Grantmaking With An Impact
Ellen Clear Eleanor Glass Clement

Ellen Clear, Vice President, Grantmaking (Left)
Eleanor Clement Glass, Chief Donor Engagement and Giving Officer (Right)

A Q&A with Eleanor Clement Glass, Chief Donor Engagement and Giving Officer and Ellen Clear, Vice President, Grantmaking

Announced in September 2008, the community foundation’s grantmaking strategies focus on five key areas: economic security, education, immigrant integration, regional planning and a community opportunity fund that has focused on safety-net needs. Eleanor Clement Glass and Ellen Clear reflected on the impact of our grantmaking over the past two years in a conversation with communications associate Denise Bridges.

Can you share some of the ways that the community foundation’s grants are having an impact in our key strategic areas?

Ellen: We’ve completed one full cycle where we’ve had all our grantees report back from the first round of grants awarded in 2009.

In terms of immigrant integration, we know that our first-year grants for immigrant legal services resulted in an average 30 percent increase in the number of nonprofit legal consultations provided within the two counties and that the average waiting time for clients was cut from five weeks to three weeks.

We just received a message from Greg Lippman at Ace Charter School, an education grantee that serves very low-income students. Their (state) test scores came back with 57% of students scoring proficient or advanced in 7th grade pre-algebra. That was a significant increase. Greg told us, “These proficiency numbers in 7th grade put us in a very good position to meet our eighth grade proficiency goals….Middle school algebra proficiency is a reasonable goal for all students.”

What methods is the grantmaking team using to stay current with the work of grantees and the challenges they face?

Eleanor: The grantees who are doing similar work are brought together in learning cohorts to talk about what’s going on in their programs and what challenges they’re facing. Then they’re often able to advance their work together or advance the work of the field. For example, the immigrant legal services cohort is using a new technology platform to share challenges and experiences. They were able to draw on the experience of other legal services providers that they were getting to know through the cohort.

Ellen: There is one grantee cohort per sub-strategy, nine altogether, and they typically meet two to four times a year. The grantee cohorts benefit the grantees in terms of sharing best practices and learning from and with one another. And it’s a two-way street: grantees share information with us that helps us refine our strategies while we’re able to share information with grantees that is useful to their work. We have definitely involved grantees to help develop the outcomes and indicators of success in each area.

What role has the community foundation played in offering people in our region an opportunity to help when a crisis occurs?

Ellen: I would say one thing that I’ve learned repeatedly is the importance of speed in providing a vehicle for people to participate. I think that was true of the Safety Net fund, which was announced relatively early in the recession and, yes, we offered a $1 million matching challenge grant, but it was really an opportunity for people to join in being able to help their community. And I think that really resonates with people.

With our Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund early this year, it was wonderful that we were able to open a fund quickly when it was so top-of-mind because of the horrible images of the earthquake victims coming from Haiti. You look at the fact that the community foundation got a credit card donation from Peru as well as gifts from local school children who raised money, and all of those donors were able to add their contribution to the Haiti Fund to make a significant impact.

For me, it’s important to share the opportunity to help when a crisis hits. We have been very successful at responding quickly to provide a vehicle for people to contribute.

We were one of the first foundations in the Bay Area to provide new or additional targeted safety net funding in response to the failing economy during the fall of 2008. We’ve been able to continue funding food and shelter needs as the recession, unfortunately, has proved to be very resilient. Since our safety net work began in 2008, we have awarded more than $5.8 million in grants to safety-net organizations.

Were there other unique features of our safety net support?

Eleanor: The County of San Mateo County formed a partnership with us where they added funds and participated with us in a joint grantmaking process. Part of being a comprehensive center for philanthropy is asking, “Can we be of help in having money flow where it needs to?”

The community foundation also sponsored a Food and Shelter Summit; out of that came advocacy for legislative change around food stamp criteria, an example of public policy and advocacy as another tool in the community foundation’s toolkit.

How else has the community foundation’s grantmaking addressed increasing needs during the recession?

Eleanor: In addition to food and shelter, we found that foreclosure prevention counseling was also critical at a time in the recession when people needed support to understand their best alternative to their foreclosure situations.

Ellen: What hadn’t been as apparent to us in the beginning was the fact that so many renters were going to be affected. They had paid their rent on time and yet received eviction notices because the owner of the property had been foreclosed upon. Some of our grantees work to support tenants’ rights for adequate time to make arrangements and not be out on the streets immediately.

On September 9, a neighborhood in San Bruno was devastated by a gas-line explosion. What was the community foundation’s role?

Eleanor: When a devastating event such as this affects community members in our region, the community foundation responds quickly. The day after the explosion occurred, we had a program officer on site to meet with government officials and others working the phones to assess the needs of the San Bruno community. The San Bruno Fire Fund was created that same day with an initial $100,000 matching challenge. In total, the community foundation has received more than $460,000 in donations, which will help us assist nonprofits that are working in San Bruno.

Ellen: To date, we have awarded more than $65,000 in grants for additional counseling and for free insurance claim support. We’ll continue to evaluate and award grants to the nonprofits and programs providing services to the impacted San Bruno residents.

(For an up-to-date list of grantees visit www.siliconvalleycf.org/san-bruno-fire-fund.html)

What do you enjoy most about working with nonprofit leaders and their organizations?

Ellen: I enjoy seeing the talent and passion of nonprofit leaders. They work very hard to help people in need.

Eleanor: One of the most inspirational things is working with the trusted leaders of various diverse communities here in Silicon Valley. I enjoy the way nonprofit leaders are innovating their programs and services to address particular community needs. As issues are illuminated by the work of our grantees, our role is supporting them in their important work. I think that’s what I look forward to every day - being able to help them help their communities because they know their communities the best.

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