My Giving Story

Immigrants are vital to our economy and our communities. Nearly 10 million immigrants, the largest of any state, call California home. More than 2 million Californians are undocumented. Immigrant workers comprise more than one-third of California’s labor force, and about one in 10 workers in the state is an undocumented immigrant.

Scotty calls himself “the medical miracle.” By the time he was 15 years old, he had been hospitalized 23 times and thrown out of his last foster home because of mounting medical bills. Scotty suffers from a rare genetic disorder that prevents his body from metabolizing protein, a condition that landed him in the hospital consistently during childhood and plagued his adult life in the form of seizures and blackouts that made it impossible to hold a steady job. His chronic unemployment made health insurance unaffordable, and left him unable to manage his medical condition. As a result, he remained chronically homeless, struggled with a drug addiction that aggravated his medical issues, and lost touch with his children and family over the years.

I spent the first day of spring 2013 fast-walking Capitol Hill with foundation colleagues from all across the country. Hundreds of us were there for Foundations on the Hill, philanthropy’s annual push to remind lawmakers why giving matters.

Russell Conwell was a motivational speaker at the turn of the 20th century who had a famous talk called “Acres of Diamonds” that he allegedly delivered 6,000 times. The talk began with a story about an ancient Arab—Ali Hafed—who longed to find a diamond mine so that he could influence the world with his riches. When he asked a holy man where he could find diamonds, the holy man told him he would find them where a river runs through white sands between black mountains. Ali Hafed sold his farm and went in search of these diamonds, but in vain: He died alone and poor.

I recently received a call from a researcher on a new project. As I understood it, a prominent U.S. foundation had asked them to study how domestic donors deal with gender issues. They were to identify funders with a specific commitment to the gender lens in their funding priorities, and then document how these funders tracked the implementation of the gender analysis through grantmaking and programs.