Open Letters from Latino Civic Leaders Regarding Los Angeles City Council

Following the leaked audio involving Los Angeles City Council members Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo, and Kevin de León, Latino civic leaders released the following open letters calling for accountability and reform.


October 24, 2022

An Open Letter to Members of the Los Angeles City Council from Latino Civic Leaders

The past two weeks have been a trying time in Los Angeles and throughout California. We joined Angelenos in condemning the appalling dialogue by city leaders representing a significant part of the Latino community in Los Angeles. Like all of you, we asked for their immediate resignation, knowing that in so doing, more than 750,000 predominately Latino residents would be left without representation on the Los Angeles City Council until a special election can be held.

Even as this crisis continues to unfold, we believe it is now time to lay the groundwork for the hard work ahead to rebuild and help heal Los Angeles. This includes strengthening race relations, centering a focus on social justice on policy matters, and establishing higher standards for our elected officials. It is time to chart a principled path for the role an emerging Latino majority plays in our community. In that spirit, we have developed the following statement of principles and call on all responsible leaders, both elected and non-elected, to engage in more productive discussions around these areas of focus.

  1. We reiterate our call for the resignations of the elected officials who participated in the offensive and prejudicial dialogue. These words and attitudes are unacceptable for leaders of this community.
  2. We believe Latinos should hold their elected officials, be they Latino or not, to the highest standards of ethics and integrity, and all Angelenos should do the same.
  3. We believe that the underlying question of Latino under-representation in local government is central to ensuring a true representative democracy. While Latinos are 40% of the state, and 50% of the city and county, that Latinos are only 27% of council seats and 20% of supervisor seats is of concern as our city government is not representative of our population, which hinders and thwarts progress on critical community needs.
  4. Representatives—including those selected to fill the unexpired terms—must authentically reflect the experiences, needs and aspirations of the people they represent. We also firmly believe that those who seek to run for elected office should be committed to building coalitions with other historically marginalized groups and to advancing public policy that eliminates systemic racism and advances social justice and equity.
  5. While zero-sum competition is inevitable for a fixed number of seats, zero-sum politics are NOT. Latinos should hold their elected officials—and indeed all elected officials—to a standard of representation that raises up and improves the lives of all constituents.
  6. We are deeply disappointed by actions and statements which appear opportunistic and designed to inflame and exaggerate differences rather than draw constituencies together. We remind those who would profit from this moment that many Black and Latino elected officials at all levels of government, in office today, hold those seats having received a majority—and often a super-majority—of votes from the other group. Black/Brown commonalities and moments of political cooperation, and indeed cooperation with other communities in Los Angeles, far exceed those of conflict, no matter what you have read in the papers.
  7. The City of Los Angeles is overdue for institutional reform, especially reform that depoliticizes the redistricting process.
  8. We are committed to creating the next era of Los Angeles politics – one that focuses on problem-solving, fair representation, inclusive decision making, and improving the lives for all Angelenos.

As Latino civic leaders who care deeply for the future of all Angelenos, we write to you in the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. The next few weeks the council will decide on how to fill the seats vacated resulting from this crisis and how to reform the redistricting process. We request an opportunity to meet with the leadership of the Los Angeles City Council to partner with you in ensuring these principles are at the forefront of your decision making. A representative of our coalition will coordinate with Council President Paul Krekorian on the next steps.

Thank you for your thoughtful management of this difficult time in our City’s history. We remain optimistic, given the diverse and strong outcry from every part of the city, that from this moment a new course of a more equitable and representative City government will emerge.

In Solidarity,

Fernando J. Guerra, Ph.D.
Antonia Hernández
Monica Lozano

Fabian Núñez
Manuel Pastor
Angelica Salas

Miguel Santana
Gary Segura
Arturo Vargas


October 11, 2022

An Open Letter Regarding Los Angeles City Council Members Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo from Latino Civic Leaders

We write today in our personal capacity as Latino civic leaders and Angelenos who believe in a just, equitable and inclusive Los Angeles for all. The hateful, racist, and divisive comments heard in the recording released this weekend have no place in public or behind closed doors.

