Since 1963, the San Francisco Foundation’s Community Leadership Awards have honored individuals and nonprofit organizations doing extraordinary work to address the Bay Area’s most pressing challenges. The awards are designed to advance community-driven, innovative, and sustainable solutions to critical issues facing the Bay Area.
Prior to 1998, the foundation honored accomplishments in public service through the Special Awards Program. Four awards were given annually until 1996: the John R. May Award, the Robert C. Kirkwood Award, the San Francisco Foundation Award, and the Helen Crocker Russell Award. The Awards Program was restructured so that the current Community Leadership Awards are given in the same spirit of leadership and recognition as the original leadership awards.
2023 SFF Community Leadership Award Winners
We are proud to announce the 2023 winners! Click on each award winner to read more about their story.
Phyllis K. Friedman - Retha Smith Robinson Community Leadership Award Winner
Nominations Open for the Phyllis Koshland Friedman — Retha Smith Robinson Community Leadership Award 2023
The Phyllis Koshland Friedman – Retha Smith Robinson Community Leadership Award annually supports an inspiring, young woman of color working in the Bay Area to advance community-driven solutions to the most pressing issues.
The Phyllis Koshland Friedman – Retha Smith Robinson Community Leadership Award honors the 30-year philanthropic and personal partnership between the late Phyllis Koshland Friedman and Retha Smith Robinson. Phyllis, the youngest daughter of Daniel E. Koshland Sr., co-founder of the San Francisco Foundation, shared her father’s belief in the larger San Francisco community and the talents and aspirations of all people, especially those too often disregarded and disrespected. She met Retha Smith Robinson when Retha was the Koshland Program’s assistant, saw her spark, and worked with her to recognize and unleash her talents and those of other leaders across the Bay Area. Since then, Retha has ascended in her own leadership and today she’s working as the director of the Koshland Program for the last 23 years and counting.
Phyllis and Retha shared a love of community and all people, an infectious humor that leavened as it unleashed the full promise of humanity, and a zealous desire to promote the well-being and empowerment of others — in both individual and systemic ways. Their partnership was defined by their generosity, empathy, passion for living, and commitment to social justice. May the spirit of their unique philanthropic partnership light the way for women leaders of color for decades in the future.
Submit your nomination for a woman of color in San Francisco.
Deadline for submission: October 2, 2023
2022 Phyllis Koshland Friedman – Retha Smith Robinson Community Leadership Award
Congratulations to our 2022 winner, Elizabeth Quiroz, co-founder of Redemption House of the Bay Area! Read our story about Elizabeth.
Past Community Leadership Award Recipients
- 2018 – Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Nuestra Casa, Family Independence Initiative, Del Seymour
- 2017 – Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, Tamisha Torres-Walker, Pogo Park, Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology (BAYCAT)
- 2015 – Janice Mirikitani, Eveline Shen, East Bay Community Law Center
- 2014 – Headlands Center for the Arts, Linda Tillery, Luis Granados, Mission Asset Fund
- 2013 – Reverend Michael McBride, Educators for Fair Consideration, Nancy Hom, Greg Moore
- 2012 – Aim High, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Brenda Way, Rita Semel
- 2011 – Bishop Yvette A. Flunder, Gonzalo Rucobo, John Santos, Jordan Simmons, Ravenswood Family Health Center
- 2010 – Dr. Washington Burns, Anna Halpri, Sylvia Rosales-Fike, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation
- 2009 – Mary Lou Breslin, Michael Franti, Eugene Rodriguez, Children’s Book Press, National Center for Lesbian Rights
- 2008 – Van Jones, Malcolm Margolin, Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez, Asian Women’s Shelter
- 2007 – Jane Garcia, Alonzo King, Eva Paterson, Arnold Perkins, Swords to Plowshares
- 2006 – Dr. Joseph Marshall, Jr., Michael Morgan, Bishop William Swing, Alice Waters
- 2005 – Ronald V. Dellums, Zakarya Diouf, Arabella Martinez, Insight Prison Project
- 2004 – Chris Bischof, Ester Hernández, Dr. Barbara Staggers, Puente de la Costa Sur
- 2003 – Sister Trinitas Hernandez, Mimi Silbert, Helen Waukazoo, Mother Brown’s Dining Room
- 2002 – David Lee, Martha Ryan, Carlos Santana, Bridge Housing Corporation
- 2001 – Harrison Lim, Margaret Cruz, Kouichoy Saechao, San Francisco Performances
- 2000 – Margarete Connolly, Martin Jacks, Cultural Odyssey’s Medea Project, Building Futures With Women and Children
- 1999 – Boona Cheema, Dorothy Smith Patterson, Asian Perinatal Advocates, La Peña Cultural Center
- 1998 – Ruth Beckford, Marya Grambs, A Home Away from Homelessness, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation
John R. May Awards
John R. May Awards: Made for organizational initiatives in response to a significant contemporary problem.
