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Our History

Four decades of impact funding a thriving region, together.

Megan Thomas President & CEO

Megan Thomas Becomes President & CEO

In May of 2021, Megan Thomas was named President & CEO of Catalyst, succeeding Debbie McKeon. Megan brings more than 20 years of nonprofit and philanthropy experience to Catalyst, including previously serving as executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper where she built partnerships among the nonprofit, business, and public sectors to advance environmental goals across San Diego County.  “Megan’s extensive experience building trusting relationships with a broad swath of our region’s social change ecosystem – from grassroots organizations, to the nonprofit community, to corporations and funders of all types – has proven to not just move Catalyst programs, but its members towards equitable solutions for our region,” reflected Catalyst board chair Warren Ruis. Read the full press announcement here.


San Diego Grantmakers becomes Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties!

A name change years in the making, San Diego Grantmakers officially changes its name to Catalyst of San Diego and Imperial Counties. With more than 100 programs annually, grantmaking from SDG collaboratives exceeding $1.5 million annually, and emerging partnerships that redefine our role within the social impact ecosystem, the name change recognizes the expansive and growing types of funders represented in our membership – many who do not identify as grantmakers – and acknowledges the increasing role action plays in all we do.


San Diego Grantmakers welcomes new CEO

With the retirement of Nancy Jamison, Debbie McKeon arrived at SDG in April of 2019 and hit the ground running. With a multidisciplinary background in small business development, nonprofit management, and foundation leadership, Debbie’s perspective brought renewed opportunity for growth and impact to San Diego Grantmakers.


A Vision Rooted in Equity

San Diego Grantmakers board embarks on a new mission, vision, values and strategic plan for the organization. The efforts result in a deliberate lens on centering equity in our work through a vision of an equitable, impactful and effective social change ecosystem that improves the lives of all residents in our region.

Philanthropy California

A Statewide Alliance Forms

San Diego Grantmakers, Southern California Grantmakers and Northern California Grantmakers form Philanthropy California – a statewide alliance working together to increase our impact in building and sustaining thriving, equitable communities.

A large group of diverse individuals posing together in an outdoor setting

Transformational Funding Propels SDG Forward

San Diego Grantmakers is awarded transformational funding from the Satterberg Foundation in general operating, non-restricted funds. This seed funding sprouted the Social Equity Collaborative Fund, our internal equity work and our significant growth over the next several years. SDG grows its fiscal sponsorships by welcoming Funders Together to End Homelessness San Diego and the San Diego Impact Investors Network to the SDG family, launching impact investing work for SDG.



The Military Family Support Working Group collaboration begins the cross-sector Military Transition Support Project (MTSP) to develop a comprehensive plan for better coordinating community resources for veterans, and connecting those resources to service members as early in the transition process as possible. The MTSP Community Plan launches zero8hundred, a program that connects transitioning military personnel in San Diego to resources and support services available in the community. Zero8Hundred has since grown to receive 501(c)3 status, and secured a nine-year contract with the U.S. Navy.


Expansion and a New Era of Leadership

Nancy Jamison is named CEO of San Diego Grantmakers. Collaborative funding groups become a core function of SDG, offering a new way for members to increase their impact by joining forces.


First Full Time Staff

San Diego Grantmakers hires its first full-time staff member – Director Julie Holdaway – and moves into its first office provided in-kind by San Diego National Bank. A leadership council is introduced with charter members Alliance Healthcare Foundation; Annie E. Casey Foundation; The California Endowment; The California Wellness Foundation; and Qualcomm, Inc.


San Diego Grantmakers Celebrates its Incorporation

With more than 40 members, San Diego Grantmakers received official 501(c)3 status and joined 28 other associations that were part of the national Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.


The Jacobs Center Partnership

The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, an operating foundation established by the Jacobs Family Foundation, becomes San Diego Grantmakers’ fiscal sponsor. Jennifer Vanica, Executive Director of the Jacobs Family Foundation, and Tim McCarthy, Secretary and Treasurer of the McCarthy Family Foundation, are San Diego Grantmakers’ Co-chairs.


The Fieldstone Foundation Partnership

The Fieldstone Foundation becomes San Diego Grantmakers’ fiscal sponsor, under the leadership of Chair Janine Mason. SDG adopts a more formal leadership structure with a rotating Steering Committee developing quarterly luncheon programs. Today, the Fieldstone Foundation is now the Fieldstone Leadership Network of the Clare Rose Foundation, and remains an active member of Catalyst.

A black and white photo of the San Diego skyline taken in 1976

A Network is Formed

On June 9, 1976, representatives from the San Diego State University Foundation and the one-year-old San Diego Community Foundation met to form a network of grantmakers in San Diego. Members of the Los Angeles Inter-Foundation Center spoke about their experiences in building a similar consortium.

The founding participants in the grantmakers network include: The re-named San Diego Foundation (and San Diego Grantmakers’ first fiscal sponsor), The Parker Foundation, J.W. Sefton Foundation, Willis and Jane Fletcher Foundation, Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, Copley Foundation, City of San Diego, and United Way of San Diego County.

The name San Diego Grantmakers was officially adopted in 1980.


Image credit: City of San Diego Digital Archives, City Photographer, 1976.

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