We expect better of our Latino elected officials, and Los Angeles deserves better. We are deeply saddened. These public officials have breached the trust and confidence of our entire city. We condemn their anti-Black, homophobic, and prejudiced sentiments against Indigenous people and other marginalized communities in our city.

Angelenos deserve elected officials who respect them and reflect their values. We must hold these individuals accountable for their hateful remarks and participation. We call for the resignations of Los Angeles City Council Members Nury Martinez, Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo.

These elected officials have failed us and our community as leaders. They have deepened the pain that our communities have experienced especially during a time when our nation has been struggling with hate speech and political division. It is imperative that these city council members resign and accept accountability.

In Solidarity,

Fernando J. Guerra, Ph.D.
Antonia Hernández
Monica Lozano

Fabian Núñez
Manuel Pastor
Angelica Salas

Miguel Santana
Gary Segura
Arturo Vargas

Rolling Back Progress: Why SCOTUS Decisions Matter

By Anthony Ng, Program Officer

Anthony Ng

Anthony Ng, Program Officer

The Weingart Foundation’s commitment to racial justice and to supporting communities directly impacted by systemic racism is what spoke to me when I joined the staff earlier this year. I am inspired and grateful to our nonprofit partners that are in the trenches every day fighting for a better tomorrow where we can all thrive.

While our nonprofit partners bring me hope, I know that many of us who are committed to social justice have felt grief and despair as we witness what feels like the roll back of civil rights across the country, particularly from recent rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). As these feelings creep up, I remind myself of this phrase popularized by organizer Mariame Kaba, “Hope is a discipline.”

This past session SCOTUS ruled on important cases that have implications on social and racial justice issues. In the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling, SCOTUS reversed a five-decade-long judicial precedent set by Roe V. Wade that affirmed the right to privacy, and thus the right to abortion. The right to privacy allowed the expansion of rights in the areas of marriage, family, reproduction, and contraception. Justice Thomas’s concurrence in Dobbs V. Jackson signals the possibility of limiting the rights of LGBTQ+ communities as well as reducing access to contraception.

Another landmark case with civil rights implications is Vega V. Tekoh where SCOTUS ruled that an officer’s failure to read Miranda warnings to people in custody does not provide a basis for a claim for civil liability. This ruling reduces police accountability in a time when we’ve seen rampant police misconduct.

In the last decade, we’ve seen court decisions that erode the voting rights of marginalized communities of color (Shelby v. Holder) , that impact LGBTQ+ people (Bostock v. Clayton County, GA / Zarda v. Altitude Express / RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes Inc v. EEOC), and that harm immigrant communities (Garland v. Gonzales). If this pattern continues, other rights will be on the chopping block, effectively turning back the clock on the civil rights and progress that many marginalized communities have fought for.

Soon SCOTUS will take on cases around affirmative action, LGBTQ+ discrimination, voting rights, redistricting, immigration enforcement, and more. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is also at risk, leaving 800,000 people like me in limbo. These cases will impact the quality of life of many communities, what rights we are afforded, and who can represent us in our government.

The Weingart Foundation supports nonprofit organizations in the pursuit of social change. Like many of our partners, we are concerned about the direction SCOTUS is taking and the deep implications these rulings have that disproportionally affect BIPOC, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and marginalized communities.

While SCOTUS has the power to drastically impact our lives, the community also has the power to pushback. We can change outcomes through community organizing, civic engagement, and systems change. We must take this time as a call to action to keep investing in power-building strategies, support BIPOC-leadership, and uplift marginalized communities. We must continue to center those most affected by injustice and lift their perspectives and solutions. We must be co-conspirators in the pursuit of equity, social justice, and racial justice, and we must remember that “Hope is a Discipline”.

