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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.