History of Peninsula Community Foundation

Serving communities from Daly City to Mountain View and from the Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay, Peninsula Community Foundation connected people, ideas and resources for the common good for more than 40 years.

Established in 1964, Peninsula Community Foundation granted more than $1.1 billion to nonprofits locally, nationally and internationally and was the philanthropic partner to more than 750 families, individuals and corporations. From its inception, Peninsula Community Foundation was a trailblazer. It was the first community foundation in the country to establish a nonprofit resource center in 1977, and the first to establish a dedicated center for venture philanthropy in 1999. The foundation’s assets climbed from $60 million in 1992 to $612 million in 2006, including a $125 million endowment for the community.

Peninsula Community Foundation was founded as the San Mateo Foundation by Theodore “Ted” and Frances Lilienthal, a civic-minded couple who spent their lives working with a variety of community organizations in the Bay Area. Toward the end of Mrs. Lilienthal's life, the couple sought a way to continue their support of the community as a symbol of their commitment to solving regional issues. The result was the creation of a permanent trust to ensure their charitable work would continue in perpetuity.

The first gifts received by the foundation came in the form of memorial contributions to the Frances B. Lilienthal Fund in 1964. That same year, San Mateo County contributed what was left from its fund to provide the Salk polio vaccine to the community. The foundation’s first executive director, Bill Somerville, was hired in 1974. In 1984, the organization was renamed Peninsula Community Foundation to reflect the larger Peninsula and Silicon Valley.

Peninsula Community Foundation’s second longtime president, Sterling Speirn, led the organization during a period of explosive growth from 1992 to 2005. Under Speirn’s leadership, the foundation launched the Peninsula Partnership for Children, Youth and Families in 1993 and the Center for Venture Philanthropy in 1999. During his tenure, the organization grew from five employees to a staff of 59 and distributed more than $500 million in grants.

Over the years, Peninsula Community Foundation helped hundreds of local individuals, families and corporations to realize strategic and effective charitable giving. Through its endowment, the foundation awarded approximately $6.5 million annually to local and regional nonprofit agencies. By partnering with community-based organizations and concerned community members to improve our collective quality of life, Peninsula Community Foundation helped to promote innovative solutions that engaged the diversity of our region and brought promise to communities spanning the Peninsula and Silicon Valley.