- 1996 – The Garden Project
- 1995 – Rafael House
- 1994 – Black Adoption Placement & Research Center
- 1993 – Rubicon Programs, Inc.
- 1992 – Berkeley Oakland Support Services
- 1991 – Larkin Street Youth Center
- 1990 – Innovative Housing
- 1989 – San Francisco Conservation Corps
- 1988 – Battered Women’s Association
- 1987 – Bay Area Crisis Nursery, Shanti Project
- 1986 – Eden Express
- 1985 – Jubilee West, Inc.
- 1984 – Visiting Nurses & Hospice of San Francisco
- 1983 – Coleman Children and Youth Services
- 1982 – Family Violence Project
- 1981 – Community Boards
- 1980 – Environmental Traveling Companions
- 1979 – Volunteer Centers of Alameda County
- 1978 – On Lok Senior Health Services
- 1977 – Center for Independent Living Inc.
- 1976 – Banana’s Inc.
- 1975 – Catholic Youth Organization
Robert C. Kirkwood Award
Robert C. Kirkwood Award: Made to an individual in recognition of outstanding community service, commitment and inspired leadership.
- 1996 – Frances Green
- 1995 – Gladys Thacher
- 1994 – Dr. Edward A. Chow
- 1993 – Marjorie G. Stern
- 1992 – Rudolph Nothenberg
- 1991 – Feliz Elizalde
- 1990 – Adele Corvin
- 1989 – Patricia Costello
- 1988 – Lillian Rabinowitz
- 1987 – Joseph W. Valentine
- 1986 – Dr. Mary B. Olney
- 1985 – Esther Gulick, Catherine Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin
- 1984 – Margaret Douglas and Percy Steele
- 1983 – Henry Der
- 1982 – Cornell Maier
- 1980 – Eunice Dalton
- 1979 – Samuel Stewart
- 1978 – Sandi Piccine and Pat Coates
- 1977 – Rev. Gene Dawson
- 1976 – Dr. Frank Oppenheimer
- 1975 – Milton Salkind
- 1974 – Ruth Asawa
- 1973 – Ruth Chance
- 1972 – Dorothy Erskine
- 1971 – Yori Wada
- 1968 – Roger W. Heyns
- 1967 – Rev. Jesse James
- 1966 – James Day
- 1965 – The Coro Foundation
- 1964 – Adrien J. Falk
The San Francisco Foundation Award
The San Francisco Foundation Award: Made to an individual demonstrating exemplary commitment to improving human relations in the Bay Area.
- 1997 – Sherry Hirota
- 1996 – Sandy Close
- 1995 – Carl Anthony
- 1994 – Jeffrey Mori
- 1993 – Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.
- 1992 – Angela Glover Blackwell
- 1991 – Lewis H. Butler
- 1990 – Dr. Edward Blakely
- 1989 – Dr. Mervyn Silverman
- 1988 – Rev. Frank Gilbert
- 1987 – Eleanor Curry
- 1986 – Dr. Francisco J. Curry
- 1985 – David K. Yamakawa Jr.
- 1984 – Carlota Texidor del Portillo
- 1983 – Herman J. McKenzie
- 1982 – Barbara Cross
- 1981 – Eunice Jackson
- 1980 – Belva Davis
- 1979 – Father Donald Burr MacKinnon
- 1978 – Dr. Moses Grossman
- 1977 – Calvin Anderson
- 1976 – Sam Yuen
- 1975 – Florette W. Pomeroy
- 1974 – Kenneth C.L. Cabb
- 1973 – Lovie McIntosh
- 1972 – William L. Becker
- 1971 – Leandro P. Soto
- 1970 – Beth Cobb
- 1969 – Earl Raab
- 1968 – Grandvel Jackson
- 1967 – J.K. Choy
- 1966 – Percy Pinkney
- 1965 – Sister Rose Maureen Kelly
- 1964 – Danta Andreotti
- 1963 – Genevieve Jefferson
Helen Crocker Russell Award
Helen Crocker Russell Award: Made to nonprofit organizations that have improved the quality of life in the Bay Area through programs in the arts, humanities, recreation, environmental protection or enhancement.
- 1996 – Museum of Children’s Art, National Institute of Art & Disabilities
- 1995 – The Bay Institute of San Francisco, Golden Gate National Park Association, Peninsula Open Space Trust
- 1994 – East Bay Center for Performing Arts, Oakland East Bay Symphony
- 1993 – Bread and Roses, The Greenbelt Alliance
- 1992 – Save Mount Diablo, The Oakland Museum