Write Yourself a Permission Slip
Bill recently took Sean Stannard-Stockton (left) and Shilpa Andalkar (right), PVF's investment managers from Ensemble Capital, on a day of site visits throughout East Palo Alto. Shilpa recounted their experience for us in a guest Progress Newsletter below. 
Sean Stannard-Stockton and I recently visited East Palo Alto with Bill Somerville as part of a PVF "field trip". The last field trip I took, I'm sure my parents signed a "permission slip". I never thought I'd be participating in a field trip as part of my role as a wealth manager at Ensemble Capital.
My early career was in the non-profit space, helping to lead action for clean air and water in California. My interest in how the private sector can also spur action led to analyzing stock and bond investments from the angle of environmental and social impacts. Here, I realized that an individual's financial health is built upon many decisions in addition to their investment portfolio. I now help in these decisions through comprehensive financial planning.  When I learned Ensemble Capital has a specialty in serving philanthropic and non-profit clients, I felt I had encountered a special and like-minded wealth management firm.
Our first meeting of the field trip with Nancy Alvarez (pictured right),  Sister T, and Maria Lozano emphasized the importance of women's empowerment in breaking out of poverty. I wanted to continue sitting with them at the Rosalie Rendu Center for hours, hearing about their journeys and the individuals they've impacted through their education programs. It reminded me that my grandmothers in India had a 7th grade education at most and therefore studies were continually underscored by my elders. As a child of immigrants, I no doubt recognize the fortunes I have today due to education.  When we get to learn about even one initiative, each of us then has knowledge to pass on to our fellows.
After leaving the Rosalie Rendu Center, it was time to visit Project WeHOPE and Pastor Paul Bains, Co-Founder and President. When we arrived, Pastor Bains was just finishing a meeting with Reverend Ken Chambers, sharing his learnings on bringing similar homeless shelter programs to the Reverend's West Oakland community. I'm a resident of Oakland, and was heartened to be shown the multiplying factor of successful local programs where I don't reside coming to influence the place I do. 
Lastly, Bill took us to the East Palo Alto Boys and Girls Clubhouse where we talked with the Director Remi Sobomehin. Our chat left a strong impression with me, as this was where we learned from Remi that the types of stresses EPA youth face need attention and focus at a young age. Working with teenagers, he said, can be overdue as traumas are already strongly embedded in their mental and emotional outlook. He spoke passionately about his focus on enriching child's minds and showing them their options through after-school education programs at the clubhouse. I also noted his reference to the "broken window theory" and ensuring that the children are provided high quality materials, facilities and equipment at the clubhouse, which is what I observed.
Often, our important professional and personal commitments  override opportunities to hear about what is happening to help  our communities.
 We get to community efforts "sometime" or plan for it in retirement. Bill Somerville's and PVF's encouragement to go to the places we want to support and get to know the people there was truly eye-opening in understanding an impactful way to participate now. The EPA I had grown up hearing about was the place across the bridge and from which to steer clear. The EPA I got to know briefly that Friday afternoon is a place of committed, engaged and humble leaders rooted in making a difference at pivotal points in citizen's lives.
I encourage us all to write ourselves that "permission slip." Take a field trip and get to know the people and work behind the organizations and issues we would like to support. For ideas on where to start, we can talk with leaders at our community foundation, like PVF, and other public charity leaders we admire.
"We love our jobs and we're here to support you!"
This is the message I communicated at the  AFP Silicon Valley Chapter April meeting in Cupertino to a room full of 90 enthusiastic members, all development staff from peninsula nonprofits. Panelists at the April 16th meeting included Cheryl Chang, Program Officer for  Sunlight Giving, Stephen Wahl, Community Health and Benefit Manager at  Kaiser Permanente, along with Sheryl Young, and was moderated by Sarah Poulain, Executive Director of  Family Connections.
Insights on emerging philanthropic trends in our Valley and how nonprofits can build stronger relationships with funders was discussed.  This dialogue and open exchange of ideas and advice emphasized the importance of trust and building relationships to develop successful partnerships.  Conversations that are fluid, mutual, dynamic and open are the key to strengthening this vibrant sector.
Together we can learn from each other to tackle the inequality gap and make this a better community for everyone.  We are impressed with the leadership of Josh Selo, President and Vinnie Arora, Program Director of AFP - and know they are changing the landscape to expand opportunities for a healthy and thriving community.
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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