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

Friday, May 05, 2006

When Community Foundations Merge Do Nonprofits Win?

Tags: , , , ,

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the Community Foundation Silicon Valley (CFSV) and the Peninsula Community Foundation (PCF) appear to be headed for a merger. This would create one of the largest community foundations in the nation, and is being promoted as way of bringing additional resources to "struggling nonprofits."

Both are excellent organizations that I have had the privilege and pleasure to work with and get to know over the years as both a funder as a partner on various projects. Still, I question whether or not this will result in a "one-plus-one-equals-three" situation, as suggested by Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. I fear that it could just as easily result in one plus one equaling less than two.

The idea is that the power and size of the new, combined organization would attract more donations, which would come down to nonprofits in increased grants. That's a great concept on paper, and - if the merger goes through - I hope that they're right.

Unfortunately, however, I fear that turf wars could have just as strong of a negative effect. Both community foundations are very strongly identified with their communities, as should be the case. While there is definitely some geographic overlap between the Peninsula and Silicon Valley, I believe that donors have strong feelings about whether they are part of a community centered in San Mateo or one centered in San Jose.

Re-settling the new foundation in Palo Alto might calm some of that turf battle - or not, as is evidenced by David Vossbrink, spokesman for San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, being sure to point out that, "We're the largest city in the region." San Jose has long been the self-declared "capital of the Silicon Valley." Losing a major community foundation to "the suburbs" of Palo Alto or any rival further north is not something that they will take lightly. I'm sure some in San Mateo feel the same about their resources heading south.

At this point a merger is not the only possible result of the discussions. Closer collaboration, joint programming, and sharing of resources could accomplish a lot of the positive results that they are looking for without taking anything away from the community identity that each foundation has worked so hard for over the past half-century.

Are any readers of this blog familiar with other community foundation mergers? What were the results? Did the local nonprofits benefit? Let me know your thoughts, as well as any suggestions for items to post here. The email link is at the bottom of the page.


  1. Looking to merge with another non-profit 30-50 miles away-posting to see if I get a responce before I go into details.

  2. Hi Carann - Go ahead and post the details (if it doesn't violate any confidentiality agreements).

    These stories are always interesting and informative to the other readers of the blog.