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Sobrato Stands Behind California’s English Learners
Showing up for Each Other
Celebrating 20 Years of Community Impact
John Sobrato is a family man running a family business, plus a family philanthropy.
The only child of two hardworking Italian immigrants, during his sophomore year of college Sobrato started helping his mom with her real-estate investments, and selling homes in Silicon Valley for $20,000. A year after his graduation in 1960, the mother-son duo organized their first industrial project for a major company—a 14,000-square-foot building for Lockheed. The Sobratos were now developers, and Silicon Valley would never be the same. Forbes currently estimates the net worth of the Sobrato family to be $6.9 billion.
The Sobrato Organization still has no outside shareholders, but it has grown to manage more than 75 commercial properties in the Valley, with a particular niche in high-tech headquarters like the custom buildings created for Netflix, Apple, and other premier tenants. While expanding this business, the Sobrato family has given over $379 million to nonprofits in the region through their family foundation, in addition to personal gifts distributed across the country and world. In 2012 John and Susan Sobrato and their son John Michael became the first two-generation family to sign the Giving Pledge, agreeing to leave their estates to philanthropy.
Philanthropy: The first real-estate investor in your family was your mother. How did she get into the profession?
Sobrato: My parents immigrated from Italy almost a hundred years ago. My father had a very successful restaurant in San Francisco called “John’s Rendezvous.” His busiest time was during the war years, when everything was rationed. You couldn’t get vegetables, you couldn’t get chicken. So my mother had the idea to buy a ranch. They bought a couple of acres in Atherton, tore out the lawns, and raised produce and poultry for the restaurant. My dad worked hard. In the restaurant business, you have to be there on a daily basis. He never got home before one or two in the morning. Then he’d leave the next morning around ten.
After the war, my parents didn’t need this two-acre estate in Atherton anymore, so they sold it. They made more money on that property than they did all the years of working 18 hours a day during the war. That’s why I’m in real estate, and not the restaurant business.
Philanthropy: Can you tell me about your parents’ philanthropic priorities?
Sobrato: When I was about ten years old, my mom used to take me on her volunteer trips to St. Anthony’s soup kitchen. She would cook and serve meals one or two days a week, my first introduction to charity. And my father always had a wad of bills in his pocket, being in the restaurant business. I can remember waiters and bartenders coming up and saying, “Hey John, I have this problem. Can you lend me some money?” He’d whip out his wad of cash and hand bills over to his workers.
Philanthropy: Tell me about your family foundation.
Sobrato: The foundation focuses on Silicon Valley grants. Of course, there’s also a lot of need outside of Silicon Valley. So less than half of my giving is through the foundation.
My wife Susan and I have three children and seven grandchildren, and the Sobrato Family Foundation has voting members from all three generations. Our grandchildren are allowed to attend foundation board meetings, and they can vote on grants after their twenty-first birthday.
When we donate appreciated real estate to the foundation, half the amount is deposited in each child or grandchild’s donor-advised fund, and they can make grants out of that fund however they wish without having to come to the board for a vote. We hope that by doing this we encourage the family to continue giving together rather than drifting apart.
When we set up trusts for our grandchildren we stipulated that they start receiving distributions at age 25, and those payments increase at age 30, 35, and 50. But in order to receive those funds, we require that they grant a similar amount to charities of their choice. To get $100, they have to give away $100.
For example, my grandson John Mathew is 31, and he has a passion for teaching high school to low-income students. He is now vice principal at Latino College Preparatory Academy in East San Jose. When he turned 25, he gave some of his trust distribution to deserving students for scholarships so they could attend college. Now he is paying for half the cost of a new academic building, and I am paying for the other half. It’s an $11 million project.
We thought it was important to encourage our grandchildren and children to do as we do. There’s enough wealth that they’re comfortable, but not to an excess. And our kids aren’t selfish, so they’re okay with this. They don’t have to have three airplanes and five houses.
Our giving also keeps us close. Making decisions on our shared priorities creates a natural process for learning each other’s passions and opinions.
Philanthropy: Tell me about the foundation’s focus on office space for nonprofits.
Sobrato: Like the cost of housing, the cost of office space in Silicon Valley strains the budgets of our local nonprofits.
When my mother died about 15 years ago, we decided to convert a multi-tenant business park in Milpitas that she bequeathed to the family into a center for free office space for nonprofits. It proved so popular that we converted another building in San Jose, and then another campus in Redwood Shores. We now have about 350,000 square feet of office space housing 75 nonprofits free of charge. We also have free meeting rooms and conference facilities for up to 150 people at each center that any nonprofit can reserve, which saves the cost of renting hotel conference facilities. Last year alone we hosted 8,400 meetings for 176 nonprofits in our region.
In order to set up an office in our space the nonprofit has to have a budget of at least $300,000, and it has to have been in business for a number of years and have good leadership. The executive director of a charity makes a big difference.
Philanthropy: Your foundation is known for giving general-operating support.
Sobrato: Our general-operating grants can be used however the group wishes. We see it as a sign of our trust. Our only stipulation is that the second-year payment is conditioned upon the organization providing proof that it was able to match our grant with pledges from new donors or increased giving from existing donors. Nearly 100 percent of our grantees over the years have succeeded at matching our dollars, and a large portion raise more than is required. The nonprofits tell us that a Sobrato gift is an imprimatur that helps them with other funders.
Philanthropy: How has Silicon Valley changed in your lifetime?
Sobrato: When I was selling houses in the 1960s, you could buy a nice home for $20,000. The population really started to boom around the early ’70s. Now we have a lot more people, and very little developable land anymore. Supply and demand are out of whack.
Realistically the only solution is to build more housing. I believe we will eventually see neighborhoods accept taller buildings, more density. We can’t fill the bay, we are surrounded by mountains and open space that we cherish, so the only solution is to build up. The typical complaint is that more density will bring more traffic, but I think autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing will become the norm and our existing roads will be able to handle more people without more cars.
Philanthropy: Do you think that Silicon Valley is a generous place?
Sobrato: Much of the wealth in Silicon Valley has been created by entrepreneurs who came here from other regions of the U.S. and from all over the globe. Astoundingly, over 60 percent of the high-tech workers here are foreign-born. So it only stands to reason that many want to give back to the countries they came from. But for my family, when we founded the foundation 21 years ago, we wanted to give our resources and time to where we built our success, so the vast majority of our foundation’s grants are invested in local causes.
There has been a lot of press lately about the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, that it should do more to convince donors of pressing needs right here in Silicon Valley like homelessness and hunger. Nearly 25 percent of our population here lives in poverty—mostly Hispanic people living in the shadows.
Philanthropy: You’ve been very involved with homelessness.
Sobrato: I serve on the board of Destination: Home, which is encouraging corporate gifts to leverage a $950 million bond that was approved by Santa Clara County to build affordable housing for homeless people. Cisco and Schwab have each pledged $50 million, and Kaiser Permanente is offering $200 million.
We face stiff opposition, though, from homeowners in the neighborhoods where these homes would be built. They’re concerned about poor people walking around, accosting their children, breaking into cars. And a lot of homeless people will need support services—they might have drug habits, mental issues. We think those services can be placed on-site, and the neighborhood issues can be solved with the right management. But some neighbors threaten to use the California Environmental Quality Act to file lawsuits and delay projects for years and years.
