Author Archives: Pam David

  1. In Memory of Mayor Ed Lee

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    Today, I am thinking about Mayor Ed Lee, a longtime colleague, who died early yesterday morning.

    I worked for three of San Francisco’s mayors. Ed Lee worked for four of them before he became one himself. He wasn’t a politician, nor a particularly good public speaker — and I know he was often frustrated that the public couldn’t see or know how hard he was working.

    San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

    But I knew. And what I never doubted about Ed was his heart, which is ironic, as heart failure is what has taken him from us too soon.

    Ed Lee was a true believer in public service, in solving problems — from the Human Rights Commission to Public Works to Chief Administrator to the Mayor’s office, nobody knew more about the inner workings of this city — and no one cared more about the health of the city than Ed.

    The last meeting I was in with Ed was a convening of the executive council of HOPE SF, our city’s big and bold initiative to ensure public housing residents stay at the center of rebuilding and reconnecting their neighborhoods to the City’s social and economic mainstream. Ed had a personal connection to HOPE SF, having grown up in public housing — and he talked about staying connected to the initiative after he left office.

    I intend to ensure its success in honor of his legacy of service to the city we call home.

    So much of my and my colleagues’ work at the Walter & Elise Haas Fund requires partnership with different parts of the “official” City — from Human Services to the School District to the Arts Commission to Housing and Community Development. Ed helped improve these partnerships, providing leadership and resources as needed. I will forever be grateful.

    His memory is a blessing.

    Many throughout the City and community are rightfully also taking this moment to share their memories of Mayor Ed Lee. I encourage you to read the thoughts and reminiscences posted on the Nothern California Grantmakers site and join me and the rest of Walter & Elise Haas Fund staff and board in honoring Ed Lee.

  2. No Hate SF: Voices & Funds Raised Against Extremism

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    The United States is again confronting a surge of hateful extremism. Whether this movements’ adherents call themselves the alt-right, Klanspeople, neo-Nazis — or whether they simply decline to repudiate those espousing bigotry and peddling fear — San Francisco stands united against them.

    Hate is not welcome here.

    An extremist rally is scheduled to take place on Crissy Field this Saturday, August 26. In response, long-time activist, Cleve Jones, has partnered with Horizons Foundation to create a new fund, No Hate SF. This fund aims to counter extremist rhetoric with raised voices and raised funds.

    Today, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund joins three other Bay Area foundations — The San Francisco Foundation, the Hellman Foundation, and the Rosenberg Foundation — in announcing donations of $10,000.00 each to help launch No Hate SF.

    We are just four of many other individuals and philanthropic organizations who are taking a stand against hate in the Bay Area. All contributions will be divided equally between local and national organizations that counter extremist views with a compelling message of diversity and equality. Benefitting organizations are: Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund (DREDF), Friendship House/Association of American Indians of San Francisco, La Raza Community Resource Center, Muslim Advocates, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Planned Parenthood, San Francisco NAACP, San Francisco Jewish Community Center, San Francisco LGBT Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Transgender Law Center.

    Jones says:

    These uninvited and unwelcomed guests are coming to the city of Saint Francis as part of a larger strategy to divide our country. But we will not be divided. There is no place for this kind of hatred in our city. Let’s transform their evil energy into money that will be used to defend the communities they seek to attack.

    We join Cleve in encouraging you to respond to hatred both by donating to No Hate SF and by taking part in one of the non-confrontational, non-violent counter-protests organized for this weekend.

    Stay safe. Stay together.


  3. On the Passing of Board of Trustees President William S. Goldman


    It is with great sorrow that the Walter & Elise Haas Fund mourns the loss of its board president, William S. ‘Bill’ Goldman.

    Bill, the great-grandson of Walter and Elise Haas, died in a plane crash on Thursday, July 13th. Out of deep respect for him and all the members of the Goldman and Haas families, our offices will be closed today, July 14th.

    Bill Goldman was an integral part of the Fund, upholding a family tradition of which he was most proud. His loss is shocking and tragic. Bill was a wonderful human being — smart and funny and committed to his family and his community. The Fund and all connected with it are diminished by his passing.

    His work and his love will continue to inspire us. Our hearts go out to his family.

    Bill Goldman had served on the board of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund since 2006 and he recently assumed the role of Board President. He also served on the boards of the New Israel Fund and the Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation. Bill taught international studies at the University of San Francisco as an Assistant Professor. He is survived by his wife and two children, who remain in our thoughts.



