My sense is that among San Diego Grantmakers members, like philanthropic organizations everywhere, there will be many different paths suggested, and many different paths followed.

A charitable corporation, for example, might focus on increasing employee volunteer programs and matching employee gifts, a family foundation could decide to give more to a particular nonprofit they care about deeply to focus their more limited dollars, a community foundation can assess and make donor recommendations about the most challenging local needs.

Though we do not have any major, staffed foundations with significant assets headquartered in San Diego, it is interesting to note the variance that occurs in their strategies now as well. Gates, Ford, and Carnegie-like institutions often set the tone for the “field” of philanthropy. Right here in California for example, we can compare the recent approaches of The Hewlett Foundation and The Weingart Foundation.

The Hewlett Foundation “makes long-term commitments to solve serious social and environmental problems worldwide, and work to support disadvantaged communities and enhance cultural life in the Bay Area.” A special page on their website now says —”while many extremely good organizations will be rightly paying attention to the immediate problems that the current economic troubles have caused, we recognize the need to keep sight of long-term goals. This economic crisis eventually will recede, but the long-term problems many of us seek to address will remain.”

The Weingart Foundation on the other hand is a responsive grantmaker that works in underserved communities in Southern California. As a result of the downturn they have changed their normal grant guidelines from primarily granting capital and program support to providing “core support” — unrestricted funding that allows a nonprofit to pursue its mission, including basic programs and administrative costs — especially “for established and well-managed health and human service organizations that have been significantly impacted by the financial crisis and economic recession.”

When it comes to the big picture of effective philanthropy these days — it is not either/or; it is both/and.

— NANCY JAMISON

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