SDG & Members Attend Historic Summit at Governor’s Mansion

The content for this blog is written by Seyron Foo, vice president of public policy for our sister organization, Southern California Grantmakers. It originally appeared via this article on Southern California Grantmakers‘ website. 

The relationship between philanthropy and state government grew even stronger this past month as Governor Gavin Newsom welcomed over 45 philanthropy leaders from across the state – and country – to the Governor’s Mansion for the first Philanthropy Summit in modern state history. Philanthropy California – the alliance of Southern California, Northern California, and San Diego Grantmakers – played an instrumental role in shaping the day and serving as a thought partner to Kathleen Kelly Janus, Senior Advisor on Social Innovation to the Governor.

The summit provided a unique opportunity to bring together the senior leadership of the Governor’s Administration – the people responsible for crafting and implementing policy – and the philanthropic leaders –who work with communities to innovate and take risks – to have candid conversations about tackling the challenges ahead for our state. This included exchanging ideas, forging the relationships necessary to achieve systems change, and developing action items to continue the commitments made during the day.

The summit focused on several priority areas of both the Governor and philanthropy, including housing and homelessness, gender equity, early childhood development, adverse childhood experiences, economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, and economic development in Inland California, and climate change.

A few through lines from the day emerged:

  • People-First. A repeated refrain from the Governor’s staff included the need for talent and expertise to complement the senior leadership in the Governor’s Office. For example, Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, the state’s first-ever Surgeon General, noted that she simply does not have the staff with the expertise to work with her on a daily basis for implementing the several pilot programs around adverse childhood experiences. The complexities of having to hire people within the state bureaucracy make it incredibly challenging to bring in experts to innovate and create.
  • Government Gets It. Governor Gavin Newsom made clear that philanthropy is a crucial partner but that state government ultimately bears the responsibility of funding and providing basic social services to communities. He noted that the state’s budget of $220 billion is much larger than the combined philanthropic giving of $10 billion in annual giving. This represented a fundamental shift in attitude from state government by moving away from an “ATM” view of philanthropy and toward a recognition of the government’s role in moving tremendous resources.
  • Accountability. Cathy Cha, President of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Foundation noted that philanthropy also has a role in holding government accountable to its commitments. Philanthropy has the resources that allow our sector to speak candidly with government makers about what is – and isn’t – working. These resources insulate us from political pressures and put us in a unique position to be honest partners – and to channel, support and hold space for voices of communities and nonprofit partners to rise up.


The leadership of Kathleen Kelly Janus, who oversees public-private partnerships in the Governor’s Administration, has proven to be the catalyst that has developed and deepened meaningful relationships with state policymakers. Through Ms. Janus’s tenacity and sophisticated understanding of the sector, philanthropy has reached an important milestone in advancing public-private partnerships. SDG, through Philanthropy California, will continue to work closely with the Governor’s Office to keep the momentum from this incredible day for philanthropy and our public sector partners.