Key Learnings from Listening to Frontline Organizations

Eric Medina and Sara Montrose, Program Officers

By Eric Medina and Sara Montrose, Program Officers

As Weingart Foundation program officers, one of the greatest privileges of our job is the opportunity to learn from our nonprofit partners. We do this through ongoing conversations, site visits, and listening.

Listening to communities and responding to conditions is at the core of what we do. Our funding is informed by those with lived experience and direct knowledge. Hearing from those on the ground who are most directly impacted by injustice is inspiring and necessary—especially for funders sincerely committed to building an equitable and just society.

Given the unprecedented challenges facing the region, we reached out to community leaders earlier this year through a series of virtual listening sessions. Program officers joined our C.E.O., Miguel Santana, and our Vice President of Programs, Joanna Jackson, in hearing from communities across Southern California.

Leaders shared how they are responding to mental health crises, educational inequities, homelessness and housing needs, food insecurity, and health care gaps—all of which were laid bare by the pandemic. They also shared what opportunities lie ahead to advance racial justice and the importance of supporting staff mental health and resilience. Across geographic regions and program areas, we heard a number of cross-cutting themes that stood out.

The following are five key learnings from community leaders that continue to guide our work as a Foundation:

1. Pandemic fatigue is real.

Given the trauma, stress, and extreme challenges experienced by so many, leaders told us that their organizations are stretched thin, staff are burnt out and experiencing their own secondary trauma, and community needs are overwhelming. This is especially true and presents a huge challenge for those organizations closest to the communities of color hardest hit by the pandemic and those still struggling with its impact. As the pandemic has been prolonged, nonprofits and their leaders simply haven’t yet recovered—yet they continue to be asked to do even more and respond in new ways. For example, direct service organizations are using their voice and client experiences to call for systems change, and advocacy groups are pivoting to provide direct monetary relief, operate vaccine clinics, and meet basic needs.

Organizations are working to build staff infrastructure and support. Concerned about staff wellness, many groups are providing different healing activities, connecting staff with support services, and looking at increasing salaries and compensation. Many young leaders and organizers are redefining what “organizational health” means as they shift the ways they work. Organizations are also looking for professional development and coaching to support new managers who have not been formally trained. Nonprofits are doing tremendous work under extraordinary strain. As funders we need to support staff mental health, sustainability, and resilience.

2. Organizations fear a post-pandemic financial cliff.

Organizations continue to feel the long-term effects of disinvestment in people and nonprofit infrastructure, particularly among grassroots organizations in communities of color. Many nonprofits shifted programs to basic needs service delivery in response to community need during the pandemic and are now assessing how they can sustain themselves in the long-term. Many of these programs were backed by government funding and there is overall concern about a funding “cliff” when public dollars for pandemic relief and recovery run out. While public funding is needed, leaders shared how public funding is often inaccessible to community-based organizations that are most proximate to residents and how the funding is designed to meet narrow goals rather than to support creative approaches to service delivery or make transformative change. Community organizing groups advancing racial justice also share fears about a funding cliff, wondering how much of grantmakers’ response to the racial justice uprisings and anti-Black racism will be sustained beyond this moment.

Funders can support nonprofits in accessing public relief and infrastructure dollars, as well as provide multi-year unrestricted funding to help provide a stable source of revenue. We also need to embed racial justice and support for BIPOC communities into our missions and strategies in a deep and ongoing way.

3. Organizations are deepening collaboration and cross-racial solidarity.

As organizations manage an ongoing response to the pandemic and efforts for a just recovery, leaders shared inspiring plans for the future. One silver lining in this time is that many organizations have really strengthened their relationships with each other. We were excited to hear leaders’ interest in increasing collaboration that enables nonprofits to focus on their strengths and expertise while minimizing duplication of efforts. Organizations are also interested in collaborating and become stronger thought partners with philanthropy and government.