There is legislation moving through the state right now saying that if you’re going to build for the chronically homeless you don’t have to go through the CEQA review. That would make a huge difference in getting these projects going. But you still need a local government that is sympathetic, and residents often threaten to vote to recall elected officials that support these projects. That’s why a lot of these buildings aren’t getting built, even though we now have a pile of money for that purpose.
Philanthropy: What causes in the Silicon Valley receive lots of support, and which ones are more neglected?
Sobrato: Stanford gets an inordinate amount of support. Its endowment is over $20 billion. Meanwhile there are thousands and thousands of people that rely on the food banks here to survive.
There are a few high-tech CEOs involved. Charles Robbins, the CEO of Cisco, is working on this homeless issue. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, is focused on hunger. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is national, but it is spending a lot of money in Silicon Valley trying to improve educational outcomes. So a few executives are into local causes. But they’re the exception. Most executives focus on where they were born.
Philanthropy: You’re also a funder of the Alliance for Catholic Education, which channels talented college graduates into teaching positions at poor Catholic schools, much as Teach For America does for public schools.
Sobrato: I met Father Tim Scully, who leads the ACE program, based out of Notre Dame in South Bend. They run an intensive summer program where recent graduates learn how to educate and mentor young kids. While they work in their assigned school for two years, the ACE instructors live together in a group house, where they reinforce each other’s growth in teaching and in faith. We started out by sponsoring a cohort of six teachers in Silicon Valley.
I met the teachers, and was impressed with what they were accomplishing. And the receiving schools were very happy with them. So I said we also had to create some successor effort locally. At Santa Clara University we started a similar program called ExCEL that I’m very involved in. Like ACE, ExCEL participants live in community and teach within the Diocese of San Jose. After three years they earn a M.A. in teaching from Santa Clara University. We graduated our first group this year.
I also started sponsoring another program at Notre Dame where they take students who have taught for two years through the ACE program, and train them on how to be a good principal of an urban Catholic school. They are called Sobrato Scholars, and we’ve doubled the number of participants since we started this program a year ago. Notre Dame receives between 200 and 300 applications from across the country every year for 60 to 70 spots.
This is not foundation money, it’s personal giving. The foundation focuses on Silicon Valley. The family does things in other places through our individual gifts. So I support ACE, and institutions like Catholic Relief Services and Cross Catholic International, which is based out of Florida and works with the poorest of the poor in third-world countries, in concert with local priests who identify needs. Right now, we’re building a preschool in Belize and CRS is distributing food to Syrian refugees.
Philanthropy: You’ve also worked closely with the Catholic diocese here in San Jose to create a strong governance model for managing its parish schools.
Sobrato: A diocese has a bunch of parishes, most with their own Catholic school, and the pastor is in charge of that school. Unfortunately, the pastor has a lot of demands on his time. There are funerals, weddings, sermons to prepare. Pastors really don’t have the time and expertise to run a school.
In San Jose, Father Brendan McGuire, who’s the vicar general, came up with a model for providing oversight of the schools through the diocesan offices rather than the local parish. They just hired a new superintendent for the San Jose diocese, who incidentally is an ACE leadership graduate.
Education is the surest way out of poverty. You need to have a good education to get a job that can pay you enough to live here. Amazingly, you have to make about $150,000 a year to rent a two-bedroom apartment in our region.
Philanthropy: And you’re very involved with Cristo Rey, the network of Catholic high schools that combine high academic standards with work in healthy businesses.
Sobrato: I was at a friend’s winery in Napa five years ago, having a glass of wine and talking to the fellow next to me. He said he was on the board of Cristo Rey in Denver. I asked him, “What’s Cristo Rey?” I had no idea. He explained the model, and I thought we ought to have one of those in San Jose, so I reached out and started working on it.
We created a founder’s circle of about a dozen people, had Father Foley come out to make a presentation, and did our best to raise money. Then I told Bishop
P. J. McGrath that I wanted to start a local Cristo Rey school, but needed a location. He told me about a school the diocese closed five years ago because the families in the neighborhood couldn’t afford the tuition. The building was vacant except for periodic catechism classes. I took a look, and it was a very small site, but I thought we could make it work.
We started with 130 students. Now we have 470. We just put up two additional buildings on campus, after raising $25 million.
The average income of a Cristo Rey family is less than $40,000 a year, with both husband and wife working. Consequently, many of our students’ families live by doubling or tripling up in apartments, or living in garages. So we offer nutritional meals at school for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for some students. But we still require families to pay something, even if it’s $50 or $100 a month for their child to attend. We want the family to have some skin in the game. After the family contribution, everything else is paid for. It costs us about $17,000 per student a year because we have to pay decent salaries to get good teachers in this area.
Our students work in industry one day a week and go to school four days a week, over an extended day, and an extended school year. We teach them how to type, work a spreadsheet, and other entry-level business skills so they can do meaningful work for our corporate partners, who pay the school $34,000 a year for the work done by a team of four students each putting in one day a week. We have students at tech firms like HP, Cisco, and Google, as well as local hospitals and law and accounting firms. Most of our students are bilingual so, for example, in hospitals they can translate for patients coming in who don’t speak English. The salaries they earn cover about 50 percent of the school’s operational costs, and our students see firsthand why it’s important to finish high school and go on to college.
We graduated our first senior class of 110 students this year. Every one was accepted to college and is planning to go. To give you a sense of how this has been received by the community, our graduation ceremony had to be held at Santa Clara University, even though we just built a multi-purpose hall that seats 500, because so many family members wanted to come.
Philanthropy: You’re also a proponent of blended learning, the educational method that uses intensive and personalized computer instruction to supplement classroom teaching.
Sobrato: Educational software is really improving dramatically. It’s amazing. It provides teachers with immediate, detailed feedback on exactly where a particular student is struggling.
That’s one of the reasons we’ve had such great success at Cristo Rey in San Jose. We’ve been able to raise test scores, especially in math and in English, by using blended learning. There are 34 schools in the Cristo Rey U.S. network, but we were early to start with blended-learning strategies, being in Silicon Valley. And they’ve worked so well that a lot of other Cristo Rey principals have come out and visited with us.
Philanthropy: Can you tell me about the Sobrato Early Academic Language model?
Sobrato: The idea behind SEAL is to quickly teach enough English to Spanish-speaking kids so that by the time they’re in third grade, they’re academically literate. Some of these kids can speak English, but not of a quality needed to answer an academic question. The focus, starting when the kids are three, is to make their vocabulary richer, not just in English, but also in Spanish. It is a dual-language environment; the classrooms are very lively.
We started six years ago with 1,500 kids in five local schools. Originally, we were paying 100 percent of the costs, about $3,000 a student. Now that the success of the model has been proven, school districts pay two thirds of the program cost, and we pay one third. And we’ve grown rapidly. We’re up to 50,000 students in 100 schools.
Philanthropy: You’re also not afraid to get involved with advocacy efforts when they are needed to improve the functioning of schools.