  4. Promises Made and Promises Kept Through HOPE SF

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    Minority Leader, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

    Elected officials who have provided critical support to HOPE SF, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Mayor Ed Lee, joined tenant leader Lottie Titus, HOPE SF director Theo Miller, and San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell in speaking from the small podium. Blackwell, who when working for the City was part of crafting the HOPE SF vision and strategy, poignantly noted that this event did not mark the end point for HOPE SF and Hunters View residents. It was instead, he said, a launching point for the hard work still to come — building a healthy mixed-income community in which residents are fully connected to their neighborhood and to the City’s economic, cultural, and social life.

    San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee

    I, too, have been a part of HOPE SF since its inception. I also have a long history of working in Bayview and with public housing residents during my years as a community organizer and at the Mayor’s Office of Community Development. I am proud that the Walter & Elise Haas Fund has been a long-term supporter of this initiative. Because of this, it was profoundly moving for me to be able to see the contrast between the old and the new during the festivities — the horrid and dangerous World War II-era barracks and the newly constructed housing units, easily mistaken for some of the $1+ million condos that have risen in SOMA and Mission Bay.

    It was also moving to hear residents and speakers talk of the many promises made to public housing families over the years – and of the importance of having this promise of new, safe, healthy housing kept. This same promise is being kept at the other HOPE SF sites. Alice Griffith, Potrero, and the city’s largest public housing project, Sunnydale, are all at various stages of progress.

    Tenant leader Lottie Titus and HOPE SF Director Theo Miller

    It’s not easy to keep either the public or private sector focused on a 20+ year anti-poverty initiative such as HOPE SF. Nor is there a clear roadmap; HOPE SF’s evaluators have pointed out the dismal track record of other cities that have replaced public housing with mixed-income communities. None have done so by ensuring that existing public housing residents remain the center of the transformation. Thus, other so-called revitalization efforts have either relocated most of the original residents away from the new housing, or created separate but unequal housing that marginalizes residents physically and socially.

    Though HOPE SF’s ambitions go beyond providing safe and healthy housing, completing the move into the new units represents a significant milestone. The Hunters View families, like those at the other HOPE SF sites, have had to endure decades of failed programs and broken promises. Completing this new housing is a necessary precondition of being able to break through the deep mistrust public housing residents have rightfully had in government and its partners. Halfway through HOPE SF’s 20-year arc, the delivery of new housing means that public housing residents can begin to see and shape a different future for themselves and their whole community.

    There is still a long way to go. Real change is a messy process and it takes time. But I am proud of what has been achieved and confident that all of HOPE SF’s partners — the residents, the affordable housing organizations, local government, philanthropy, and community organizations – will continue to realize the values and dreams that underpin this ambitious work.

  5. Philanthropy in the Age of Trump: Not Business as Usual


    Since the election, I’ve read a number of spot-on commentaries about what the Trump presidency means for philanthropy. A lot have focused on the need to rebuild civil society, noting the polarization of the US populace along lines of race and class and geography. Others have focused on Trump’s cabinet nominees, several of whom have now been confirmed, and what it means for many of the issues in which philanthropy is actively engaged, from education to immigration to climate change. But, I have found few commentaries that address whether and how these new conditions require philanthropy to actually change the way it operates.

    We have become accustomed in philanthropy to be measured and careful and thoughtful. We have hired brilliant staff and consultants to craft and implement programs and strategies, evidence-based and accompanied by detailed theories of change. But, as smart as we are, we have not yet broken out of the need to each have our own strategy, our own processes, our own self-imposed silos. And, as a sector we remain risk aversive, and too far removed from the urgency many of our grantees and constituents face or the accountability they deserve.

    I’m not decrying the importance of being reality-based and using data well (particularly when the new administration denies the existence of facts, and has coined the term “alternative facts” for complete lies and fabrications). But this new reality requires us to look at our own assumptions and grantmaking practices and see what we may have to change in order to stay relevant and effective. And, we cannot do that in a vacuum – we need to get or stay close to the ground, listen to what our grantees and their constituents and allies are telling us about the impact of this administration’s policy directives, and be open and willing to move beyond our tightly crafted program guidelines as necessary.

    Here are four initial thoughts on how philanthropy needs to change:

    1. Create funds dedicated to rapid response. In just the first week of the Trump administration, each new executive order, press conference, and missive have come as body blows, challenging what many of us saw as shared American values, denigrating the press and elected officials who challenge the White House’s version of reality, and frightening citizens here and nations across the globe.

    We need to have funds able to be quickly deployed to support those on the frontlines (and kudos to those already doing this). The immediate need may be for lawyers at our airports – or counselors to support terrified refugee children in our schools. Or it might be to help our mosques, Jewish community centers and LGBTQ organizations protect themselves against hate and violence.

    Our program guidelines might not talk about legal services or community organizing or providing security– but examine your foundation’s values and its history to determine where you want to stand in these difficult times. If we work smartly and together, each of our contributions for rapid response does not have to be large – but we cannot subject it to our normal grantmaking processes and timing.

