Why People Give
by Bill Somerville, Founder

Having spent over 45 years in nonprofit and philanthropic work and during that time working with committed people, both donors and staff, I thought it would be interesting to ask people why they give.

When you think about it, we have two things to give: our time and our money. Both are acts of generosity and concern for others. Both are what makes our democracy what it is, a place of grace

I asked various donors to the foundation if they would share why they give, and their responses are as follows. All the responders are mature adults, both men and women.
  • "We give because we have been blessed by accidents of birthplace and of opportunities, and with that comes an obligation to help those who are less fortunate."
  • "My family was always helping people less fortunate and my late husband too, who in particular believed in the importance of education."
  • "I give because everything I have is a gift from God to share with others."
  • "We are committed to quality education and to fighting poverty in our midst. Being involved with organizations where we can make a difference, both with our time as well as with our grants, we recognize exceptional leaders in the community and fund their projects."
  • "I was blessed to have very generous parents who cared both about their community and the larger world. They taught me the joy of sharing your resources with those who work hard every day to make the world a better place."
  • "Every good thing I have done in my life has been done through the grace of the Holy Spirit.  My entire life has been full of a conspiracy of coincidences (some painful and some most joyful) that I call divine providence."
  • "My late husband's family found itself deprived of much; later, having become a successful businessman, he remembered the hard times and how he found people willing to trust him and help him, [so he] started his giving to the less fortunate, and I have continued on his steps ever since. It is such a privilege and pleasure to realize that you can make a difference in people's lives!"
Ceramics art project at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 in San Francisco, reflecting the school community's diversity, empathy, and unity, funded by Visiting Artist in the Classroom grant
We are proud to partner with our donors to make the world a better place through creative and responsive grantmaking.
Where's Sheryl? Finding a Local Hero
by Sheryl Young, San Mateo County Program Director

"We didn't have much, but every Sunday, my dad took us out for ice cream cones, and we would fight over who got the little one for a nickel or the BIG one for a dime," Michael Scott chuckled as he shared his humble and simple beginnings with me.

Over 40 years later, Michael retired as one of the earliest most successful entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Then, he started his next career and became just as successful as in his first one -- as a local hero.

Writing a check from his own bank account and urging his friends to do the same, he created Coastside Hospitality . I asked him, "Why?"

His reply was simple: "Rather than get involved with causes somewhere else, I wanted to help those in my own neighborhood."
Michael Scott with Coastside Hospitality staff, Daisy Woods and Lucy Fernandez
(photo from Coastside Hospitality)
About the Editors
James Higa
James Higa, Executive Director, brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley, working with Steve Jobs to change the face of technology. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and was deeply involved in the creation of many products and services at Apple over 3 decades. He has a long history of public service as a board member of Stanford's Haas Center and in grassroots relief efforts.
Bill Somerville, Founder, has been in non-profit and philanthropic work for over 50 years. He was the director of a community foundation for 17 years, and in 1991, he founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation. Bill has consulted at over 400 community foundations, on creative grantmaking and foundation operations. Bill is the author of  Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker
About PVF
PVF is a demonstration foundation practicing unique forms of grantmaking and innovative philanthropy. Our primary interest is in the creative and significant use of the philanthropic dollar.
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