SFF recently chatted with donor Tania Lee, daughter of the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. Tania is Senior Product Fellow at Trestle Collaborative, a nonprofit that provides technology support for progressive movement-building organizations. Below are highlights from the conversation.
SFF: Why did you decide to open a charitable fund at SFF?
After my dad passed away in 2017, there were a lot of people who were amazing and generous and wanted to give money in his name. We thought it would be a great opportunity to channel all of that grief into some productive work that mirrored my dad’s values. My dad gave so much of himself to public service, especially in and around the Bay Area and in San Francisco, so I think SFF was an obvious choice.
SFF: Can you describe your dad’s values and how they influenced your grantmaking from the fund?
Our grandma was a single parent to six children, and they lived in the projects in Seattle, so my dad knew all the challenges that come with growing up in public housing and having to advocate for yourself and for your neighbors – that’s what started his trajectory as a community organizer. Fast forward to his career as mayor, when he focused on housing because San Francisco was going through an incredible housing crisis – it still is. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to live long enough to see the fruits of a lot of that work. That’s one reason why we want to continue that commitment, not only to affordable housing, but housing that is accessible and safe and inclusive, and diverse.
SFF: Your dad played a big role in HOPE SF, which is one of SFF’s key housing initiatives. How have you and your family continued to support HOPE SF?
My dad was very drawn to HOPE SF – he very much supported it and was very much a part of it. When I was finally able to meet some folks from HOPE SF, I was struck by the power of the resident leaders. HOPE SF is investing in community members and residents to advocate for their neighbors in their community. I also learned about the kind of holistic approach to the work with youth programs, organizing, health and wellness programs, and explicitly anti-racist community development initiatives. I thought that that was really inspiring. We want to help HOPE SF become even more effective at doing all that work. If other donors can invest in anything in the Bay Area, housing should definitely be a top priority.
SFF: What has it been like working with SFF’s philanthropic services team?
My sister and I have the immense privilege of being able to decide where money can go every year. So we really lean on our SFF philanthropic advisor, Catherine Kelliher to advise us in that process. We really take Catherine’s advice to heart when we ask about issues like supporting COVID work, and supporting Black and brown-led work on affordable housing and entrepreneurship. We have a lot of ideas, and we want to ensure that they’re relevant. Catherine has helped us make sure we give in the most effective way possible.
SFF: SFF is turning 75 in 2023. What do you hope for as we head into our next 75 years?
I feel so heartened to know that SFF is looking at its past, learning from the past, and looking towards the future. During his career as mayor, my dad often talked about being bold. I would love to see bold ideas that help make the Bay Area a place where people care and show up for one another. I would love to be on that journey with you.
Donor Stories: Tania Lee – Continuing Her Father Ed Lee’s Legacy