Message from Fred Ali, President & C.E.O.: With Gratitude and Thoughts for the Future

This is my last President’s message, and over the past few days, I have been trying to figure out what to write. Probably overthinking things, because more than anything else, I want to express my profound gratitude to our nonprofit and cross sector partners, my colleagues in philanthropy, and the Board and staff of the Weingart Foundation. Over the past 22 years, you have taught me much, inspired my thinking to action, and amazed me with your unwavering commitment and dedication to making Southern California a better place for all.

We have all accomplished a lot together, and there is much more to do as we envision and work toward a more equitable and just Southern California.

When I became the President of the Weingart Foundation, my friends in the nonprofit sector advised me to not forget where you came from. As many of you know, I had spent years working with and running nonprofit organizations. I have tried my best to follow this advice by pursuing grantmaking strategies that center organizational effectiveness. Therefore, it is maybe not surprising that I want to start by lifting up the importance of nonprofit organizations in this final message.

I really believe that nonprofit organizations represent our best, collective selves. They are a place of dreams, opportunity, and courage—a constant reminder that we can do better for all of our citizens, but most importantly, for those who have been marginalized and left behind.

But today, many of the nonprofits we rely upon are in trouble, and not just because of the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19—unrelenting demand in the face of inadequate resources—has only exacerbated years of insufficient funding, unstable policy environments, and burdensome and costly public contracting practices. Southern California needs a strong and vibrant nonprofit sector in order to emerge from this crisis stronger, more equitable and just.

Nonprofits need our individual and collective support today more than at any other point in their history.

The other thing that remains clear to me is that America must come to terms with the inexorable impacts of racism woven into the fabric of our society. Sadly, I can think of nothing that I have worked on over these past fifty years—in education, in homelessness, and in the myriad of issues that our Foundation has attempted to address—that is not the result of structural or systemic racism.

Individual and collective action is required that centers anti-racist policies and practices in everything we do.

Finally, I am thrilled that my final President’s Message is accompanied by feedback from members of the first graduating cohort of the John W. Mack Movement Building Fellows Program. Investing in next generation good troublemakers may be the best way to ensure a more equitable and just Southern California. With support from philanthropy, California has developed the strongest and most effective community organizing and movement building infrastructure in the country—and the results are stunning. Despite the COVID related challenges, over the last year we have witnessed major victories in areas like alternatives to incarceration, more equitable education funding, new anti-racist policy initiatives, and realignment of public funding to better support community driven solutions.

Philanthropy can accelerate needed structural and systemic change by funding movement building and leadership development.

Thank you for the honor to share these thoughts. I feel like the most blessed person in the world to have been given the opportunity to work with you these past many years. I look forward to our paths continuing to cross as I enter my next phase of activism and commitment to equity and justice.

Fred Ali President & C.E.O.

Message from Fred Ali, President & C.E.O.: Announcing the Weingart Foundation’s F.Y. 2021 Program Plan

July 21, 2020

In August 2020, I will begin my 22nd year as the President of the Weingart Foundation—and the work has never been harder.

Simply stated, we had too much inequality and injustice before the pandemic, and now we have more. COVID-19 has put deep-rooted structural racism on full display, and the disproportionate impact of the crisis on our most vulnerable and marginalized communities has been devastating.

Simultaneously, the growing and potentially transformative movements around Black lives and racial and socioeconomic justice are creating historic opportunities for change. We stand with communities powerfully advocating for change and will continue to use our voice to advance racial equity and justice. It is also important that we act with humility and center the voices of communities of color—including youth—in everything we do. We pledge to use our privilege, resources, and influence to address structural and systemic issues, and to deeply invest in and follow the leadership of impacted communities.

The Foundation’s immediate response to the pandemic focused on providing emergency response funding, providing direct assistance to individuals. We quickly and strategically made over $2 million in emergency response grants throughout our service area, and sought the advice of our nonprofit partners for a longer-term effort. Not surprisingly, nonprofit leaders stressed the importance of unrestricted, multi-year operating support. We also helped initiate a cross-sectoral planning process designed to ensure a just recovery and advance systemic change, and maintained our support for Bold Vision 2028, an ambitious initiative focused on youth of color.

