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.

Message from Fred Ali, President & C.E.O.: A Heartfelt Farewell to our Senior Vice President, Belen Vargas

It is with deep gratitude for her many years of service and well-wishes for the future that I announce the departure of our senior vice president, Belen Vargas. Belen will leave the Weingart Foundation in late September to join California State University, Los Angeles as associate vice president for operations and chief mission officer.

I hired Belen in 2000 as our very first program associate and quickly realized that she had the background and skill to lead the development of a new program team and approach at the Foundation. She was soon promoted to program officer and rose through the ranks of management and leadership. In 2017, Belen assumed the role of senior vice president.

During her tenure, Belen built a strong program staff, hiring people directly from the nonprofit sector with a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She led the development of many important programs and initiatives—including our unrestricted funding program and the rollout of our commitment to equity. Belen also directed our Developmental Disability Initiative, as well as the Foundation’s communications program. She built partnerships with nonprofits, funder colleagues and government, spearheading our work with the Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative and the Youth Organizing Capacity Building Initiative. Over the years, Belen helped to guide and mentor many of our staff members, with an intentional focus on the development of a strong team of women of color. She also was the driving force behind the development of our collaborative, grantee-focused culture.

Belen is driven by her values and her passion for expanding opportunity. I also know that her commitment to the mission of educational equity and to her alma mater, Cal State LA, is deeply personal. While the Board and staff of the Foundation will miss Belen greatly, we know that she will be an incredible asset to the community in her new role.

We thank Belen for these past 19 years of mission-driven commitment and leadership, and we wish her all the best.

Fred Ali
President & C.E.O.

Message from Fred Ali, President & C.E.O.: New Immigration Proposal Harms Children and Families

A new proposal by the administration to drastically limit legal immigration could hurt millions of children and families across the country. Of all the recent cruel and unnecessary policies on immigration, this one stands out.

In this pending rule change, a person applying for a green card or visa could be denied if they access any one of a range of safety-net programs, including food, health care programs and housing assistance. Families would have to weigh the need to provide for their children against their desire for a permanent future in the United States.

The grave likelihood is that under this new rule, people will be afraid to access critical services. Hunger, illness, child poverty and homelessness will increase, and educational outcomes will suffer. It will have lasting negative consequences for families as well as for the economy.

California will be especially impacted. We are home to over 10 million immigrants—more than any other state. The proposed changes undermine California’s bipartisan efforts to integrate immigrant communities and ensure they have full access to civic and economic opportunities.

We know that immigrants are an integral part of what makes us strong. Immigrants contribute 32 percent, or $715 billion, to California’s gross domestic product, according to a report from the California Immigrant Policy Center and the USC Center on Immigrant Integration. When immigrants are fully included, we all benefit.

It is important to note that as of today no changes have been made to this policy. The federal Office of Management and Budget is currently taking public comments on the proposed change, and advocates are fighting back.

A Call to Action

At the Weingart Foundation, we are committed to strengthening our nonprofit partners as they respond to critical community needs and threats to basic human rights. We encourage our partners in the nonprofit sector to:

  1. Inform your constituents with accurate and accessible information
  2. Document the impact of this proposed rule by sharing stories and statistics about people who may be avoiding needed services because of fears related to public charge or immigration enforcement
  3. Consider submitting a public comment to the federal government about how the proposed rules would affect your organization and the communities you serve

For more information and to get involved, please contact the California Immigrant Policy Center. Also, here is a link to a recent op-ed on this issue in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, authored by Antonia Hernández, Dr. Robert K. Ross and myself.

The administration’s proposal will hurt the health and well-being of communities. It is also a radical reshaping of the national immigration system to exclude millions of working-class families of color. We must respond by standing up for a future of inclusion, diversity and opportunity for all.

Fred Ali
President & C.E.O.