Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Follow-up: When Community Foundations Merge

Back in May, I first wrote about the impending merger of the Peninsula Community Foundation and Community Foundation Silicon Valley. At the time I expressed some skepticism regarding the result. I feared that it could result in a 1+1=1.5 situation, with fewer nonprofit organizations sharing in slightly larger grants.

I said this because I truly admire and appreciate both foundations as they've been. Despite the size of each, they've always managed to remain very grounded in the communities, and very responsive to and approachable by the grassroots nonprofits. It was this quality that I did not want to see get lost in a much larger organization.

So, I've been watching the process... and I have to report back that I am pleased with the direction they've been taking, and the care they've shown in bringing the communities along.

Some weeks back they sent an email to their constituents asking them to fill in an online survey regarding the merger and community needs. I, of course, gladly filled it out, and repeated my concerns - and was grateful for the opportunity.

Then was the announcement of the new CEO for the new, merged foundation (to be called the Silicon Valley Community Foundation), Dr. Emmett Carson. Dr. Carson is formerly of the Minneapolis Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation - an impressive resume demonstrating community commitment and activism wherever his assignments have taken him.

This week there have been community meetings to share the results of the survey (over 200 responses) and to introduce Dr. Carson. I attended last evenings event and was quite pleased with the results.

The survey results showed that I was not alone in my concerns. "Loss of personal touch" and "growing bureaucracy" topped the apprehensions list. Beyond simply acknowledging that this was a concern, they expressed agreement that these values were important to them as well.

When I had the opportunity to address Dr. Carson during the question and answer segment, I said:
We look to different types of funders to fill different needs. We look to the Knight Foundation (John Williams from Knight was a few seats to my right) for a few, large dollar grants, specifically targeted to have an impact in their national focus areas. We look to the United Way (Mark Walker of UWSV was in the next row) to fund the human services backbone of the community. What we've always appreciated about each of the community foundations locally is that they filled in all the gaps: they were approachable by all.

What I'd like to see from the new, larger foundation, is not larger grants. Small to medium-sized grants are great. As economies of scale are achieved by combining back-ends, what I'd like to see grow is the number of grantees. I want the community foundation to continue to be approachable by all nonprofits, no matter what issue area they work in, no matter how small they are, and no matter how new they are. I don't want anybody to feel shut out by this new creation.
Dr. Carson listened respectfully (as did Peter Hero, of CFSV, and the others) and agreed. His response was that he did not object to larger grants where warranted (and all agreed), but that his focus was on funding the best ideas. These best ideas could come from any organization, large or small, new or established. "If you have a good idea, I want to hear it."

From the rest of the conversation and answers during the evening, I believe he will be approachable and eager to listen. Dr. Carson will be a great addition to the community. I wish him well and am looking forward to witnessing his leadership of the foundation. He officially starts on November 1. I'm feeling much better now, thank you.

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