The pandemic and racial uprisings also catalyzed deeper partnerships and collaborations, building solidarity among people and organizations—especially in the communities with the greatest inequities. Nonprofits are talking explicitly about race, increasing cross-racial solidarity, and confronting anti-Black racism. Advocacy and power-building organizations are also developing pro-active strategies that move beyond having to constantly react and defend. This last year presented a critical moment of awakening and solidarity for so many of us, and it has offered opportunities to support important narrative and systems change. Funders can support the time and space it takes for community leaders to come together, deepen relationships, and foster movement-building.

4. Funders need to support frontline communities, especially Black, immigrant, and indigenous communities.

We heard loud and clear how important multi-year operating support is to meet needs, build infrastructure, and support advocacy. Leaders also lifted how important it is for funders support systems change—including by supporting smaller, nontraditional, and more radical organizing groups—and the need to specifically support Black, immigrant, and indigenous communities. There is urgent need to invest in frontline communities and allow communities to drive the work. Funders can also do more to move the public sector to make public funds more available to smaller nonprofits, support capacity building, and streamline our own grantmaking process to minimize burden.

5. Foundations need to listen—and act on what we hear.

Formal listening sessions are one of many ways that we hear directly from community leaders—both about individual organizational needs and broader sector-wide trends. Listening deeply is something we strive to do every day as part of building authentic relationships with partners. The lessons we learn are vital to informing our grantmaking and how we advance our racial justice mission.

We are deeply appreciative of the insights that nonprofit leaders continue to share with us as we plan for the upcoming year and strive to meet the evolving needs of the sector. We will aim to lift these learnings with our colleagues in philanthropy, encouraging our field to put nonprofit and community voices first. Listening is essential in our role as program officers. It makes us better grantmakers, and—beyond that—better partners and allies.

Paying Nonprofits Fairly: Q&A with Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum

Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum

It’s no secret nonprofits are often underpaid in their government contracts for providing critical services to the community’s most vulnerable members. And for nonprofits based in, staffed by and serving communities of color, these unsustainable contracting and reimbursement practices present a huge barrier in accessing public resources to fund their work or pay their staff a livable wage.

At the Weingart Foundation, we are committed to supporting efforts to ensure that nonprofits are fully reimbursed for their costs—both direct and indirect—for services that public agencies contract them to provide. Vera de Vera, Program Director, leads our work in this area and recently spoke with Dr. Va Lecia Adams Kellum, President & C.E.O of St. Joseph Center—a countywide provider of housing, mental health and wellness services, education and workforce training to help individuals and families live healthier, happier lives. In this Q&A, Dr. Adams Kellum shares her perspective on improving the contracting and reimbursement systems between the local governments and nonprofits.

Vera: Hi Va Lecia, thanks for joining us. The Los Angeles Times recently ran an editorial that described how service providers—specifically those who work tirelessly to provide housing, mental health, health care, education support and workforce development and other support to individuals and families who are unhoused—are, in fact, often underpaid by the City and County for providing these services. What was your reaction to this editorial calling for the city and county to pay nonprofits the full cost of providing services to our region’s most vulnerable members?

Dr. Adams Kellum: My reaction to the editorial is—it’s about time! Getting fully funded for providing services is a tremendous concern that I, along with a number of my colleagues, have been working on for quite a while. We’ve been advocating behind the scenes, and it’s validating to see the same set of concerns raised by the Times.

It’s hard to think of a parallel to this funding approach in any other area that the government operates. Social service agencies get short shrift because we are nonprofit organizations, and there is a perception that we’d be doing this work no matter what. There is some truth to that, because we are all mission-driven. But we are also providing essential services that the community relies on, more so now than perhaps ever before. And those very missions are put at risk by a system that creates a deficit every time a contract is signed.

Vera: How do these current systems impact the work you do, and more importantly, the lives of those you are trying to help—who often are disproportionately people of color living in poverty?

