Weingart Foundation Shifts Giving to Focus on Equity in Southern California

Last month, the Los Angeles-based Weingart Foundation released an update to its giving philosophy centered on efforts to mitigate systemic inequity in southern California.

The Weingart Foundation has historically structured its charitable giving to support those nonprofits serving the underserved in the areas of human services and education through unrestricted operating grants and smaller program-specific grants. In this way the foundation’s priorities remain relatively unchanged; however, it is shifting its giving to focus explicitly on those communities that experience the greatest inequities, namely south and southeast Los Angeles.

Fred Ali, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation. Photo: Weingart Foundation.
Fred Ali, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation. Photo: Weingart Foundation.

“In our listening sessions, we hear from nonprofits and community members who daily experience disparities that are deepening and widening,” said Weingart President and CEO Fred Ali and Chair Monica Lozano in the most recent message from the president and chairman, posted on the foundation’s website.

“We are told that our safety net is eroding, and that Southern California is increasingly divided into separate and unequal places. A child in Newport Beach will likely live 10 years longer than a child in Watts. We are also hearing from grantees that lasting change will require a collective and long-term focus that addresses the underlying circumstances that create and perpetuate inequity, the root of so many of our most intractable problems,” Ali and Lozano said in the message.

According to the newly released 2017 program plan, Weingart will commit all of its resources to serving the low-income people and communities most impacted by inequity. The foundation will do this by making larger unrestricted grants, launching new targeted initiatives and supporting systems and policy change.

A minimum of 60 percent of the foundation’s grantmaking in 2017 will be distributed as unrestricted operating support; the small grants program has been renamed the Expanding Opportunity Fund and will accept proposals for up to $25,000. No new capital grants will be awarded for the first half of the 2017 fiscal year, which began on July 1.

The foundation has prioritized six initiatives through which it will address equity issues, including supportive housing for homeless populations, immigrant rights and integration into communities, nonprofit sustainability, at-risk youth and the child welfare system, among others.

The child welfare initiative will focus on improving the lives of children involved in Los Angeles County’s child welfare system. Projects that work to improve foster parent recruitment and retention or to prevent child abuse and neglect will be given priority.

The new program plan is intended to be used as a guide, and may change over the course of the year. “We will continue to listen and learn from grantees and communities, and our strategies will continue to evolve over time,” reads the plan.

The Weingart Foundation encourages community feedback regarding its new direction.

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Christie Renick
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Tucson-based vice president of Fostering Media Connections. Follow @christiejrenick.