Big or Small
by Bill Somerville, Founder

In grassroots funding, it often isn't the size of the grant that counts.

Recently, we granted $2,500 to a group of citizens who are turning the Albany Bulb (a dumpsite and growing pile of construction debris, scrap metal, and driftwood) into an art park and adventure playground, a space for people to play, creatively express themselves, and interact with nature. Our grant is their first support, giving them a jumpstart and fostering an enthusiasm that their project is possible.
Children playing at the Albany Bulb Art Park
On the other hand is Sister Christina Heltsley with the Saint Francis Center who just bought an apartment building for low-income families in Redwood City/Fair Oaks. She took a loan of $6 million (the first time ever for her to take a loan) to accomplish this project. By mid-July, we had raised $75,000 from PVF donors for the Saint Francis Center to help pay the loan.
The apartment building that Sister Christina bought, St. Leo's apartments, is for families with very low to extremely low incomes. This 15-unit building includes seven 3-bedroom units, seven 2-bedroom units, one studio, a community room, and study rooms.
  Then, as luck would have it, we invited a donor to see the work of Sister Christina, and it was so impressive to the donor that after the visit, she authorized a grant of $1 million to the Saint Francis Center.

We have found that when money (whether a large or a small amount) is given quickly when it is needed, it can have greater impact. To this end, we are known for a 48-hour turnaround in giving many of our grants.

For the last 17 years, PVF has given small public sector grants to teachers, juvenile court judges, and social workers. These are based on simple fax requests, and they are all processed within 48 hours. We are one of the few foundations that does this, and the grantees love the responsiveness of the programs.
"The ease of the program is so appealing - one page to apply, a check in two days, one-time follow-up report. The materials not only enrich the students' education, they give teachers needed inspiration to be creative and motivated." - Felisa Hoogendyk, Art Teacher
In some cases, we do paperless giving. When we know the person, have worked with them, and hear what their need is, we write up the idea and send that description and the check to the person for their approval and acceptance of the money. Size is not a factor in such giving. Big or small, trust allows us to go forward.
Where are James and Dawn? At 1951 Coffee Company
"1951 Coffee offers refugees the opportunity to find a job and engage with the community around them. Most other companies only look at your resume, references, and years of working in the United States. But refugees are starting from scratch, having to learning a new language, finding a home, community and jobs.... Every refugee deserves a chance to build a new life, and 1951 Coffee Company provides that opportunity."
-Batool from Syria, barista at 1951 Coffee Co.
Named after the year that the United Nations established guidelines for the protection of refugees, 1951 Coffee Company is a nonprofit specialty coffee organization that provides job training and employment to refugees and immigrants seeking asylum. It started with a barista training program, teaching new refugees how to make coffee and helping them find jobs in cafés, like Blue Bottle and Peet's Coffee. PVF provided the organization with funding last year to help expand their program and open a coffee shop in Berkeley, CA. Now in its sixth month of operation, 1951 Coffee Company's café provides graduates of their training program with real-life, hands-on experience in a retail setting.

PVF Executive Director James Higa and Chief Operating Officer Dawn Hawk recently met with Rachel Taber and Doug Hewitt, co-founders of 1951 Coffee Company, to hear about new developments and possible plans for further expansion.
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 founded Philanthropic Ventures Foundation where he serves as President. 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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