Dr. Adams Kellum: One big practical implication is that there are times when I or some of my colleagues have actually declined contracts because they would simply cost us too much money. We have all faced situations where there was work we wanted to do—work that was in alignment with our mission, work that we knew we could be successful at—but we knew it would be financially irresponsible to take it on, because of the deficit position it would put our organizations in. If we don’t act responsibly with respect to our finances, everything we do goes away. That’s what is really on the line.

There are also some important equity pieces to consider. Many of the staff who are underpaid as a result of the current contracting system are people of color. In addition, there is a systemic issue stemming from the fact that not all service providers have the same access to charitable resources, which can create an additional barrier to entry for smaller organizations who are based in historically marginalized communities. Especially because these smaller organizations do not have the same capacity to cover the deficits that are built into many of these contracts. Some service providers are based in affluent communities that can help them cover the deficits that come with these contracts. The neighbors in these communities also often have informal connections to institutional philanthropy through their personal networks.

Vera: How has the pandemic impacted the need for substantial reform of these systems?

Dr. Adams Kellum: The pandemic has revealed many gaps in all of our systems. One thing that has been made clear is the injustice in asking people to put their health and their families’ health on the line for substandard wages. The L.A. Times editorial highlighted that LAHSA pays their outreach workers a minimum of $24 hour, which we applaud, but the funding currently available doesn’t allow service providers to pay our staff the same salary. In essence, you have people doing the same job at significantly different rates, which decreases morale.

Vera: What are some of the efforts you and other nonprofits are involved in to change these systems?

Dr. Adams Kellum: We have been advocating behind the scenes for quite some time. The first step a few years ago was coming together with peers to really understand the breadth and depth of this challenge. It was something we had known and even discussed anecdotally for a very long time. Once we got in a room together and sat down to talk about the numbers, it really became clear how pervasive this is—and how damaging the impact has been.

I’m happy to share that we’ve begun to make substantive progress. More than a year ago we joined a coalition of agencies (led by John Maceri of the People Concern) that started advocating for the next federal COVID relief package to include a provision mandating that contracts awarded under it cover the actual program costs for providers. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 enacted in March included this language!

On the local level, we’re working with Supervisor Mitchell and Supervisor Kuehl to promote equity and equal access to county contracts for nonprofit organizations and small businesses, especially those from communities with a history of disinvestment. Our goal is to reform outdated, burdensome contracting and auditing practices that create significant barriers for organizations of all sizes. We appreciate that our elected officials are hearing our concerns and working with us on solutions.

Vera: If there were a genie that could grant you three wishes to improve the local public contracting and reimbursement systems, what would they be?

Dr. Adams Kellum: If a genie were to grant me three wishes for the local contracting and reimbursement system, the first wish would be for all contracts to pay the full cost of service, including overhead, which is fundamental to sustain this critical work.

My second wish would be for all public funders to make their payments in a timely manner. For many years there has been significant variation in how long it takes some local entities to make reimbursement payments to their contractors. Depending on how much cash an organization has in the bank, this can create real problems with respect to paying your staff and covering your other operating expenses. A nonprofit organization really should not have to worry about the financial risk they may take on waiting for payments from government entities.

For my third wish, I would ask for the system to be revised so that the financial risk to service providers is eliminated altogether for rental assistance payments. If we are making rent payments to landlords on behalf of clients enrolled in our programs, we should never have to take any risk or liability. Unfortunately, we sometimes wait quite a while to be paid back. When that happens, we—nonprofit organizations—are effectively providing a loan to the government. Some of our partners have actually had to take out bank loans to cover cashflow shortfalls because they were not reimbursed in a timely manner. So, on top of not being paid enough to cover the cost of providing the service, you are now paying interest on a loan that you took out only because the contracting agency could not pay you back in time.

Vera: On May 10, 2026 (five years from now), what do you want the headlines in the L.A. Times to read?

Dr. Adams Kellum: The L.A. Times headline I’d like to see five years from now is, “Los Angeles is Beating Homelessness.” We’re not going to solve everything in five years, but it’s long enough to clearly turn the tide. I am hopeful that by then, we will have fully developed the regional, coordinated approach we desperately need, and that we will have the sustainable local and state funding mechanisms in place that we need to meet this challenge.

