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J. M. Johnson

J. M. Johnson

J. M. Johnson

Senior Advisor, Philanthropy and Engagement
Why do you do what you do?

My life experience has shaped my values, and those values compel an unwavering commitment to advancing equity and justice. My personal journey includes growing up in poverty, being a palliative caregiver to a parent as a child, growing up as a queer person in a non-affirming community, and living for a time in the Global South. All of these were formative experiences that fostered deep empathy for those struggling in our community as a result of extractive and exploitative systems that society continually fails to realign with human values.

What drew you to the foundation?

I have lived in San Francisco my entire adult life, and this place, which felt like a refuge when I left my original home in the Midwest, holds an indelible place in my heart. SFF has a bold and increasingly urgent mandate to expand opportunity and ensure a more equitable future for all in the Bay Area.

In our increasingly volatile and complex world, power is a function of our ability to sense and respond to changes around us, and leadership is a function of facilitating collaboration across diverse stakeholders. As a community foundation, we are poised for the critical role of convener—the place to bring people together across various identities and interests to make progress on the wicked challenges (opportunities!) facing us.

How would you describe your role?

I see my role as helping SFF and our donors be as effective as possible at making progress toward the goal which today exceeds our grasp: a future where we experience a truly equitable community. This requires bold imagination and a lot of grit, as we work day in and out toward something we have never experienced. Given the immense stretch of this vision, I bring as much curiosity, humility, and rigor as I can to help us continually innovate, adapt, and learn, so that we can fulfill our duty to the community in an inexorable march toward progress.

Are you involved in any volunteer activities?

I keep things varied—dancing between giving circles, helping young nonprofits get their operational ducks in a row, doing a little fundraising, a dash of politics, and spending time exploring community-building efforts outside of organizational confines.

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