What is your connection to the Community Foundation of the Valleys and the Economic Alliance, and how long have you been in the Valley?
I’ve lived in the Valley for 63 years. My wife and I have been in our home for more than 30 years so we have a good long history in this valley. I worked both for the CBS television network and for Mary Taylor Moore’s company. So I worked much of my early entertainment industry career here in the Valley.
What interested you in philanthropy, philanthropic nonprofits?
I got involved because the Northridge earthquake devastated our studio facility, literally shutting down stages and our administration building. That’s how I got connected to the Valley Economic Alliance. Both Mayor Reardon, and an Encino civic leader Fred Adelson asked me to help with a strategic plan for what would become the Valley Economic Alliance, bringing different organizations together to help the region recover from the Northridge earthquake.
Our studio got sold. I was available, and the other leaders in the community asked me to step in and be the first President and CEO of this Economic Alliance. I agreed to do it for a year and ended up doing it for about five years. It gave me an opportunity to meet extraordinary civic leaders in the valley through the years.
One person I met was Marianne Haver Hill, who was running MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity) in the Northeast Valley. It was an extraordinary social service safety net organization that provided food, health services, dental services, and career services. I began to support MEND and later, hired Marianne to help us county-wide when I was CEO of the LAEDC. She ran Propel LA, which was a county wide economic mobility initiative to create better jobs, train people, and help build more livable communities. Through my friendship with Marianne, I learned about the Community Foundation of the Valleys.
Our Community Foundation is a relatively young and considerably under-resourced institution for a valley our size. We’re a region of about 1.8 million people, which makes us larger than many cities in the nation like Houston and San Antonio and San Diego, all of which have much larger community foundations funded with many millions of dollars. CFV has just hundreds of thousands of dollars in comparison.
I wanted to do my part by establishing a donor advised fund and beginning to make a series of contributions to and through the Community Foundation because I recognize how much need and opportunity there is. This is an extraordinary place with a very diverse population, some of whom have been very advantaged as I have been. I grew up in a very stable household with loving parents and never had a concern about shelter or food or clothes. My parents taught me at a young age, something that I think was originally in the Bible and later, publicly quoted by John F. Kennedy, which is “much is expected from those to whom much has been given”. I’d been given a lot, and therefore a lot has been expected of me.
What are the unique challenges of valley giving and how can we overcome them?
I think one of the unique challenges of San Fernando Valley giving is that we don’t have a well established Community Foundation, the way the larger Los Angeles area has with the California Community Foundation or the Silicon Valley has with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Those foundations are wonderful funnels for moving wealth from those who have it to those who need it.
They have donor advised funds, where donors will provide advice and direction on where they want their charitable giving to go within the regions served by those community foundations. Conversely, the foundations themselves often advise their donors at the donors’ request. For example, CEOs like Antonia Hernandez at the California Community Foundation are not shy about telling their donors that we need to work on digital equity to ensure everyone has affordable access to high speed reliable broadband, or that we need immigrant integration. We have a million undocumented immigrants living in Los Angeles County, and we need to find ways to connect them to education and economic opportunity and make them full participating members of our society.
We lack that size and scale at the Community Foundation of the Valleys. So each of our nonprofits has to solicit funds on their own. Many of the people who operate businesses in the valley live on the other side of the hill in Brentwood or the Palisades or Bel Air or Beverly Hills. So, much of their giving is focused south of Mulholland where they may be focused on the needs of South Los Angeles or East Los Angeles or southeast Los Angeles cities. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been that same awareness of the tremendous needs and opportunities in the San Fernando Valley.
We have hundreds of thousands of people in the valley who really struggle to put food on the table, keep a roof over their head, provide a good education for their children, maintain a job, and maintain their housing. As a result, we have 10,000 people in the San Fernando Valley alone who are experiencing homelessness. We really need to raise the awareness of the philanthropic public.
Whether it’s individuals of high net worth who are philanthropically inclined or whether it’s individuals at any income level who willing to donate charitably, or whether it’s a corporate entity or a philanthropic foundation, I don’t think the same awareness exists of the needs in the San Fernando Valley, particularly the central and the northeast areas of the valley.
I think the Community Foundation can be a wonderful vehicle for raising awareness of where the needs and opportunities are. At the same time, we have wonderful nonprofit institutions, wonderful community-based organizations, some of them very modestly funded and staffed with a budget of just a few hundred thousand dollars, which really prevents them from doing any meaningful marketing or communications. We need to broaden the awareness of their important work.
What are your hopes for the Community Foundation of the Valleys going forward?
I would really love to see the Community Foundation grow dramatically, I would really love to see those of us who can make commitments to give annually to and through the foundation to do so.
Those of us who have had the privilege of growing up here, whether we went to public schools or private schools, whether we went to community hospitals or large chain hospitals for our births and for our health care, we have benefited from these institutions. I think we should not only take pride in that and be grateful for that, but give back to ensure that the next generations can have a similar experience. This also includes safety nets when we slip or when we fall, as any of us can and many of us do. I think a campaign that would really focus on valley giving and valley institutions would be wonderful to see. I think the Community Foundation of the Valleys is the right entity to lead that campaign and I call upon all my friends and colleagues who are so generous and so engaged and such stewards of this region to really answer the call when asked by Marianne and the team to step up and help build the endowment of this foundation. Let’s answer the call.