Vera: How can other nonprofits get involved?

Dr. Adams Kellum: Any other nonprofit leaders who want to get involved in advocating for a shift to more equitable funding can contact me directly at I can help connect them with our coalition.

For additional information on this issue, please go to Nonprofit Overhead Project and Full Cost Project | Philanthropy California.

Clarity from Crisis: An Equitable Recovery is the Only Recovery

By Monica Lozano and Miguel A. Santana

The American Rescue Plan Act signed in March directs $151 billion to California. These funds will play a critical role in our state’s recovery from the pandemic and recession—and in ensuring future prosperity. But this recovery will only be successful now and sustainable long-term if state leaders are guided by equity, both in allocating funds and in decisions we make moving forward. In leading organizations fighting for greater racial, social, and economic justice, we have seen first-hand what it costs our state when we treat equity as a “nice to have;” it is not a cost California can continue to bear.

But what does equity look like in practice? It means focusing dollars in the hardest-hit communities and cooperating across systems and institutions. We must not treat relief efforts as a one-time back-fill to budget cuts, but an opportunity to fundamentally reimagine and improve our systems to serve us all— including and especially those who face the biggest barriers to accessing good health, education, and jobs.

Focus dollars in communities hardest hit.

COVID-19 forced California into a rapid response to address a homelessness crisis that has been building for decades. Programs that sprung out of the pandemic like Project Roomkey and Project Homekey demonstrated that we can act quickly to respond in a coordinated fashion at scale. Additional federal dollars must be used with this same urgency to connect immediate relief to long-term systemic change. As the Committee for Greater LA shared in our No Going Back report, focus needs to be placed on building permanent supportive housing at scale and providing rent and mortgage relief to keep families housed. Ultimately, we need to fundamentally reimagine a systems-level approach to addressing and preventing homelessness and building housing that prioritizes the needs of Black, Indigenous, and Latino Californians who have been hardest hit by this cascade of systems failures.

Education is an essential pathway to opportunity—and a robust and inclusive economy and society. California’s college students are supporting parents, caring for children, and working full-time. Too many live in poverty and are housing- and food-insecure. We are heartened to see that $5 billion in recovery funds were directed toward colleges, with the majority going directly to students. When College Futures Foundation joined with peer funders last April to launch the California College Student Emergency Support Fund, we learned first-hand the imperative to focus direct benefits where there is greatest need —particularly among community college students and students responsible for supporting their families —and for holistic support beyond tuition. We are glad to see our state government propose muchneeded continued direct aid to students, and urge those administering funds to be guided by equity.

Cooperate across systems.

Where individual institutions may decide how to spend relief dollars, they should coordinate and leverage others’ investments.

Tackling the digital divide should be a priority for California; making headway will require us to work across systems and align federal, state, and private investments. Lack of equitable access to broadband and devices has deepened divides in access to jobs, education, health and financial services, and social connections for many—acutely so this past pandemic year. To make a dent, we need to ensure that emergency broadband dollars are equitably focused and that programs not just targeted but truly accessible to those who need them most.

The only recovery that will be successful is one that is equitable and grapples with the legacy of racism in our systems. The challenges facing people of color and low-income communities aren’t new. We must collectively own the problems and contribute to solutions.

As we actively work towards recovery, policymakers, philanthropists, and institutional leaders must take bold action to reimagine how our systems work for people. California won’t truly recover until we finally serve those hardest hit by the pandemic. Let’s ensure the crisis spurs us towards justice and an equitable future.

Monica Lozano is President and CEO of College Futures Foundation, an organization working in partnership across the state to catalyze systemic change, increase college degree completion, and close equity gaps so that an educational path to opportunity becomes available to every student, regardless of zip code, skin color, or income. She recently served as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery. Miguel A. Santana is President and CEO of Weingart Foundation, an organization that partners with communities across Southern California to advance racial, social, and economic justice for all. He also serves as Chair of the Committee for Greater L.A.