Sobrato: We’ve probably given $1 million to three or four different organizations that are working in education advocacy. We’re working with community groups to make sure that locally controlled funding dollars go to the right place. For example, when needy schools are given extra money by the funding authorities, the public-school managers often just spread the money across the board for salaries instead of focusing it on effective teaching. We have to change that type of thinking. A lot of things are screwed up in the California education system, including giving teachers tenure after two years. We’re working with different advocacy groups to try to change the rules.
Philanthropy: You recently gave a $100 million gift to your alma mater Santa Clara University for a new STEM building.
Sobrato: The irony is that I almost flunked out of Santa Clara because I wasn’t any good at math. As a freshman engineering major you also had to do very careful printing for drawings, and I had sloppy penmanship. I switched my major to business and was on the dean’s list from then on.
The first Sobrato gift to Santa Clara was from my mother and me—we donated a percentage from the sale of the building we put up for Lockheed back in 1962. That established the chair for the engineering dean in memory of my father.
For this latest gift, I want the building to set a new standard and differentiate Santa Clara from our neighboring institutions at Stanford, Berkeley, and San Jose State. Those institutions offer STEM programs, but at the graduate level. This building will support both undergraduates and graduate students; focused specifically on working in collaboration across disciplines. We’re going to start construction at the end of this year. We hope to have it finished by 2021.
I’m on campus about every two weeks, meeting with the staff and the architects. I’m very involved in the design and the materials—the stone, the doorknobs, the amount of glass in the building. I’m trying to make it more like a typical high-tech headquarters.
For example, in the past, all professors insisted on a little private office, a place where they can lock the door, have all their books on the wall. Their little cave. This is going to be different. Professors are going to have a private office, but it’s going to be all glass, with no lock on the door. It will look more like Facebook or Google. And I hope this will make them more accessible to students.
Article originally published here.
Commemoration of Sobrato Hall East
October 8, 2018
John A. and Sue Sobrato enjoyed a celebration hosted by the Foundation for Hispanic Education commemorating the Sobrato East Hall, with J. Manuel Herrera, Board President of the East Side Union High School District (featured above to John’s left).
Bay Area Philanthropists Pinpoint The Region’s Biggest Challenge
September 18, 2018 Allison Nagel, West Coast Editor
The Bay Area’s biggest philanthropic need, homelessness, is a highly visible one, but one that has been a challenge to address. Efforts to create permanent housing with on-site services to help break the cycle of homelessness — or help address the untreated mental illness that often underlies the problems behind homelessness — are constantly met with the same response: Not in my backyard.
“The way to get well is you have to put them in a permanent home with on-site services. Nobody wants that in their [neighborhood],” said John A. Sobrato, who joined fellow philanthropists Tad Taube and Larry Baer for a discussion on giving back at Bisnow’s Office West event in San Francisco last week.
Sobrato, founder of The Sobrato Organization, which does its philanthropic work though The Sobrato Philanthropies, recalled a project he had pursued in Santa Clara where the city planned to give his organization a lease for $1 a year to build permanent supportive housing.
The project had council support, but there was vocal opposition at community meetings, he said. Ultimately, the council voted down the project.
Such attitudes heighten the challenge.
“The homeless situation in San Francisco is the most critical problem,” Taube Philanthropies Chairman Tad Taube said. The need is unmet, he added, and growing out of control. “Nobody really knows how to solve it.”
Without permanent supportive housing with services like mental healthcare, the public healthcare system cannot handle the volume of people coming in, said San Francisco Giants CEO Larry Baer, who co-chaired the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation Campaign Committee to support the new hospital.
“[We have] a number of folks in our communities that are crippled by mental health issues that are treatable, but aren’t being treated,” he said.
Sobrato said he is hopeful that the legislation now in front of Gov. Jerry Brown that would allow permanent supportive housing by-right in areas already zoned for multifamily would smooth the process for future projects. It is one of several bills that could affect housing in the state if the governor signs it into law. “
Let’s hope that passes,” he said.
Article originally published here.
Announcing Summer 2018 Grantees
September 10, 2018
In late July, the Sobrato Family Foundation (SFF) had the pleasure of approving grants totaling $3.5 million to local organizations that are working to create opportunities in our communities. Grantees in this round include an exciting new small business and entrepreneurship cluster, as well as grants to promote career access, build the capacity of school leaders, support the development of a Silicon Valley College Promise program, advance our English Learners policy initiative, and support the development of Silicon Valley Solutions, to bridge the divide between charitable giving and community-based organizations as highlighted in the Giving Code report.
Program Areas and Specific Grants
Pathways for Success
Goal: To advance a set of integrated approaches intended to increase economic opportunities and support individuals and families to successfully achieve economic stability and mobility.
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Cluster
$1,325,000 total over 2 years to construct a network in the South Bay that effectively trains, finances, and supports entrepreneurship and small business ownership for women, people of color, and extremely low-to-moderate income individuals.
Inner City Advisors – $400,000 over 2 years
Grameen America – $400,000 over 2 years
Working Solutions – $350,000 over 2 years
Small Business Majority – $175,000 over 1 year
Braven – San Jose State University program expansion and career connections
$750,000 over 3 years to train and support low-income, first-generation college students at San Jose State University in earning a Bachelor’s degree and attaining a degree-appropriate job within a middle-to-high wage career path.
Center for Employment Opportunities
$250,000 over 2 years to equip hundreds of vulnerable, low-income adults in Santa Clara County with both initial temporary job placements and also permanent, stable employment. CEO will also to support local participants in attaining a technical credential.
San Jose Public Library Foundation – Silicon Valley College Promise
$300,000 over 2 years to establish a shared framework for the three community college districts in San Jose to ensure any low-income student, from any K12 district, will be provided a consistent level of support to enter and complete at least an Associate’s or technical training credential. The SV College Promise will also coordinate employer engagement across the colleges, with a focus on producing job-ready graduates for high-growth and middle-wage careers in the Valley.
21st Century Education Program
Goal: To improve local school systems’ ability to provide a high-quality, equitable education to low income and English Learner students in Silicon Valley, while also expanding alternatives that enable students themselves to pursue high achievement.
Santa Clara University – Excellence in Catholic Education and Leadership (ExCEL)
$250,000 over 1 year to train and place specifically prepared novice teachers in San Jose Diocese schools that serve low-income and English Learner students. The model includes a communal living component, with teacher candidates developing their faith together in a spiritual community.
English Learner Policy and Advocacy
Goal: To impact all English Learners in California through an integrated strategy that applies our practice-based expertise to advocacy and policy efforts that advance SEAL principles widely, and that position English Learners as central in all of the state’s broader education policy reforms.
Californians Together – English Learner Leadership & Legacy Initiative (ELLLI)
$175,000 over 1 year to train 50+ advocates for English Learner students, with new activities to disseminate their curriculum and tools, as well as to bolster fundraising and sustainability specifically for this training program.
Thriving Nonprofit Sector
Goal: To increase the effectiveness, scalability, and systemic impact of our community-based partners and develop more high-quality nonprofit leaders. Our grantmaking works to accomplish two key objectives: fund providers who are working to strengthen the nonprofit ecosystem in the Valley and support the organizational development of specific grantees that are core to the Foundation’s strategic objectives.
SV Solutions (a fiscally sponsored project of Social Good)
$200,000 over 1.5 years to launch the SV Solutions initiative, a long-term, multi-funder developed initiative to increase giving to Silicon Valley community-based organizations.
