The Power of Philanthropy: Hirsch & Associates Year-End Letter

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

We are in the midst of a sea change.  However you are feeling after the election last month, we are undergoing significant changes that affect us deeply in our communities, across the United States and worldwide.  The power of philanthropy is needed more than ever.  In 2017, philanthropy must find innovative ways to address community needs and complex issues, identify the most effective leaders and organizations, make critically important funding decisions, and measure meaningful impact.

Or as one of our clients said, “We are thrilled to be changing lives together.”

When I started Hirsch & Associates in 1999, the field of philanthropic advising was just getting started.  Seventeen years later, our philanthropic and strategic advising is thriving, with far greater recognition that philanthropy can help shape our world.  Philanthropy is asking – and answering –  big questions about the role of wealth in overcoming inequality and strengthening public private partnerships.  Philanthropy is stepping in when people are left behind.

When we think of the holidays and the coming new year, we are grateful, hopeful and resolved to do more.  Grateful for what we achieved in 2016with our incredible, growing team, all passionate, cross-sector experts at driving community change in our local communities, across the state and nationally.  

Hopeful every day, as we work with inspiring and generous philanthropists who care deeply and give back to some of the most effective organizations in the country.  And resolved that 2017 must be a year of unprecedented focus on philanthropy as a two-way street with our communities – starting and maintaining a dialogue about what’s needed and then accelerating change.

We wish you and your loved ones a Happy Holiday Season and New Year. We are ready to work together in 2017 with renewed dedication to finding long-term solutions for the people and problems that need us the most.

Warmest wishes,


Growing our Impact

Hirsch & Associates was thrilled to grow our team of expert change makers this year, including two new senior staff who bring years of cross-sector advocacy, climate, environmental conservation and health experience in recognition of the increased influence of philanthropy paired with advocacy to create lasting change.

We welcomed Peter Martin to the team as our new Senior Managing Director along with Senior Associate Adrienne Bousian.
We also grew our systems and client management capacity with Caitlin Elliot as Operations Manager and Vivien Dinh as Grants Administrator.

Sending Funds Quickly into Communities and Nationally

We predict that philanthropy will take bold new risks in 2017.  In light of the election, many of you are already asking “how can we give back to our communities exactly where and when funding is needed?”  One of our clients just established a special community fund to do just that and is already working with our team of experts to distribute funds.

Some of our clients want to impact specific communities, while others want to strengthen democracy and justice across the U.S. by reducing the influence of money in politics, preventing gun violence, bolstering early childhood education and increasing media accountability.

You don’t need to launch a new fund to give back in thoughtful and strategic ways.  It is heartening to know that more families are actively engaging the next generation of philanthropists, sometimes offering high school and college-aged children and grandchildren the chance to make smaller gifts in areas they are passionate about.  By aligning individual passions with need, we come up with strategic recommendations that improve lives, no matter the amount.  If you have a young family member who wants to know what they can do, we can help engage them.

Lasting Solutions

Collaborative change is widely known as an effective means to create lasting solutions for change.  But before everyone was talking about it, Hirsch & Associates partnered with the Hellman Foundation to make it a top priority when we created the Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative to fund ambitious cross-sector collaborations at a catalytic stage in their development.

This year the Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative was proud to provide timely and much-needed infusions of support for bold collaborations creating solutions to intractable challenges, from overcoming multi-generational poverty  and supporting low-income preschoolers of color to addressing chronic homelessness and preparing African American high schoolers in San Francisco for college and career success.

If you know a collaboration doing life-changing work, please share this message with them and encourage them to visit the Hellman Foundation website for more information about future funding opportunities.

Hellman Collaborative Change Initiative supports organizations that are transforming lives by promoting equity and opportunity, such as the African American Postsecondary Pathway which helps young people of color who need it most, including this San Francisco student who is reading an original spoken word piece before an audience of 400 (July 2016 | photo courtesy: Don Bowden ALVS Photography)

Infusing Non-Profits with Oxygen

Now in its third year, the O2 Initiatives Sabbatical Award offers exceptional Bay Area non-profit executive directors the gift of personal and professional rejuvenation so greatly needed when doing the hard work of igniting positive change.  With our Senior Associate Emily Cohen Raskin at the helm as Executive Director, we continue to be amazed and gratified by the caliber of leaders from highly acclaimed non-profit organizations who apply to this program.  We know that giving leaders time away offers them renewed energy and commitment and allows others in their organizations to take on new responsibilities, creating greater shared leadership and a more resilient non-profit community.

One of those inspiring awardees is José A. Quiñonez, Founder and CEO of the Mission Asset Fund.  The Mission Asset Fund believes everyone deserves a shot at success and strives to make the financial system work for low-income communities that have been left behind.  José says of his O2 sabbatical: “It was a gift of time for me to be able to step back from my daily responsibilities of running the Mission Asset Fund and reflect on all the good we have done in the past eight years and what is ahead in the next phase of our work.  It allowed for others in the organization to really step up and experience a different level of leadership.  This wasn’t just for me but for the whole organization.”

Another awardee is Julia R. Wilson, CEO of OneJustice which provides life-changing legal help in California.  Despite tremendous growth over the past decade, OneJustice remained stuck in a traditional, top-down decision-making culture in which Julia had to weigh in on nearly every aspect of the organization.  “We knew that our leadership structure was not distributed and that our decision making was inefficient,” Julia says.  “My sabbatical provided the impetus we needed to make change.  The organization thrived in my absence.”  Julia also says, “I found myself able to ask the big questions about how what I do matters to social justice.  What came back to me was passion for the strategy.  I fell head over heels in love with the work again.”

If you know an exceptional non-profit leader, please share this with them and encourage them to apply for an O2 Sabbatical Award in 2017.