Eric Medina: How an Equity-Focused Foundation Navigates a Racial Justice Moment

In the first installment in the series, “Insert Title Here,” James Liou, senior director of Equal Measure, shares his conversation with Eric Medina (left), program officer at the Weingart Foundation. Eric is also a co-chair, along with James, of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy.

The themes of context and time were striking in our dialogue—and provide a compelling response to one of the primary questions of our new conversation series: What is the role and responsibility of foundations to promote positive social change—and racial equity, specifically? What are philanthropic leaders thinking about and doing in this moment?

James: Can you share an overview of your work at the Weingart Foundation, and its overall mission? What does it fund? How did this mission develop, and what drew you to it?

Eric: The mission of the Weingart Foundation is to partner with communities across Southern California to advance racial, social, and economic justice for all. The Foundation achieves this by making multi-year unrestricted operating support grants to organizations across Southern California that are working towards achieving racial equity and justice. The Foundation also has a special interest in supporting organizations in South and Southeast Los Angeles.

Our work is constantly evolving, but we arrived at making unrestricted operating support grants back in the Great Recession of the late 2000s. At that time, we heard loud and clear from our nonprofit partners that they needed unrestricted funding to keep the doors open, pay the bills, and make sure they make payroll. The Foundation continues to make unrestricted operating support grants, because we hear from nonprofits all the time that they like the flexibility of that type of funding. For our part, we created a learning and assessment framework where we try to understand if unrestricted funding provides the flexibility to help build organizational effectiveness.

James: It’s really compelling that you talk about your current unrestricted funding approach as the result of listening, acting upon what you heard, and an intentional evolution. How about the Weingart Foundation’s focus on equity? How does that fit into the picture?

Eric: The commitment to equity has always been a part of our grantmaking, but it was solidified a few years ago. Knowing how systemic racism has impacted the communities where we work, we are committed to supporting systems change. To that end, we have recently developed the John Mack Movement Building Fellows Program and a Youth Organizing funder collaborative. Equity cuts across all aspects of the Foundation and not just through our grantmaking. We are reallocating our investments to ensure it is mission related, using our resources to provide program-related investments, and we look at decisions to hire vendors and staff through a racial equity lens.

James: I’m struck by the idea of momentum, of time and the idea that the Weingart Foundation has been willing to grow and change its approach. The words that you used—evolution and solidification—are powerful, especially as many philanthropic institutions struggle to embrace risk-taking and change.

Let’s pause a bit to explore the notion of time and our current social, political, and racial context. In Philadelphia, there’s been the proliferation of rapid response funds to address immediate needs—but on the other hand, the pace of change among many traditional funders to re-examine and change long-standing grantmaking approaches has been slow. It makes me think about the distinction—and accompanying reaction—from those funders who see this as a temporal moment, and those who see it in the context of a larger movement.

In what ways has your mission changed in this moment in time, from the global context of the COVID-19 pandemic, intensification of demands for racial justice and Black Lives Matter, and what you’ve been hearing from your grantees and community leaders?

Eric: In March 2020, when the first stay at home orders were made and unemployment was skyrocketing, the Foundation responded with $2M in emergency grants to different community foundations and community based organizations across Southern California that were working on emergency response. We continued with our unrestricted operating support grants, but decided to go to invitation only for F.Y. 2021 to manage demand and limited resources.

Fred Ali, our president and C.E.O., also participated in the Committee for a Greater LA to understand the effects that COVID had on different populations throughout Los Angeles County. Nonprofit, business, philanthropy, labor, government, and other community leaders held weekly data briefings on topics such as employment, housing and homelessness, youth, and trauma, with COVID-19 as a through line.