    2. Examine our current programs and strategies in light of what’s real and achievable and what’s not in this political climate. It is likely that some of the things we thought were highest priority or feasible 3 or 6 months ago are no longer. And, for those organizations we currently support, let’s make sure our funding is flexible – and supports their sustainability.

    Delivering resources via general operating funds that allow grantees flexibility, as opposed to very tightly targeted program dollars, gives our stretched nonprofits the ability to navigate in this rapidly changing environment.

    3. Expand our investment in nonprofit and community leadership. We’re now engaged in a long-term struggle for the soul of our country – for democratic practice, for democratic institutions – for diversity, equity, and inclusion. That struggle needs great leaders with the skills and resiliency to endure the twists and turns in front of us. They need to connect to each other, build off each other’s strengths, and link issues, movements, and people.

    Philanthropy has done some very promising leadership support work. Levi Strauss Foundation’s Pioneers in Justice, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund’s Flexible Leadership Awards, the O2 Initiatives, and the Durfee Foundation’s range of leadership initiatives have all made important contributions– but there’s much more to be done. We need more leadership programs to support existing leaders, develop new leadership, and most importantly, connect these leaders to each other in meaningful ways.

    4. Finally, we need to pay more attention to building the network of progressive communities of faith. Part of the challenge in this next period is a conversation about values, about morality, about civic responsibility and accountability to each other. The progressive faith communities are well positioned to lead that conversation with great credibility and resonance.

    I’ve seen the power of this work in relation to LGBTQ issues; Minnesota’s faith community, for example, was instrumental in defeating an anti-marriage equality initiative several years ago. And, they are allies with the broader nonprofit community in the fight to keep clear separation between church and state. Yet, very few philanthropic funders have paid sustained attention to these faith organizations, their work on the ground, and their networks.

    The events of the past few weeks have dispelled the notion that a Trump presidency would be benign.

    We are being confronted with what may well be seismic shifts in the role of the federal government, and the impact could have profound impact on state and local governments and our beloved communities. For decades, many foundations have counted on being able to rely on and leverage aspects of a broad social contract that has, while imperfect and insufficient, provided some semblance of a safety net for millions of Americans in need. Yet, the Trump administration appears set on dismantling or belittling many of the pillars of the federal system on which we have depended, and with which philanthropy is accustomed to working.

    The safety net will be further shredded if the administration punishes sanctuary cities by withholding federal funds, or cuts off funding to universities if displeased with demonstrators. It is unconscionable for us to stay in our foundation bubbles and not examine our priorities and processes in light of these changes. We are being called by these times to engage in different and new ways, even if it causes us discomfort. Business must be anything but usual going forward.


    An edited version of this piece will appear shortly in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.


  6. Behind the Scenes: Philanthropy’s Role in San Francisco’s Successful Local Hire Policy

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    It is welcome news to hear of the resounding success of San Francisco’s five year old Local Hire policy, which mandates that city residents account for at least 30% of hires on publicly-funded projects. This law is creating access to good-paying unionized construction jobs, and benefitting many minority and women workers who have faced systemic impediments to entering the building trades. And, as the Brightline Defense Project reports, recently released data shows that the 201 construction projects subject to the Local Hire law since 2013 have actually exceeded the mandated goal, hitting a 45 percent local hire rate. (This story was also covered on the San Francisco Examiner’s front page.)

    This law came about as the result of smart activism in the community, along with leadership from local elected officials, including then-Mayor Gavin Newsom and the legislation’s author, Supervisor John Avalos. Several local funders, including the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, provided modest financial support for local community organizations, such as Brightline, at key junctures during and after the law’s passage.

    The success of getting this legislation enacted is a great example of the role local philanthropy can play as an intermediary, not just a funder, in addressing thorny and important community issues. Here’s what happened behind the scenes:  Before the law was introduced, senior staff in the Mayor’s office asked for my help organizing and mediating a conversation between labor, developers, City Hall, and community leaders. The request was, in part, based on my history of having shaped the City’s first local hiring policies nearly 20 years ago, as well as my knowledge of the issues, people, and politics involved.

    But, just as important, was that the parties involved saw philanthropy generally — and the Walter & Elise Haas Fund specifically — as a legitimate intermediary. As a result, a series of facilitated conversations unfolded that found common ground and clarified the key areas of disagreement.

    This process didn’t end with everyone holding hands and singing Kumbaya, but it did elevate the political discourse. Shortly thereafter, the legislation was passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and signed into law by Mayor Newsom.  Now other cities are following suit, using San Francisco’s Local Hire legislation as their model. We’re gratified to have been part of this successful collaborative effort that is providing access and economic opportunity for so many.

