By Eric Brown
Jane Baker has had a longstanding commitment to supporting grassroots social justice organizations in the Bay Area.
She was previously a board member of the Vanguard Public Foundation, which rose to prominence in the late 1960s as a nimble, responsive, philanthropic organization dedicated to advancing equity long before many other foundations took up the cause. “At Vanguard, we felt like we were filling a niche that other foundations wouldn’t touch,” Jane explains.
When Vanguard closed its doors in 2011, Jane opened a fund at The San Francisco Foundation, but as an experienced grantmaker herself, she says she never had much interaction with foundation staff because she was clear about the types of organizations she wanted to support.
But like many millions of people across the country, Jane was not prepared for the federal crackdown on immigration that came with a new administration in 2017. In response, The San Francisco Foundation hosted a number of meetings to educate donors about the growing problem and to introduce them to the foundation’s Rapid Response Fund. The fund was established to provide community organizations with one-time grants of $3,000 to $15,000 that would be made within 30 days of receiving a funding request. The fund puts a priority on requests from small or emerging grassroots organizations that advance racial and economic inclusion as well as those that demonstrate strong leadership in communities directly affected by what has become a growing crisis for immigrants in the United States. This problem was precisely the type of challenge that the fund was designed to address.
“I was worried about immigrant safety and then the foundation contacted me and said that they wanted to collaborate with their donors on the issue,” Jane says. “I was unaware of how aligned The San Francisco Foundation was with my commitment to protecting immigrants. Until then, my relationship with the foundation was solely through my donor-advised fund.”
Jane was particularly impressed with the foundation’s swiftness in making emergency grants to organizations that desperately needed resources to provide legal defense for immigrants, training for immigrant advocates, and even self-defense training for both immigrants and advocates alike.
Since November 2016, the foundation’s Rapid Response Fund has supported 34 organizations across the Bay Area with nearly $400,000 in funding. The majority of grants have supported immigrant rights through advocacy, education, and access to legal services. As a result, many organizations have been able to offer “Know Your Rights” workshops to help immigrants to assert their constitutional rights. Another focus has been countering the rise in bullying and harassment of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian American communities.
Working together with donors like Jane, the foundation is helping to protect and empower the Bay Area’s most vulnerable communities during times of crisis. “It was eye opening,” she says, “to see what the foundation is capable of doing.”