County, Michelle Fries of SVCF, Donna Pray of Gilroy Foundation, Cammie Vail of Palo Alto Community Fund and Erica Wood of SVCF

Did you know there are several community foundations within Silicon Valley in addition to SVCF? These smaller community foundations provide targeted, hands-on assistance to specific communities and under the umbrella of the Alliance of Community Foundations in Silicon Valley, they are are seeking new ways to collaborate with each other to strengthen our region. The alliance, managed by SVCF Director of Nonprofit Support Services Michelle Fries, includes Silicon Valley Community Foundation and more than half a dozen smaller foundations, serving regions stretching from the northern peninsula down to San Benito County. The group has met regularly since 2007 to network and share ideas and resources.

Recently, SVCF awarded matching grants of $20,000 to four local community foundations: the Community Foundation for San Benito County, the Los Altos Community Foundation, the Palo Alto Community Fund and the Gilroy Foundation. The Saratoga-Monte Sereno Community Foundation and the Morgan Hill Community Foundation both received smaller capacity-building grants through the same program.

According to Fries, these matching grants mark a shift in approach for SVCF, as the foundation re-focuses on local giving.

“We wanted to provide funds as a colleague community foundation. We trust their boards and leadership to know their communities best and to decide how the match can make the biggest difference,” Fries said. Given this flexibility, each of the four foundations utilized different approaches to meet the varying needs of the communities they serve.

  • Community Foundation for San Benito County: CFFSBC supports local nonprofits, primarily through a competitive re-granting program that it now holds twice a year, in addition to sponsoring San Benito GIVES, an annual giving day to help nonprofits raise money. This year, they used the grant from SVCF to match donations to San Benito GIVES, resulting in nine San Benito County nonprofits adding funds ranging from $400 to $15,000 to their endowments. A total of $209,000 was raised this year.

    “The nonprofits that participate think it’s a really successful event,” said Sharlene Van Rooy, marketing communications coordinator for the Community Foundation for San Benito County.
  • Los Altos Community Foundation: The Los Altos Community Foundation, which serves Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View, used its matching grant during its annual fundraising campaign. The goal was to expand the foundation’s fundraising base by matching gifts from new donors and incentivizing previous donors to increase the size of their gifts.

    This annual campaign funds LACF’s work, which includes local initiatives supporting civic engagement, youth philanthropy and building strong neighborhoods. The foundation also helps incubate new nonprofits and convenes donors to focus on specific initiatives.
  • Palo Alto Community Fund: The goal of the Palo Alto Community Fund is to channel charitable giving to organizations working in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and Menlo Park. The fund is using its matching grant to raise funds for a new award honoring David W. Mitchell, a longtime foundation board member and advisor. The Dave Mitchell Community Impact Award will be given in 2020 to a local nonprofit that represents his philanthropic interests.

    The $50,000 award will be much larger than the typical responsive grants the foundation gives out, said Cammie Vail, executive director of the Palo Alto Community Fund.
  • Gilroy Foundation: Originally, the Gilroy Foundation planned to use its matching grant to start an endowment for vocational career scholarships at Gavilan College, the local community college. After the tragic shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in July, the foundation shifted its focus to community recovery. The shooting also forced the Gilroy Foundation to cancel its annual fundraiser, so SVCF allowed the Gilroy Foundation to use its matching grant funds for operating expenses instead. Fortunately, the Gilroy Foundation received other donations for operating expenses following the shooting, and will still be able to designate part of the SVCF grant toward the intended original endowed scholarship fund.

    “We want to continue raising money for this scholarship,” said Donna Pray, executive director of the Gilroy Foundation. “We need people in the trades. Not everybody is meant to sit behind a desk or in front of a computer. Some people are meant to fix the computer.”

Just two miles away from SVCF's office, Joe Eyre, executive director of the Los Altos Community Foundation said that the nimbleness of the smaller foundations provides a nice complement to SVCF’s size.

“Silicon Valley Community Foundation is an extraordinary partner for us,” Eyre said. “With SVCF's help we can be the 'eyes and ears' on the ground in our communities, working with local nonprofits and donors to address needs and improve quality of life.”

After expanding beyond the original six members, the Alliance of Community Foundations of Silicon Valley hopes to double the number of partners by the end of 2020.

“This is the first activity where we are working differently with our partners,” Fries said. “We’re all in to engage with this group and we look forward to identifying new and different ways to support local giving.”