    Brightline Defense Local Hire

  7. Open hGrant: The Little Plug-in for Philanthropy’s Big Data

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    The Walter & Elise Haas Fund’s overall mission is to foster a healthy, just, and vibrant society. We’ve mostly carried out that mission through grantmaking and leadership in our various fields of interest. But, recently, we found a new, and unlikely, way to advance our mission – through the development of a piece of open-source software, Open hGrant for WordPress.

    Like many foundations, we operate our own proprietary system for recording, tracking, and publishing grants. Even when we want to share this information, which you can see from our Glass Pockets profile, doing so is a technical challenge. Different formats and structures make standardizing years of data a costly burden. Grantmaking data exist, but remains practically difficult to access and assess, much less share.

    As a medium sized, locally focused foundation, we operate knowing that we can’t be effective unless we have great partners – to align our funding with, grant to, and learn from. Yet, the idiosyncratic nature of grants databases is an obstacle to forming truly strategic partnerships.

    Imagine our surprise when, in the process of updating our website, we found ourselves with an intriguing opportunity to address this problem for us and for the wider philanthropic community. What if there was a data system that was machine-readable by leading open data initiatives — such as the Foundation Center’s hGrant technical specification — and could do more than just publish our grantmaking to our website? What if it could report any philanthropy’s grantmaking in a way that creates opportunities to collect, catalog, map, and analyze giving? Many of us talk about increasing transparency, but this, potentially, is something more. This is about using transparency to foster effective collaboration, strategic planning, and engagement across the philanthropic sector.

    Working together with the Foundation Center and with Mission Minded, we have developed an open-source, free solution that any grantmaking entity can use to make its grantmaking data searchable, publishable, sharable, and fully accessible. Open hGrant for WordPress lets grantmakers of all sizes and types publish giving data to the web in a standardized format that can be automatically shared with the Foundation Center, and be reflected in its suite of tools, such as the Reporting Commitment.

    Open hGrant for WordPress is now available for free download. You can see it in action on the Fund’s own Recent Grantmaking pages. As we continue to develop it — with the help of The Foundation Center, Mission Minded, and our grantmaker peers — we look forward to encouraging wider participation in open data initiatives, driving collaboration and real collective impact, and ultimately boosting our capacity to further our missions.

  8. Nonprofits talking tax policy? Why might we do that?

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    I recently spent the day with colleagues and nonprofit leaders at the CalNonprofits Annual Convention, sharing the stage in a plenary discussion with fellow foundation CEOs on the topic of What Should Philanthropy Be Doing Better?

    While there I was excited to see a new toolkit in action, the product of a three year collaboration between CompassPoint, the Building Movement Project and Kim Klein that teaches nonprofits how to have meaningful and fun conversations about nonprofits and the common good, and the role of fair and just tax policy in making their work more mission-effective. The Fund has proudly supported this work since 2010. Check out the project website:

    NPTT-logo-4cNonprofits talking tax policy?
    Why might we do that?

    Kim points in this post to years of government cutbacks taking a toll on the ability of nonprofits to serve their communities. Though nonprofits funded by government grants have responded by seeking money from foundations, corporations, and individuals, according to Kim:

    …the math simply couldn’t work: there is not enough money in the foundation and corporate community, or even from the vast number of individuals who make annual donations, to pay for all that they always paid for AND pick up all that the government no longer paid for.

    Kim notes that for the most part, nonprofit organizations did not fight these government cuts, or, if they did, they fought for their own funding but not for the principle that government has a role to play in providing funding.

    But we also saw a more fundamental problem, which was that, by and large, nonprofit staff did not really have any opinions about the role of taxes and government funding. You can’t express an opinion you haven’t formed. Some staff felt that tax policy was too complicated to understand, or too difficult to change. Some staff felt that there were no good solutions, but most were too busy trying to keep up with their increasing workloads to think much of anything.

    We set out to change that.

    Check out the toolkit which has everything you need to begin a conversation in your organization or coalition. In the coming years, CompassPoint will integrate “Nonprofits Talking Taxes” into their ongoing educational and support work with the nonprofit community.

  9. Grantees in the News: HOPE SF and the Walking School Bus

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    The Chron ran Lois Kazakoff’s article about the Walking School Bus on November 29th.

    The article does a great job of describing one of the innovative programs HOPE SF has launched to address safety and increase school attendance of kids in public housing on Potrero Hill. We’re very proud how this project engages and supports resident leadership in a very simple and low cost way, with good results so far – for both the kids and the adults.  It’s also a good example of how the City and the housing developer (in this case, BRIDGE Housing) has started working with residents way in advance of the actual housing construction.

    The Fund is supporting HOPE SF through a grant to the Northern California office of Enterprise Community Partners which supports the stakeholders involved in the HOPE SF public/private partnership, and the Campaign for Hope SF.

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