Following the murder of George Floyd, the committee expanded its focus to a comprehensive view of systemic racism—especially anti-Black racism. The initial product of that committee was the publication of the No Going Back report that includes 10 guiding principles addressing areas from housing, economic justice and mental and physical health to youth voice, immigration, and the role of the nonprofit sector. Miguel Santana, the Chair of the Committee for a Great LA, is the incoming president and C.E.O. of the Weingart Foundation, and we are exploring how the report can help inform our grantmaking in the future.

James: Is there a specific moment of reflection or conversation with a community leader that encapsulates the complexity and opportunity of this moment for philanthropy and systems change leaders? Can you share that story with us?

Eric: The mentally hard part of this job in the time of COVID is to hear the harrowing stories from nonprofit leaders about the plight of their clients and members, the staff of these nonprofits, and the leaders themselves. One leader who I have known for almost 20 years as a nonprofit colleague confided to me about the stress and hardship of raising two kids, trying to get them to school virtually, getting on weekly Saturday morning Zoom meetings with partner organizations to coordinate the distribution of food, computing technology, other essential items, and working during the week to organize campaigns as part of the social justice movement response to the murder of George Floyd. She shared how she was inspired and a little scared about joining her youth organizers to show up at a school board meeting where they were discussing the possible reallocation of school police resources to support other student services.

It’s dozens of these types of conversations with leaders where I just listen because they need someone to confide in; that makes me grateful for the work that I do. It’s through those conversations that despite the negative rhetoric you hear and read about racists in our country, or people putting their individual needs ahead of the needs of our communities, that you know there are heroes in our communities fighting for justice.

James: I can’t recall who said it, but there’s the provocative—and I think true—notion that philanthropy can’t “nonprofit its way to racial equity.” For me, that means that a few thematic or more ‘race-conscious’ grants aren’t enough—nor is the idea that nonprofits can be burdened with addressing and deconstructing deep-seated racial inequities and lack of essential resources on their own. It requires so much more. From your perspective, what is the role of philanthropy at this time related to racial equity, justice, and liberation? What are the primary opportunities, limitations, and lessons you’ve learned?

Eric: When some people think about philanthropy, they solely focus on the grant and the transaction, and what a nonprofit can do with those critical resources. However, the grant these days is not enough. Philanthropy should be a part of the truth and reconciliation racial healing process which will take longer than the time I will be on this earth. The first step is listening. We need to listen to the stories of our Black and Indigenous brothers and sisters, and use our position in philanthropy to act on those stories. We need to support systems change through organizing, advocacy, and power building in these communities. And generationally, we need to invest in the leadership of our youth who are already building movements for change.

James: What is one primary action that you think all philanthropic institutions and leaders should take in this moment, regardless of what issue area or sector they fund?

Eric: Like our nonprofit partners, philanthropic institutions sit at different places in their journey, and regardless of size and reach, there is a need to build capacity. This can be done at the board, management, or staff level. Some philanthropies may look at unrestricted operating support grants. Others may develop a racial equity and justice framework. Whatever it is, we need to keep getting better, but this goes back to what I mentioned earlier. Philanthropy needs to listen first, then act accordingly to build that capacity.

James: Listen first, and act accordingly. Sounds like advice that we can apply to a lot of parts of our personal lives, and perhaps in our national, civic dialogue! Two final things: Given that the name of this conversation series is “Insert Title Here,” what title would you give to the work you’re leading now, particularly in response to the question I posed up top from this conversation series? And what’s the best way for us to follow your work and the larger work of the Weingart Foundation?

Eric: Here’s the title that comes to mind for me: “Equity and Justice Require Unrestricted Operating Support.” You can sign up for the Weingart Foundation e-newsletter here. I would also recommend that folks read the Committee for a Greater L.A. No Going Back Report.

James: Thank you, Eric, for the conversation today and for the work you’re leading in Greater Los Angeles. We look forward to learning from the resources you shared, and continuing to support philanthropic leaders who are working hard to continue evolving within and through their own institutions. I owe you a trip to one of our excellent hand-pulled noodle shops in Philadelphia when we can start traveling again!