President and C.E.O. Fred Ali to Step Down from the Weingart Foundation
Miguel A. Santana Named as New C.E.O.
Message from Aileen Adams, Board Chair:
A Salute to Fred Ali
The Board will always remember Fred’s leadership in two special areas. As nonprofit organizations struggled to recover from the Great Recession in 2008, Fred led efforts to provide unrestricted funding for these groups, the collective lifeline to our most vulnerable communities, enabling the sector to strengthen its infrastructure and increase its effectiveness. Then in 2016, Fred encouraged the Foundation to adopt an unprecedented commitment to racial equity and justice. Our landmark Achieving Equity convening that year featured major philanthropic leaders from around the country and served as a launching pad for the Weingart Foundation’s equity work and that of others. As a result of Fred’s leadership, every aspect of our Foundation, from our Board and staff to our grants and investments, now embraces the values of inclusion and justice. These early efforts contributed enormously to elevating the discussion and increasing the commitment of many in philanthropy. Those initiatives were gamechangers with a profound impact. Today, they are the heart and soul of our Foundation.
“Fred’s vision drove the transformation of the Weingart Foundation into a leading advocate for equity and justice in the region.”
Fred has always been one step ahead. He dramatically increased the impact of our Foundation by ensuring that we were an early funder of new initiatives, which helped bring other foundations to the table. As a past Chair of Southern California Grantmakers and the current Chair of the U.S.C. Center for Philanthropy, he connected philanthropic leaders to one another, fostering support for innovative programs. Many of our early grants helped bring other philanthropic support for major nonprofit projects that increased advocacy, medical services, and educational and job opportunities in South L.A. Early investment in and advocacy for the Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative was crucial in advancing a community-driven funding plan in a historically under-resourced area. Fred was instrumental in the Weingart Foundation’s prioritization of investments in the well-being of our immigrant community, ensuring legal representation, support for refugee children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, support for Dreamers in college, and other life-changing services in libraries and in schools.
For decades, the Weingart Foundation has been a leader in addressing homelessness and is regarded as a go-to funder for innovative programs to combat this longstanding and complex crisis. From the Homeless Health Care Initiative, to the Home for Good Funder’s Collaborative, numerous permanent supportive housing projects, and much more, the Foundation has awarded significant grants and program related investments to combat homelessness during Fred’s tenure. Today, as we continue to advocate for systemic change, the Foundation is challenging local civic leaders to improve governance and accountability so that housing and services are delivered in more efficient and effective ways.
Fred’s leadership has helped transform the Foundation to leverage every resource at its disposal to champion equity and justice—from hiring practices and grants to investments and loan guarantees. We benefit from a diverse Board and staff, and every leadership position at the staff level is held by a person of color. Our significant Program Related Investment Fund serves as a national model. It promotes economic empowerment, finances low-cost and supportive housing and provides low-cost capital, allowing nonprofits to expand their impact. We reshaped our investment strategy to prioritize and advocate for diversity and social responsibility. In the last two years, Fred helped prioritize significantly investment firms managed by women and people of color. Our loan guarantees are helping to catalyze millions of dollars in new investments in small businesses, as well as projects designed to reduce climate change and increase affordable housing across our community.
Fred has been an effective champion of public-private partnerships. In 2010, he led the effort to establish the first Office of Strategic Partnerships in the City of Los Angeles and later a similar effort with the County. These initiatives and his participation in the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles have ensured that public and private dollars are invested together in priority projects. Partnering with our late Board member John Mack, Fred was an early supporter of Summer Night Lights, which used funding from both the City and philanthropy to transform dozens of City parks in high crime areas into community centers for arts and sports in the evening. The project reduced crime by over 50%, engaged millions of participants, and is considered a national model.
Fred has nurtured generations of local leadership. The John Mack Movement Building Fellows Program is bringing diverse young leaders together to learn strategies for accomplishing social justice and systemic change. The Youth Organizing Capacity Building Initiative is increasing the number of young emerging leaders with the skills to put their social justice ideas into action. Countless people have benefitted from Fred’s wisdom on a one-to-one, continuing basis—including all of us on the Weingart Board of Directors.
Fred spent the past year working closely with diverse community leaders to develop a roadmap for sweeping systemic change in Los Angeles. With the recent release of the Committee for Greater L.A.’s No Going Back report and the work of Bold Vision 2028, community, philanthropic, and civic leaders now have a strategic plan that will enable them to invest wisely in strengthening our most under-resourced communities and reinventing services. As the Weingart Foundation moves into the future, we will look to this blueprint for change to inspire our reform efforts.
Fred has left us a remarkable legacy to build upon as the Foundation ushers in new leadership in January 2021. Our Board enthusiastically welcomes the Weingart Foundation’s new President and C.E.O., Miguel A. Santana, to his new position. We selected Miguel after an intensive and lengthy process where the Board reinforced the Foundation’s commitment to its mission and developed a strategic vision for the future. In every respect, Miguel not only met but exceeded the leadership criteria for our new C.E.O. Miguel has served on the Foundation’s Board since 2016, where he has repeatedly demonstrated his extraordinary grasp of issues, problem-solving abilities, and tireless energy. With a history of working on issues of greatest concern to the Foundation, such as homelessness, poverty, and support for immigrants, as well as extensive knowledge about both County and City governments and his own lived experience and passion for the Southern California region, Miguel is perfectly poised to build upon Fred’s legacy in the next decade. Fred and Miguel worked closely with others to produce the powerful call to action: No Going Back. The implementation of its wide-ranging recommendations to combat structural racism will be a key focus of our Foundation going forward.
We are deeply thankful to Fred for his dedication to advancing social change in our region. He has made an indelible mark in our community and will continue to do so in new and exciting ways. Fred will always be a valued partner for all of us in the years ahead.
Chair, Board of Directors