Opportunity Youth Partnership (a fiscally sponsored project of Kids in Common/Planned Parenthood Mar Monte)
$40,000 over 5 months to support Opportunity Youth Partnership of Santa Clara County’s strategic and operational planning around aligning services for youth ages 16-24 who are disconnected from education and employment, with a focus on youth who have been connected to the foster system, justice system, homelessness, or are pregnant/parenting.
Goal: To support the social fabric of our community by being responsive to our partners and their emerging and urgent needs.
Ravenswood Family Health Center
$300,000 over 1 year to increase the dental services provided to RFHC patients annually.
Announcing PropelNext‘s 2021 Northern California Grantee Cohort
September 6, 2018
We are thrilled to share that 12 nonprofits have been selected to join PropelNext’s Northern California 2021 grantee cohort. Each will receive a combination of unrestricted funding and capacity-building supports over three years from one of four Northern California-based co-investors, including the Sobrato Family Foundation, with the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF).
This support consists of $200,000 in direct grants and an approximately equal amount in services, which include one-on-one coaching and consulting from sector experts, facilitated group learning sessions and a peer learning community. EMCF delivers the program and coordinates the resources and services provided through PropelNext.
PropelNextwill help the 12 nonprofits enhance and sharpen their program models, implement strong performance management systems, and develop organizational mastery for ongoing learning and improvement.
These investments will improve the life prospects of disadvantaged youth in the Bay Area by making the organizations that serve them even smarter and stronger. The PropelNext program will boost their ability to set strategic priorities informed by data and improved decision-making, and to measure and track performance and impact, so they can serve more youth more effectively and generate greater resources for their work.
The 12 organizations in PropelNext’s Northern California cohort are (investors are noted in italics next to each participant organization):
- Able Works (Heising-Simons Foundation)
- Bill Wilson Center (Sobrato Family Foundation)
- Braven (Packard Foundation)
- CollegeSpring (Packard Foundation)
- Enterprise for Youth (Hewlett Foundation)
- Generation Citizen (Hewlett Foundation)
- Oakland Leaf (Hewlett Foundation)
- Puente de la Costa Sur (Sobrato Family Foundation)
- Safe Passages (Hewlett Foundation)
- ScriptEd (Hewlett Foundation)
- Unity Care (Heising-Simons Foundation)
- Youth Alliance (Hollister Youth Alliance) (Packard Foundation)
Participant organizations were chosen through a comprehensive selection process that began in January 2018 with more than 60 candidates invited to apply.
For more information, please visit propelnext.org.
John A. Sobrato Receives 2018 Golden Hard Hat Award
John A. Sobrato was honored to be recognized alongside Gary Filizetti with a 2018 “Golden Hard Hat Award,” given by the Department of Civil Engineering, in association with the department’s Advisory Board, to Santa Clara University alumni. The award recognizes and acknowledges outstanding contributions in support of the SCU’s Civil Engineering Program, civil infrastructure (locally, nationally and internationally), and the University’s vision of educating citizens and leaders of competence, conscience, and compassion committed to building a more humane, just, and sustainable world. Click here to download a PDF about the award.
Sobrato Pavilion Dedication and Ribbon Cutting
August 21, 2018
The Sobrato family and Foundation team enjoyed a truly beautiful evening on August 21, 2018 at the Sobrato Pavilion Dedication and Ribbon Cutting. Our most sincere thanks to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital team, whose hospitality was humbling and whose work is inspiring to us all.
Silicon Valley Philanthropy: The Disconnect and Opportunity
ALF’s The Dialogue | May 2018
In 2016, a report on philanthropy in Silicon Valley revealed a major disconnect between donors and the local community. The report found that 90% of philanthropic dollars leave the region and of the dollars that stay, the vast majority are given to hospitals and universities. The good news, and the opportunity, is that the report revealed that our booming Silicon Valley community houses more than 76,000 millionaires and billionaires. American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley CEO Suzanne St. John-Crane speaks with ALF Senior Fellows Carol Larson, CEO of the Packard Foundation, and Rick Williams, CEO of the Sobrato Family Foundation at a San Jose Rotary Club meeting on how we as a community must play a role in creating a “give where you live” culture.
This Foundation Has Been Giving General Support for Years. What’s It Learned?
Inside Philanthropy | May 15, 2018
The Sobrato Family Foundation, an early champion of grants to support nonprofits’ operating costs, recently shared its take-aways from 10 years of that type of grantmaking. Though such grants are becoming more popular, they account for a small share of total philanthropy. Operating support grants are valuable to nonprofits because unlike grants for specific programs, the funds can go to anything in the organization, like administrative salaries or rent.
There’s wide agreement that nonprofits need this kind of core, unrestricted support. A Bridgespan survey last year of 300 grantees of top U.S. foundations—groups that are better off than many nonprofits—revealed that “more than half suffer from frequent or chronic budget deficits; 40 percent have fewer than three months of operating reserves; and, 10 percent showed no reserves—making that group technically insolvent.” That’s a pretty grim picture and suggests that the way foundations support nonprofits is deeply flawed.
General operating grants can help stabilize nonprofits, but most foundations prefer to provide program-specific funding instead. About a fifth to a quarter of philanthropic giving comes in the form of unrestricted funding that nonprofits can put toward funding day-to-day operations, according to the Natonal Center for Family Philanthropy. There are signs that this type of giving is becoming more common, though. In 2015, the Ford Foundation pledged to dedicate 40 percent of its grantmaking budget to general operating support. We’ve also seen other funders move in this direction, like the Chicago Community Trust. Quite a few of the major new funders we track, like the Ballmer Group, favor general support grants.
Philanthropists from business often intuitively grasp the value of unrestricted funding because that’s how investments flow in their world; no venture capital firm, for example, would invest in a startup with the stipulation that their funding could only bankroll the engineering team. Recently, we wrote about how the Cummings Foundation—piloted by the Boston real estate mogul Bill Cummings—has long given general support grants and has now gone a step further by promising to support some nonprofits over a ten-year period.
The Sobrato Family Foundation is also anchored by a large real estate fortune, one built over decades by John Sobrato, who Forbes says in now worth $6.4 billion. He and his wife Sue, along with their son John, signed the Giving Pledge in 2012. The family’s foundation keeps a low-profile, focusing its giving on supporting work in California’s Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties.
Like Cummings, the Sobrato family has seen great value in offering unrestricted support. As an early adopter of this type of grant work, Sobrato has a bigger evidence base to draw from than some of the more recent converts like Ford. Over the last 10 years the foundation put $55 million into supporting the operating costs of 187 nonprofits. Much of the foundation’s work focuses on anti-poverty efforts.
The foundation’s support of the region comes at a time when state and federal government funds for nonprofits providing direct services are waning or proving too administratively taxing to pursue, according to the report Sobrato published. Additionally, while there are more funders popping up in Silicon Valley, they often focus their attention on national or international nonprofits, as opposed to backing local organizations. Meanwhile, many residents of the region are struggling to get by. For example, one in four people in Silicon Valley are at risk of hunger, researchers at the Second Harvest food bank have found.
