How Funding PSOs Can Drive Sector Change

A Call to Action

For more than half a decade, Philanthropy Northwest, Northern California Grantmakers, Southern California Grantmakers and Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties have been the recipients of unprecedented support from one foundation that saw value in regional philanthropy-serving organizations (PSOs). That partner is the Satterberg Foundation. In the years since this infusion began, we’ve often chatted about how this relationship has changed us and how we need to tell its story. We represent what sustained investment in philanthropic infrastructure can create: nimble, risk-tolerant, growth-oriented organizations with the capacity to lead our sector and region toward greater engagement, accountability and equity. The investment set us up to quickly pivot support to our communities during the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism. This experience demonstrates the larger changes taking place in foundations who, increasingly, seek true partnership with grantees versus an oversight relationship. We especially appreciate Satterberg’s humble, no-nonsense attitude. No traditional reports. No proposals! They expected us to share what we learned, not prove a set of benchmarks. This trust allows us to breathe and imagine with abandon.

We expanded programs and created new ones, hired staff and consultants and challenged our own notions of what a regional PSO should be and do. You may not have heard of the Satterberg Foundation before today, but you should – especially now. They are a family foundation that describes themselves as “quietly being.” Satterberg is the kind of foundation that nonprofit leaders, especially leaders of color, have been asking for. We hope they won’t stay quiet for long. We speak for lots of nonprofit leaders when we say – the story of this multi-year, unrestricted approach must be told. We are just one part of that story.

Satterberg’s investment gave us room to grow into this role. So we bring to you a call to action. To rally the philanthropic sector to meet activists’ and community leaders’ calls for equity, we need more foundations evolving towards long-term, trustbased investment in sustainable change as their standard. And to guide and support foundations through their journeys towards this, we need bold, well-resourced philanthropy-serving organizations. We need more Satterbergs. Not only to bolster philanthropy infrastructure, but also to do it in a way that prioritizes partnerships between funders and grantees. As we look at the myriad ways society must respond to health, economic and other challenges, we are called to create a radically different world. Change is happening; together we can do more of what works, and leave the rest behind.

Making the Leap

This report serves as a collection of case studies demonstrating how a trust-based funder-grantee partnership enabled four philanthropy serving organizations (PSOs) to leap from aspiration to sustained leadership and action. To tackle injustices in their regions and witness major advances for their communities today, and for many years to come.


Download the report here.