In This Moment – Grantmakers CEO ‘Calls In’ Members To New Framework

Due to popular request, below is a transcription of San Diego Grantmakers President & CEO, Nancy Jamison’s opening remarks at this year’s Annual Conference (3/29).

Good morning! I’m Nancy Jamison, the President and CEO of San Diego Grantmakers. And I am thrilled to welcome you to our 2018 Annual Conference, Frameworks For Good.

I am excited today for two big reasons: ONE – we are unveiling our bold new strategic framework, designed to better help you learn, lead and invest in our community. And TWO, based on this new framework we have built a conference that we hope will knock your socks off!

One year ago, in this very same room, we left you with the theme, Taking A Stand.  And that seems amazingly relevant as we stand up with our new framework. I am proud to represent the Board and Staff of San Diego Grantmakers   today – to share how we have re-framed and re-imagined our work – inspired by our members, our nonprofit colleagues and by the times we are in.

If students calling for safety in their schools can stand up and say never again, then we can stand up too.  If victims of sexual abuse can stand up in the Me Too movement, then we can stand up   too. If community members can rise as   new civic activists and stand up for their beliefs, then we can stand up too. We must all stand up for what we believe in now.


There is a phrase that’s taken hold in philanthropy, in the nonprofit world, and beyond: the phrase is IN THIS MOMENT.  It’s used as a sweeping reference to the current state of political, social   and civic upheaval. And for me it rings true   regardless of someone’s particular belief set. We ALL live in a period of heightened uncertainty, instability and rapid change.

But this moment is also a tremendous opportunity for everyone in this room. Philanthropy has the breathtaking honor to use resources to contribute to a BETTER moment.  No matter what your   giving areas, no matter what your organizational structure, you sit in a position to make a positive difference in the lives of San Diegans in some meaningful way.

The core purpose of membership associations like ours is to create a vibrant network for funders of all types — to learn about and to practice effective philanthropy, giving with impact.  Since the journey began in 1976 this organization has served the philanthropic community. Some of you in this room officially created San Diego Grantmakers as a scrappy little nonprofit in 1999. The first office was in a storage room, and when I arrived in 2005 we were tucked in a corner of a San Diego National Bank branch by an elevator, whose doors would randomly open and close.  I shared an office with another staffer, who sat right across from me at the same desk.

Fast forward to today as we experience explosive growth and impact on so many fronts. Seriously – when I stop to think about how much has changed – it blows my mind!!

But YOU have brought San Diego Grantmakers to an extraordinary place. We now have 9 staff members (and they all have their own desks, some even have standing desks!), multiple committees, expanded programming, an advocacy agenda and the groundbreaking Philanthropy California alliance with Northern California Grantmakers and Southern California Grantmakers.

Many of you are involved with our active funder collaboratives and cutting edge cross-sector projects, striving to create durable change by working through the messy challenges that collective work entails. You know that to get things done you cannot go it alone.  Some of you have even combined forces through pooled grantmaking – to the tune of millions of leveraged dollars moving out into the community.

The summer of 2016 was marked by a momentous planning retreat – where board and staff experienced a collective A-HA moment.  We agreed that EQUITY must be at the very center of our work.  We believe that San Diego Grantmakers, and  philanthropy writ large, must intentionally benefit vulnerable and marginalized communities.

At about the same time, the San Diego Impact Investors Network decided to make San Diego Grantmakers their home– catalyzed by a few intrepid members who have been leaders in the local impact investing movement.  After dancing around the edges of impact investing – which seeks both a financial and social return on investments — it became clear to us that community solutions NEED new and innovative ways to increase capital. Because no single sector can remedy social challenges alone, we are compelled to broaden our tent and find creative approaches and new partners to activate more dollars for good

And that bigger tent approach also leads to consideration of a greater democratization of giving. How can San Diego generate more social sector resources- through the promise of giving circles and the potential of our significant small business sector? We are examining our best role in these realms.

Two illustrations to date: we are proud to serve as the new home for Women Give San Diego – a giving circle of 125 diverse women focused on collectively funding programs that help women and girls achieve economic self sufficiency. And we are proud to be part of the emerging inclusive economic development initiative led by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation to address inequality in our workforce. Stay tuned for more on this!


So, throughout 2017, motivated to lift up our service to you and to the community, we co-created a strategic framework to guide the change we want to model through 2020 and beyond.

We are inspired by the 6 new values you will hear about in short videos throughout the day. They are the underpinnings of everything we  strive to be and do. And we hope they are inspirational for your work as well.

We have 5 key work areas and an ambitious workplan with measurable outcomes. It is built on our past, present and future—expanding our scope and continuing our commitment to funder learning and to collaboration.

We have a point of view about effective philanthropy– that you will see reflected in our member learning opportunities in the year ahead and today. For example our speakers will touch on

  • ensuring nonprofits have the full funding they need to get the job done;
  • listening to the solutions identified by the communities where challenges lie;
  • building trusting relationships with nonprofit partners;
  • impact investing as a tool for change
  • adding an equity lens to your funding decisions
  • learning from Next Gen giving and more!


I am going to take just a few more moments to reflect on our equity lens.  We see equity as inclusive of all disenfranchised populations. And I like this equity definition from Policy Link: “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all.”  Beautiful.

And since all questions of equity intersect with race and with gender—we are starting our equity journey with the challenges of racial and gender injustice.

My Lesson

This year our whole staff has participated in some powerful racial equity training, along with our colleagues in California and across the country.  We are intentionally diving straight into the thorny truths of structural racism – as people and as an organization choosing to lead on equity. This is very vulnerable work –unlike any I have had in my professional life.  But I think that philanthropy must be a place for self-reflection and growth. If not in philanthropy and social change, then where?  In light of that, I want to share one recent lesson.

I am a white woman who considered myself enlightened. I did not know how much I did not know about the embedded privileges of my life. Because I am white I did not have to. In one national meeting, I surprisingly and suddenly wept, as the shame of this hit me full force. The scourge of systemic racism is not news for my colleagues of color of course, whose lives are impacted directly and profoundly. And of course, who then am I to weep? Some revealing dialogue followed.

Calling In

And with an incredible generosity of spirit – I was asked by one colleague of color not to see our conversation as a calling out, but rather as a calling in. A calling into the work ahead. Vanessa Daniel from Groundswell Fund says it  well – “If enough of us rise up with courage, shift out of neutral and take action for racial and gender justice, the movement for change will be unstoppable.”  San Diego Grantmakers is not neutral on issues of fairness and justice for all.

This was not business as usual for me, and I daresay, it is not business as usual for any of us now. This moment means that we must go deeper, work harder and demand more of ourselves. To quote the President of The California Endowment, Dr. Robert Ross, –“This moment is about the civic soul of our nation: it’s about who we are, what we stand for, and what we believe. Our work is civic. It is moral. It is spiritual.”

Hope Is Our Superpower – “Your hope is your superpower. Don’t let anybody or anything make you hopeless.” Bryan Stevenson

Philanthropy of course, is built on hope.

I am so honored to be a part of our hopeful community — the staff, the board, and all of you – along with our region’s amazing nonprofit and civic leaders – and fellow community members. I am hugely hopeful. Because, in this moment – we are not alone.

Thank you.