Three of the Bay Area’s largest private foundations will commit $8 million over three years for a new project to strengthen grassroots organizations that are led by or serve people and communities of color in California.

Called the Community Leadership Project, it is being underwritten by the David and Lucile Packard, James Irvine, and William and Flora Hewlett foundations and will target small and mid-sized organizations in three geographic areas: the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, Central Coast, and San Joaquin Valley.

The Hewlett Foundation has a long history of serving communities of color and low income communities in California and around the world. The Foundation’s commitment to this dates to its earliest years, when it made grants for student scholarships to promote diversity in higher education.  Since 2006 alone, the Foundation has made nearly $100 million in grants across its programs to serve these communities throughout the state.

Foundation President Paul Brest said the Community Leadership Project reflected the Foundation’s evolving commitment to these goals.

“As the grantmaking of all three partners has long demonstrated, we recognize the crucial importance of embracing and supporting California’s diverse communities,” said Brest. “We look forward to this project building on that tradition and extending our support further than ever.”

Irvine Foundation president and CEO James E. Canales echoed Brest’s sentiments, adding that changing demographics in the state make such grantmaking more crucial than ever.

“As one of the most diverse states in the nation, California must build its future on the success of the communities of color that comprise the majority of our population,” Canales said. “We believe this new funding will help grassroots nonprofit organizations address a real set of challenges so that they can realize their full potential.”

And Packard Foundation president and CEO Carol S. Larson said that grantmaking to support such grassroots organizations will pay broad dividends over time.

“We are pleased to join the Hewlett and Irvine foundations in this initiative,” Larson said. “While our grantmaking typically supports organizations working to conserve the environment, advance reproductive health, and improve the lives of children, our programs’ goals often focus on increasing services and improving the quality of life for low-income communities. This is an important initiative that will have far-reaching impact beyond its current scope.”

Community Leadership Project funds will be made available to nonprofit organizations with annual budgets of less than $2 million. Reflecting the belief that those closest to communities best know their needs, the Project will work with intermediary organizations (primarily community foundations) to regrant funds to between fifty and sixty nonprofit organizations.

In late spring 2009, the Project will award the first set of grants to the intermediary organizations, which will then begin the selection process for awarding funds to nonprofit groups  Each of the intermediaries will form an advisory committee of community leaders to help determine grant recipients.

To qualify, an organization should be small or mid-sized and serve communities of color and low-income communities in one of the targeted geographic areas. There will be an emphasis on organizations led by people of color, but that is not essential to be considered for a grant.”Nonprofit groups that receive funding will be offered some combination of leadership development, operating support, technical assistance, and opportunities for networking with peer organizations.

Some of the designated $8 million will be reserved for a second, smaller round of grants to be made through intermediary funders during the Project’s three-year course and  then distributed to additional organizations that serve low-income and diverse California communities.

Please visit the Community Leadership Project Web site at for more information about the Project and related stories about past grantmaking.

See also, “Introducing the Community Leadership Project”