For all these reasons, the Sobrato Family Foundation is a critical ally for nonprofits in the region, prioritizing groups that work to create a more equitable society. Its willingness to provide general support makes it an espeically valuable funder.
From 2004 to 2016, $17.7 million in Sobrato general support grants went to human services, $8 million went to education, $7 million went to housing, the remaining $15.5 million went to youth development, health care, food and nutrition, and employment. The report draws on dozens of interviews with grantees to assess how this unrestricted funding has played out for nonprofits, looking at what choices they made and what the impact has been.
Grantees used Sobrato grants to cover both programmatic expenses, like paying for staff delivering direct services, and nonprogrammatic expenses, like the cost of development, finance, or administrative personnel.
Nonprofits that received grants from Sobrato to support operating costs said that the grants left them free to focus on providing services instead of fundraising, or able to hire staff to get and manage the time-consuming program grants.
“All of the funders and local stakeholders we spoke with believed that nonprofit leaders are best positioned to determine how to allocate GOS funds and invest in the development of their organizations,” the report said. “Many believe that GOS grants, especially multi-year grants, have the potential to help organizations further build their capacity.”
“In instances where investing in growth and development is not possible, they hope that providing GOS grants over time can sustain organizations and help them focus on service delivery, rather than fundraising.”
Something that came up with many grantees was what a boon it was to be able to use grants to pay staff. General operating support grants were crucial when it came to recruiting and retaining staff at all levels, including managers, service providers, and development and administrative staff, the report found. One grantee that talked about paying staff “livable wages,” shared: “I don’t think we would be able to do that without the GOS that we get.”
At their core, general operating support grants are about acknowledging that an organization’s leaders and staff know best where the nonprofit needs to invest resources. There’s been more movement within philanthropy lately to take the lead from stakeholders on the ground, and allow work to become more bottom-up. Letting nonprofits decide where best to spend funds is one way to move in this direction. It requires foundations to give up some control, but that’s partly the point.
As grantmakers explore this type of shift, they would do well to study Sobrato’s example.
How a new website could help Bay Area nonprofits find affordable space
East Bay Times | January 11, 2018
As real estate costs around the Bay Area show no real signs of coming back to Earth, nonprofits have faced a sad irony: facing the same displacement and affordability crisis that has affected many of the people they help. But a new online tool could help those organizations find badly needed office and event space.
The Northern California Community Loan Fund, which supports nonprofits, is launching Spacesforgood.org, a free online platform that allows nonprofits, real estate brokers, landlords, and event venues to advertise their space available to nonprofits for short-term, long-term, or temporary use. Think Airbnb, but instead of home rentals, the offering is affordable workspace specifically for nonprofit organizations.
The site is free to use. The idea is that anyone with available office, co-working or event space can list their property, whether they are for-profit, nonprofit or a government entity, and nonprofit groups can then search for space that suits their needs.
“We really saw that it would be a great service to have an online platform that would be free and accessible for nonprofits,” said Joanne Lee, director of consulting services and program develop at NCCLF. “So that’s really why we’ve created this is to fill that gap, to make it easy for nonprofits hopefully to find space.”
A report released by the Northern California Grantmakers in 2016 showed that Bay Area office prices had been pushed up 122 percent over what they were five years earlier, and two-thirds of the nonprofits surveyed in the Bay Area said they would have to make a decision about moving in the next five years. Out of those surveyed, 82 percent of those nonprofits were concerned about the high-priced real estate market or their “long-term financial sustainability.”
NCCLF, which offers a lending pool for nonprofit facility projects and a consulting department that helps the organizations build financial and real estate skills, has already worked with nonprofits on mitigating their displacement through one-on-one consulting services, workshops and other programming. Since the survey in 2016, Lee said that many nonprofits had brought up the notion of having a centralized online platform to search for space — something besides Craigslist and the usual avenues.
“This gives nonprofits opportunities to work together in looking for real estate,” said Daniel Hlad, NCCLF’s director of development and communications. Nonprofits, which are also struggling with challenges like increasing salaries, often have unique needs. The site allows them to search for short, hourly rentals for hosting a meeting, longer, more traditional leases, or renting out a desk or small office.
Right now, the site, which is sponsored by Y & H Soda Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, New Resource Bank, Sobrato Family Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and other partners, is live, and the NCCLF is encouraging those with space to populate it with offerings around the Bay Area. At the end of the month and in February, it will host “kickoff” events in San Francisco and Oakland to unveil the site to its potential nonprofit users. Later, it will push for South Bay offerings, as well, Lee said.
Editorial: Sobrato Pavilion is spectacular addition to Valley Medical Center
Mercury News Editorial Board | December 6, 2017
Valley Medical Center’s new Sobrato Pavilion opens to patients next week, nine years after Santa Clara County voters approved Measure A, a bond measure to pay for seismically retrofitting VMC and keeping its prized burn and trauma centers open.
There were significant setbacks along the way, for sure. But the end product is a spectacular addition to the region’s health care assets and to the hospital that is the linchpin of Santa Clara County’s health care system.
The look and feel is everything patients and their loved ones want in a hospital experience. The interior design has a calming effect on visitors, and new technology provides the cutting-edge advantages residents expect from a hospital located in the heart of Silicon Valley.
The spacious, first-floor rehab center, with its HydroWorx therapy pool and Aretech ZeroG Gait and Balance Rehabilitation systems, is the showcase department. The equipment to help patients rebuild their lives after strokes, auto accidents and other traumas is state of the art.
But it’s the 168 new, private patient beds with loads of new technology and the expanded 32-bed Intensive Care Unit that prepare VMC to serve patients from all walks of life for decades to come.
The new building also means that VMC will remain in good position to attract and retain high-quality personnel. One of VMC’s underappreciated qualities is that it trains 1 of every 4 doctors in the county, partnering with such prestigious hospitals as Stanford.
State law enacted after the Northridge earthquake required VMC to seismically retrofit its oldest hospital beds or shut them down. The Board of Supervisors, then-VMC CEO Kim Roberts and then-County Executive Pete Kutras took a huge leap of faith in 2008, amid one of the nation’s worst financial crises, and asked voters to tax themselves to build the new facility.
The bond passed with an overwhelming 78 percent of the vote, and the project broke ground in 2009.
But delays plagued the project. In 2015, two years after the Sobrato Pavilion was scheduled to open, the county revealed that the project was $100 million over Turner Construction’s initial winning bid of $290 million and that it had fired the contractor. Ultimately, the county and Turner came to terms. Current County Executive Jeff Smith said that the project hit the re-budgeted amount of $466 million.
Despite the problems, the end result should serve as a source of pride. Visitors at opening celebrations last week were very pleased.
“What’s unique about this county and this hospital is that it thinks long term,” said Paul Lorenz, VMC’s CEO. “The building of the downtown clinic, this new hospital building, the expansion of the emergency department, the expansion of the burn center is a commitment to building a strong, sustainable system that will be financially viable and will serve people from all walks of life for years to come.”
One out of every four county residents receives care at VMC over a four-year period, and the number of patients seeking care has increased by 45 percent since 2000. When they arrive at the new Sobrato Pavilion, they’ll find a facility that’s the equal of any public hospital in the nation — and also superior to some private ones.
VMC’s new Sobrato Pavilion unveiled
Medical facility features technology upgrades for patients.