In the current fiscal year, which starts July 1, we will focus on nonprofits’ longer-term needs. Our F.Y. 2021 Program Plan outlines our goal to distribute over $20 million in Unrestricted Operating Support grants to core partners in order to help them maintain and strengthen capacity and—most importantly—to build power. We will also allocate additional resources to make program related investments, maintain flexibility to respond to emerging needs, and sustain our Youth Organizing and John W. Mack Fellows programs. The Foundation will continue to target resources to the historically underfunded communities of South Los Angeles and Southeast Los Angeles, and to the issue areas of Immigrant/Refugee Rights, Housing and Homelessness, and Nonprofit Effectiveness Cutting across all of our grantmaking and program investments will be a focus on addressing the structural racism and socioeconomic injustice exposed by this crisis.

A just recovery must move resources and power to the most vulnerable and marginalized in our society, and it will require that we change the systems that are no longer working. This is no easy task, but real change is both necessary and possible. We look forward to working with our partners to advance the vision of a caring, safe, and thriving society through this crisis and beyond.

Fred Ali
President & C.E.O.

To view our F.Y. 2021 Program Plan, click here.

NOTE: The Weingart Foundation will be hosting a webinar in September to walk through the F.Y. 2021 Program Plan and answer your questions. More information will be coming soon.

Message from Fred Ali, President & C.E.O.: To our Nonprofit Partners During COVID-19

March 16, 2020

First, thank you to the nonprofit organizations and frontline providers who are doing critical work to inform, protect and advocate for communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize that groups are engaging in these efforts on top of their existing work in order to respond to community need. Organizations are facing financial uncertainty and strain in the midst of canceled fundraising events and general economic volatility. Many groups also may not have the privilege to work remotely or shut their doors given the nature of their programs and limits on their resources.

The Weingart Foundation is closely monitoring developments in order to best support our nonprofit partners and the communities they serve. This update outlines the latest in terms of our plans and operations. We’ll continue to share new information as the situation evolves.

Uninterrupted Operations

In the absence of a vaccine and adequate testing capacity, public health experts advise us that the best way to counter the spread of the virus is “social distancing.” Dr. Robert K. Ross, President & CEO of The California Endowment and a board member of the Weingart Foundation, outlines why social distancing is so important in his recent blog post.

Therefore, effective immediately, our staff will be working remotely and switching all in-person meetings to video or phone conferences. We’ve canceled work-related airplane travel for the time being. We’ve also suspended convenings at Shared Space LA, in conjunction with our colleagues at The James Irvine Foundation.

All normal operations of the Foundation continue, and our transition to remote operations should be largely seamless from the perspective of nonprofits and other partners. You can contact Foundation staff by email and phone, and we will get back to you promptly—as is our ongoing commitment. Grant payments will also continue to be issued in a timely manner.

Flexibility for Grantees

Organizations need flexibility to respond to community needs as well as ensure the safety of their staff. As a reminder, Unrestricted Operating Support from the Weingart Foundation is completely unrestricted, and can be used to help nonprofits adapt and adjust during this time. For project-based grants, we welcome a conversation should you need to adjust grant goals, deliverables, or timelines. On a more limited basis, we can also consider requests to augment or accelerate approved grant payments, based on your individual circumstances. In all of these areas, or if you have any questions or concerns, we encourage you to reach out to your program officer.

Supporting Communities

The Weingart Foundation is working with key public agencies, colleague funders, and nonprofits to develop a swift and collaborative response to support communities, especially in low-income areas and among people who are homeless. I look forward to sharing more information on this soon.

Together for Justice

Taking responsibility for our collective well-being means caring for one another and showing compassion for those who are ill. While we create physical space between ourselves, we must also find ways to stay connected and strengthen community ties. This includes speaking out against anti-Asian xenophobia and racism. It also means thinking about ways to support our elderly, people with disabilities, and people with underlying health issues.

Unfortunately, risk of exposure to the coronavirus and the ability to recover depends largely on a person’s race, income, access to health care, and immigration status. More than ever, the pandemic shows that investments in our safety net systems and in community-based solutions matter. Worker and renter protections matter. Injustice is not only morally wrong, it increasingly threatens the health and safety of our entire society.

As we face this crisis together, let’s also support communities in calling for systemic change and a rebalance in power. That’s the best way to ensure our long-term wellness.