The Big Lift, an effort to improve children’s literacy in San Mateo County. Last fall, staff in the Center for Early Learning got the exciting news that the program had been selected to receive a $7.5 million Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). With the help of the SIF grant, The Big Lift will address the troubling reality that in San Mateo County — one of the nation’s most affluent — 43 percent of third graders cannot read at grade level. Among Latino, African American and Pacific Islander third graders, the figure rises to a shocking 60 percent. Education experts agree that third-grade reading proficiency is one of the best predictors of students’ future academic achievement — so it’s imperative that we improve the earliest school experiences for these students. Read more at siliconvalleycf.org/thebiglift.
Longtime SVCF donor Bette Moorman has for years funded a community engagement program that was dear to her heart. Each year, Moorman sponsored over 40 field trips for students in San Mateo County public schools, sending hundreds of kids to museums or musical performances or on other outings in the San Francisco Bay Area. In many cases these students would be unable to afford such excursions on their own. Afterwards, the children create art, narrative or media projects of their own to demonstrate what the field trip meant to them.
Last year we were able to work with several major companies to facilitate their philanthropic efforts around specific causes. In one case there was literally a stage involved in the work we did, and a big one: the organizers of the Concert for Valor — HBO, Starbucks and Chase — turned to SVCF to process and administer donations that flowed in from a monumental Veterans Day concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. We were thrilled to be a part of such a huge, heartfelt effort both to recognize the contributions of our veterans and their families and to raise money to address their needs and improve their lives.
Another local solution is CONEC, an online tool to help nonprofits that offer legal services to Silicon Valley immigrants who are striving to assimilate and succeed. In creating this online volunteer-matching tool, SVCF worked with a network of 15 nonprofit organizations that offer an array of legal services to low-income immigrants, from guidance through the citizenship process to low-cost legal representation. CONEC allows aspiring volunteers to quickly match their skills, location and availability with the many needs of the nonprofit legal services groups. The tool fills a niche where no such tailored service existed. Government data indicate that there are at least 200,000 low-income immigrants living in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, many of whom need legal services. Anticipating that an eventual federal overhaul of immigration rules will result in even greater need, SVCF has focused a segment of our immigration-related grantmaking on strengthening the network of legal services available to these residents. View CONEC at www.conec.us.
Scholarships are vital tools for local students. In our annual efforts to nurture students on their path to higher education and careers, SVCF awarded nearly 400 scholarships totaling $1.7 million to students enrolled in high school, community college and university programs for the 2014-15 academic year. Awards came from 17 community foundation managed scholarship programs and more than two dozen donor involved scholarship programs.
Many of SVCF’s donors are focused on delivering tangible solutions and tools to help others. Terri Bullock is an SVCF donor and director of the Windrider Film Forum, Bay Area. Bullock, whose sister suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s disease, was moved by the Sundance Audience Award-winning documentary “Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory,” which showed how familiar music — especially music with personal significance — can help reawaken the brain and bring a smile to memory-impaired people. Terri screened the film locally through Windrider. With her sister’s death, she and her ex-husband, Henry Bullock, established a matching grant of $200,000 to help support the nonprofit Music & Memory, which brings personalized music to memory-impaired people, and fund more screenings of Alive Inside. The fund, called While We Wait, has a simple vision: “While we wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, we can help today.” Bullock says that in memory of her sister, she hopes to provide the gift of personalized music to as many memory-impaired people as possible across California.
SVCF’s collaboration with YourCause has simplified international charitable giving for thousands of employees across the U.S. and laid the groundwork for much wider expansion of philanthropy across foreign borders. In partnering with Texas-based YourCause, SVCF has approved a pre-qualified list of more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations around the world that can receive grants (and counting). We performed due diligence to ensure the organizations were equivalent to U.S. public charities. The organizations are now on a database of global charities that SVCF partner corporations and their employees can use to direct their international giving.
SVCF brought simplicity to international giving for those moved to help address the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen selected SVCF to process donations for his international Tackle Ebola fund. As the spread of the deadly disease accelerated last year, we were humbled to be involved in philanthropic solutions to address the crisis, and our expertise in international grant making made us a strong partner in this work. To read more about the #TackleEbola campaign, visit tackleebola.org.
SVCF worked with Glamour magazine on The Girl Project, a program to raise charitable funds to send girls around the world to school who could not otherwise afford it. We were proud to be selected as a trusted partner in this effort, and happy to know that we had again helped a nationally known company with its international philanthropy. To view the site, visit www.thegirlproject.com.
A highlight of last year came on December 2, when we co-hosted a historic convening of community foundation executives and government representatives at the White House. The gathering both celebrated the centennial of the first community foundation and explored ways in which these vital organizations — so closely connected to their home communities — can work with the federal government to address social and economic problems more fully.