By Tatiana Sanchez | The Mercury News | December 3, 2017
SAN JOSE » Santa Clara Valley Medical Center marked a new era Saturday with the unveiling of its new Sobrato Pavilion, a facility boasting cutting-edge technology and innovation that officials say will put the needs of patients first. The six-story, 370,000-squarefoot building, with 168 private patient rooms, is named after prominent Silicon Valley philanthropist John Sobrato, because of his record-setting $5 million donation, matched by another $5 million raised by the VMC Foundation.
Hospital administrators and local politicians unveiled the $468 million pavilion with a ribbon cutting Saturday morning, where several hundred people toured the facility as a live band — made up solely of Valley Medical staff — played outside.
Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith said the pavilion “will allow tens of thousands of our employees to provide services of care to millions of individuals over its lifetime.”
The new facility, now nearing completion, was built using the final allotment of funds from Measure A, an $840 million bond measure passed by Santa Clara County voters in 2008 to pay for hospital seismic safety and medical facilities, including a downtown San Jose clinic that opened last year.
The pavilion will allow patients like Ran Tao to start anew, administrators said.
Tao, of San Ramon, was studying computer science at UC San “I had a whole team here who helped me get ready for the world again,” he said. “They taught me a lot of skills… and (about) learning how to live life again.”
— Ran Tao, Valley Medical Center patient
Taking Action on DACA –
Our Continued Commitment to Silicon Valley
September 21, 2017
The communities where we live, raise our children, play in parks, work, and create memories are more than street addresses and neighborhood names. Communities are a bond. They celebrate connection, and they recognize support — support that manifests in the ways we have each other’s backs and speak up for each other’s needs.
Here in the Silicon Valley community, we all work, play, worship and live. We all belong. As a member of this community, the Sobrato Family Foundation sees the need to speak up: We believe all people in our communities deserve dignity and the opportunity to succeed. We know removing opportunity for DACA* participants goes against our mission and our values. And we recognize the need to speak and act on behalf of the community we serve.
When we learned that President Trump ordered an end to DACA, we reached out to nonprofit partners to hear what this means for you and the Silicon Valley community members you serve. You shared with us your concerns and fears. You inspired us with your solidarity and dedication to stand together as a united community. You demonstrated that you understand and honor the bond of community. The most consistent, tangible need our grantee partners expressed was support for DACA participants to file renewal applications. Responding to community needs, our board unanimously approved two immediate actions.
The Sobrato Family Foundation has created a one-time fund of $150,000 open to current Sobrato grantees for DACA application fee reimbursements. The reimbursement fund is available now and will remain open through October 31, 2017 or earlier, if community members draw the funds more quickly.
In addition, the Sobrato Family Foundation granted $25,000 each to five community organizations equipped to expertly respond to legal demands DACA participants face: Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, Legal Aid Society of San Mateo, Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto, SIREN – Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network of San Jose, and Catholic Charities of San Jose. This funding allows teams to act flexibly without additional administrative burdens while they triage and address the needs of DACA participants and their families.
Timing is crucial for these grants, as the deadline to file for a DACA renewal is fast approaching, and our grantees have already been working diligently to support people impacted by the announced end of DACA. We recognize and deeply appreciate national funds focused on helping Dreamers, the young people who have been protected by DACA. However, our staff and board members do not want local nonprofit partners and people you serve to feel pressure to compete for national funds. We are upholding the bond of community by making sure you have local resources for this critical work.
The Sobrato Family Foundation will continue to uphold our responsibility to the residents and families we serve as a member of the Silicon Valley community. We will hold ourselves accountable to you and to the role we can and must play as a local philanthropy –– to ensure equity, equality and opportunity for all.
To learn more about this program please contact Jazmin Gonzalez at email@example.com
*The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a policy that protected immigrants who came into the United States as minors and know no home outside the United States.
Announcing our Impact Lab Cohort
September 13, 2017
SFF is pleased to announce the organizations we have selected to join our Impact Lab – an intensive 18-month program to provide select grantees with a collaborative learning environment, tailored coaching, and tools and techniques to improve evaluation systems and create a culture of learning within their organizations.
We received so many excellent applications to the program, and we are excited to have selected the members of the cohort.
The organizations selected are:
- Breakthrough Silicon Valley
- Building Skills Partnership
- Fresh Lifelines for Youth
- Grail Family Services
- Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County
- Rebuilding Together Peninsula
- Sacred Heart Community Service
- Samaritan House
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties
- Somos Mayfair
Please join us in congratulating our new cohort. We look forward to sharing more with you throughout the year.
The Sobrato Organization again among San Francisco Business Times’
“Fab Five” Top Corporate Philanthropists — $22.83M in local cash grants in 2016
July 19, 2017
The Sobrato Organization — funding all giving by the Sobrato Philanthropies — was recognized on Wednesday by the San Francisco Business Times as a Top Corporate Philanthropist, second only to Google’s $50.27M in Bay Area cash grants.
Google and TSO, along with Salesforce, Wells Fargo, Cisco,
PG&E, Chevron, Intel, Bank of America, and Gilian Sciences,
make up the top ten corporate givers to Bay Area organizations. John A. Sobrato, Chairman of TSO, and Kenji Treanor, Director of Strategic Grantmaking, were on hand to accept this recognition at the morning event.
According to the San Francisco Business Times, the top 100 corporate philanthropists in their survey gave a combined $309 million in cash to Bay Area charities and organizations in 2016, and more than $2.4 billion in cash worldwide.
TSO’s generous $10,000 annual per-employee match was among leading programs featured in an article on the growing impact of corporate match programs, and an interview with Sobrato Family Foundation CEO Rick Williams described the family’s top grant recipients, and what new grants were made in the past fiscal year.
Click here for the San Francisco Business Times’ coverage.
Dr. Anya Hurwitz named new SEAL Executive Director
– Takes position July 1, 2017
– Dr. Laurie Olsen to move into role of strategic advisor
June 15, 2017
The Sobrato Family Foundation is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Anya Hurwitz, the current Deputy Director of SEAL, to serve as the new Executive Director of the Sobrato Early Academic Language program. After conducting an extensive national search and interview process, Anya was clearly the best person to lead SEAL into the next phase of development and expansion.
In partnership with current SEAL director Dr. Laurie Olsen, the SEAL team and the Foundation staff, Anya’s leadership has enabled SEAL to reach goals beyond the Foundation’s expectations. Anya will assume the role of Executive Director on July 1, 2017, when Laurie moves into the role of strategic advisor.
Anya has worked as a teacher, school leader, district administrator and an educational consultant committed to creating supportive, inclusive classrooms that set every student up to succeed in school and in life. With Anya’s leadership, we will maintain the high quality of our work, the strength of our partnerships, and position SEAL to develop the language and literacy skills of California’s English learners and make a lasting impact across the state.
Sobrato Family Foundation Invests $5 Million
for Bay Area Affordable Housing
– Second investor in the Bay Area to lend capital to develop 10,000 affordable homes
– Adding to long legacy of Foundation support for affordable housing
May 24, 2017
The Sobrato Family Foundation announced a $5 million investment in the TECH Fund campaign, supporting the creation of 10,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years throughout the Bay Area. Foundation funds will be focused on San Mateo, Santa Clara and Southern Alameda counties.
