Donor Desk: Stephanie DiMarco

Donor Desk: Stephanie DiMarco

Tell us about yourself:

I was a Trustee of The San Francisco Foundation for 10 years. When my husband Jim and I opened a donor advised fund at the foundation 15 years ago, that was the catalyst for us to become more intentional about the issues we care about and the organizations we want to support.

I attended UC Berkeley and Jim attended UC Santa Barbara. At that time, the tuition was $212 per quarter. That left us with a deep appreciation for the value of public education! With my undergraduate business degree and Jim’s degree in history (with a minor in surfing) we both went on to start our own businesses in San Francisco. I built a software company, Advent, that I ran for 30 years and Jim owned an art gallery south of Market Street.

Building a company literally from nothing has provided its share of valuable life lessons. The most important, as it relates to our charitable giving, is that providing someone a small boost can potentially have multiplicative and powerful ripple effects. We had an angel investor who provided the initial capital to get Advent going. It was a small investment but it made all the difference. Enabled with that initial stake we built a large, global enterprise.

Along the way, we created a place where hundreds of people built careers and realized their dreams. The people part was always the most fun for me. I was 25 when I started the company and didn’t know much. As a result, I was always very comfortable hiring other young and inexperienced people if they were hard working and willing to learn. Over and over, I saw the power of providing an opportunity for people to thrive and succeed.

Tell us about an organization that you are passionate about supporting:
I’m on the National Board of Summer Search, a youth development organization started 27 years ago in San Francisco. Summer Search helps students from low-income backgrounds to see a different future for themselves. The organization works with high school students by providing mentoring, summer experiential opportunities and college advising.

The program has extraordinary success rates. I think the reason Summer Search works so well is the students get a “boost” like I did when I was 25 – when someone was willing to invest in and believe in me. These students have potential and drive, but come from under-resourced environments and face systemic inequities and a widening educational opportunity gap. Summer Search shows them they can believe in themselves. It’s about personal transformation in a supportive environment.

It’s hard work that’s only possible because we have an amazing staff who are deeply committed to the success of each and every student. I’ve been involved with the organization for five years and it’s been a privilege to watch how the program has helped transform lives. With 27 years of history and 3,000 alumni across the country, we have the tangible proof statement that many of our alumni are becoming the diverse next generation of leaders that our country needs.

Jim and I invest in Summer Search because it advances racial and economic equity by empowering young people to get to and through college and become agents of change in their families and communities.