The Sobrato Family Foundation is the second investor after Cisco Foundation in the pooled TECH Fund that aims to raise $50 million to develop affordable homes in the region. The TECH Fund, which stands for Tech + Equity + Community + Housing, established by Housing Trust Silicon Valley, lends startup capital for affordable housing developers.
“We believe Silicon Valley should be a place of opportunity for all of its residents. That starts with making it a more affordable place to live,” said John A. Sobrato, the Sobrato Family Foundation’s board chairman. “Housing Trust Silicon Valley is an exceptional partner, and the TECH Fund is an innovative way for the private sector to step up and invest right here at home.”
The Bay Area is one of the most expensive housing markets in the nation, with housing creation unable to keep pace with job and population growth. Housing Trust Silicon Valley estimates as much as 60 percent of the region’s local workforce cannot afford market rate rent. The housing crisis also contributes to increased traffic and precarious financial situations for families.
“The TECH Fund provides an opportunity for companies and foundations to be the affordable housing catalysts we need in the region,” explained Kevin Zwick, Housing Trust Silicon Valley’s chief executive officer. “Sobrato Family Foundation’s commitment will help jump-start new housing development projects and attract more investors.”
The TECH Fund allows local corporations and foundations to invest in affordable housing with an interest return rate of 1.5 or 2 percent, depending on the length of the loan. Housing Trust Silicon Valley then lends the money at a low interest rate to developers. As the loans are repaid, more loans can be made in new investments. The Housing Trust aims to recycle the $50 million three times, for a total of $150 million in loans for affordable housing. Cisco Foundation invested $2.5 million in the fund and is considering matching up to $10 million from other investors.
Since 2000, Housing Trust Silicon Valley has invested $131 million in multi-family lending, home ownership assistance and programs to reduce homelessness that created 14,858 affordable housing opportunities. It is the first nonprofit Community Development Finance Institute (CDFI) to receive a Standard & Poor’s rating, AA-.
Sobrato Family Foundation celebrates 20th anniversary;
Announces new $29M investment in SEAL
to advance statewide policies to help English Learners
May 17, 2017
Joined by 250 nonprofit, community, and government leaders, tonight the Sobrato Family celebrated two decades of formal grantmaking as a family foundation. At the gathering, CEO Rick Williams, Board President Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, and Board Chairman and Trustee John A. Sobrato recognized long-time community partners, key staff whose commitments span much of the foundation’s history, former and current foundation leadership, and everyone in the SFF grantee and Nonprofit Center tenant community helping make Silicon Valley both strong and vibrant.
Mr. Sobrato also shared news of SFF’s new $29 million investment in the successful Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) educational model, as part of a continued effort to develop the language and literacy skills of California’s English learners. The aim of this increased investment is to promote the academic success of every English learner in California, by expanding SEAL to help advance statewide policies. These policies would draw from the research and evaluation of the model, as well as best practices learned in SEAL classrooms.
After its initiation in 2008, and following a successful pilot phase in Silicon Valley, the SEAL model has expanded rapidly. It is now being implemented in 16 districts, reaching 87 schools all over California. View Press Release
The Valley Catholic celebrates Sobrato’s recent $25M gift
providing scholarships to SV children for Drexel System Schools
April 24, 2017
The most recent issue of The Valley Catholic highlights the Sobratos’ belief in the promise and vision to transform Catholic Education for the 21st century. Four years ago, Sobrato support helped fund the launch of the Drexel School System, and this past March, John and Sue increased their support and commitment — gifting this transformative school network $25 million through a bequest of their estate. Below are excerpts from the article:
The Sobratos have been leaders in the emergence and growth of Silicon Valley and remain committed to this place they have called home for generations. “We are committed to support local organizations that promote access to excellent schools and sustain individuals and families. We view the Drexel School System, and the Diocese of San Jose, as partners and innovators who share our vision for the Valley,” said John A. Sobrato.
The Drexel School System was developed in response to the changing educational landscape and to revitalize and transform Catholic schools, ensuring success in the 21st century. This innovative system delivers measurable results to the diverse mix of students in our Catholic schools. Recent results demonstrate that Drexel schools increased academic achievement with a system average in math that puts them at the top 17 percent in the nation. The system has higher numbers of students that meet or exceed the standards for reading and math than their competitors.
Within the Diocese of San Jose, Drexel has already built a strong community of schools. Launched in 2013 with seven schools (Catholic Academy of Sunnyvale, Holy Spirit School, Most Holy Trinity School, Resurrection School, Saint Clare School, Saint Patrick School, Saint Joseph School Mountain View), and expanding to 10 (Saint Mary School Gilroy, Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception School and Saint Elizabeth Seton School) in fall of 2017. The Drexel School System provides a model for renewing Catholic education and identity in the Silicon Valley and across the nation.
Click here for full list of Drexel Schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties
Drexel School System of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose
receives $25M for Sobrato Family Scholars Fund
March 15, 2017
– Resource-rich, cutting-edge approach to Catholic education
– Largest single gift to Diocese
The funds received from the estate of John and Sue Sobrato through the Sobrato Family Foundation will be restricted to the use for scholarships to Drexel Schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. The Drexel School System proposes to establish the Sobrato Family Scholars Fund, an annual scholarship program that supports, each year, elementary school students living in the Santa Clara County and San Mateo County who wish to attend Drexel School but cannot financially afford it. These scholars would be reviewed and awarded gifts each year by the Drexel board of trustees based on need as determined by a standardized tuition assistance application process. The family contributes 20% or more towards the tuition as determined by their financial capacity. The Sobrato Family Scholars Fund will increase Drexel’s ability to provide greater access to high-quality Catholic education especially for the untapped potential of the large Hispanic community in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.
With the establishment of the Sobrato Family Scholars Fund, the Diocese of San Jose and the Catholic elementary schools of San Mateo County will establish a Drexel Scholars Fund that other donors match the yearly distribution from Sobrato Family Foundation as to double the number of scholarships to the Drexel School System.
“This high-impact investment in the Catholic elementary school graduate, will change the Silicon Valley,” says Rev. Brendan McGuire, president of Drexel Schools and Vicar General of the Diocese of San Jose. “The gift from John and Sue Sobrato to establish in perpetuity the Sobrato Family Scholars Fund will challenge others to invest in the Drexel Scholars fund and will amplify the transformational power of the Drexel School System to form the next generation of Catholic schools’ graduates serving the Silicon Valley and beyond.”
John A. & Susan Sobrato give $100 Million to Santa Clara University for
300,000 square-foot STEM hub
January 21, 2017
– Largest ever gift establishes the Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation
– State-of-the-art facility for transformational STEM education
This “campus within a campus” will be designed to promote cross-disciplinary exploration to enhance undergraduate student learning and discovery across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Construction of the new building is scheduled to start in the fall of 2018, with completion in 2020. The elegant new building, outfitted with state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment, could be a game-changer for the private, 165-year-old Jesuit university whose reputation was built on the liberal arts, creating a rare opportunity to link fast-moving technical fields with the school’s long-standing commitment to ethics.
The gift is the largest in Santa Clara’s 166-year history and ranks as the second-largest gift ever to a Catholic university. It will accelerate Santa Clara University’s vision and goals for STEM education, which emphasize developing technical expertise, an entrepreneurial mindset, ethical reasoning, and collaborative approaches to tackling society’s most urgent challenges.
“Sue and I and our son John Michael have agreed to leave 100 percent of our wealth to the Sobrato Family Foundation to invest in organizations that improve the lives of the less fortunate in the greater Silicon Valley community and to institutions like Santa Clara University, which have helped make the Sobrato Organization the success that it is,” said John A.Sobrato.
“This gift is the largest in our family’s history. We are especially pleased to support the University’s new strategic vision and the transformational STEM initiative at its core. The state-of-the-art, 300,000-square-foot, undergraduate-focused complex will allow for the integration of the various engineering departments with the natural science disciplines of the College of Arts and Sciences to address—with Jesuit values—some of the world’s most pressing problems.”
Valley Medical Center’s Sobrato Pavilion unveiled:
Construction of new 370,000 hospital wing to wrap up June 2017
November 22, 2016
– $5 million donated to outfit the building — record-breaking gift to public hospital in 2012
– Sobrato Pavilion to be in full use by close of 2017
The Silicon Valley Business Journal recognizes The Sobrato Organization
as the region’s Top Corporate Philanthropist
November 4, 2016
– Leads the list for fifth consecutive year
– Ranked by cash contributed to local charitable organizations
TSO was recognized at last evening’s Corporate Philanthropy Awards hosted by the Silicon Valley Business Journal as the top corporate funder to Silicon Valley nonprofits for the fifth year in a row. TSO Chairman John A. Sobrato, and trustee Susan Sobrato were on hand to receive the award. SVBJ celebrates Silicon Valley business support of local nonprofit organizations each year, and also recognized Alphabet / Google Inc., Cisco, SanDisk, and Intel among the top five contributors. Click here for the list of this year’s top givers.
In this year’s SVBJ Giving Guide, Sobrato shined a spotlight on key Pathways for Success program grantees–organizations that know effective pathways toward middle-wage employment require building the business case with employers to increase and reconfigure jobs into middle-skill careers, and strengthening links between these employers and relevant-skill training programs.
TSO once again among “Fab Five” San Francisco Business Times’
Top Corporate Philanthropists — $27.35M in 2015
July 21, 2016
With $27.35M given to Bay Area nonprofit organizations in fiscal year 2015, TSO was again recognized as a Top Corporate Philanthropist by the San Francisco Business Times. Second in giving to Google’s $33.16M, TSO, along with Wells Fargo, Chevron, and JPMorgan Chase, gave more than $116 million to local Bay Area nonprofit organizations last year. According to San Francisco Business Times’ Kevin Truong, this “Fab Five” total accounted for nearly half of all reported giving by all companies participating in the survey. (The list of the 80 companies reporting the largest amounts given to our region’s nonprofits is available here.) John A. Sobrato, Chairman of TSO, and Kenji Treanor, Director of Strategic Grantmaking, were on hand to accept the award at the Business Times‘ morning event.
According to Truong, the group is “a virtual who’s who of the Bay Area business community” who state “a commitment to corporate philanthropy and community engagement as a core part of their overall business strategy.” Each of the top five givers talked about which issues they’re focused on, and why. Rick Williams, Sobrato Family Foundation CEO, offered the following for TSO: “Everywhere you look, stories of innovation and success in Silicon Valley are held up as the modern-day version of the American Dream. But those of us in the Valley know that the dream is out of reach for many people.
“At Sobrato Philanthropies we believe that with so much energy and creativity in this region, we can make it a place where we all have the opportunity to go as far as our talents and tenacity will take us. That’s why we devote our time and energy to supporting organizations promoting access to excellent schools, essential safety-net services and careers that can sustain individuals and families. Recognizing the link between education and economic mobility, we’re working to ensure every student in Silicon Valley has access to a high-quality education.
“Our research-based model called Sobrato Early Academic Language, or SEAL, develops the language and literacy skills of hundreds of local English learners and shows a measurable impact on their academic growth and achievement. Sobrato promotes economic opportunity by supporting career pathways to sustainable jobs that allow more people in the Valley to pursue their dreams. And we’re investing in social sector leaders and high-impact nonprofits, by offering leadership training. Our non-profit centers provide rent-free office space to a community of 71 nonprofit organizations and free meeting and conference space, to nonprofit organizations throughout Silicon Valley. We’re honored to support so many amazing organizations working to ensure that everyone in Silicon Valley has the opportunity to drive innovation.”
Click here for the San Francisco Business Times’ full article.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
visits highly-successful SEAL program at Hoover School, Redwood City
January 11, 2016
– Accompanied by heads of several divisions within California’s Department of Education
– Department seeking best practices for English Learners to replicate throughout state
On Jan. 11, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and a group of state education leaders, including his staff leads from several divisions within the California Department of Education, visited Hoover School to learn about the highly successful Sobrato Early Academic Language model (SEAL) program that has resulted in significant academic gains by Hoover students.
Torlakson said his team wanted to visit Hoover and learn about its success with the Sobrato Early Academic Language model because they are looking for best practices that can be replicated throughout the state of California for students learning English. “If we don’t learn how to best educate students who are learning English, it will have a big impact on the California economy in the future,” said Torlakson.
At Hoover, 34 percent of third-graders from bilingual and structured English-immersion SEAL classrooms reached early advanced or advanced on the 2013 California English Language Development Test of English proficiency, far exceeding district and state averages. Thirty-five percent of Hoover second-graders in bilingual programs scored proficient or advanced on the California Standards Test of English language arts, and 67 percent scored proficient or advanced in math in 2012. By the end of second grade, two-thirds of English-learner students in SEAL classrooms closed the gap to the average of their English-only peers.
In 2009, the Sobrato Family Foundation chose Hoover School to pilot a five-year program, SEAL (Sobrato Early Academic Language), to develop language and literacy skills on young English-language–learner students. In 2016, students who go through the program are excelling in school and attaining high levels of proficiency in reading, writing and math, and educators from all over the state are flocking to Hoover to learn how to replicate the program in their own schools.
The success of the SEAL program has led to Hoover winning several statewide awards. In 2014 Hoover won the prestigious Golden Bell Award, and in 2015 was one of only three schools to win a Seal of Excellence Award from the California Association of Bilingual Educators.
SEAL Director Laurie Olsen, who has worked for decades with schools throughout California grappling with English-learner challenges, reflected on SEAL’s success at the school. “Hoover is a shining example of the high levels of complex language, academic achievement and joy in learning that can result from research-based intensive professional development and teacher collaboration — demonstrating that the rigor of the Common Core standards can be made real for English learners.” Olsen continued, “But more than that, the passion and professional dedication of the teachers and administrators at Hoover exemplify the power of deep, abiding commitment to a community.”
In designing the SEAL program, the Sobrato Family Foundation wanted to address three converging forces: evidence that nearly half of all English-learner students in California become “long-term English language learners” rather than attaining English literacy, preparing students for increasing classroom rigor as schools begin to implement the Common Core State Standards, and new research on effective instructional strategies for students learning English.
The SEAL model is now being replicated in 10 schools throughout Redwood City, and next year SEAL will be implemented in 100 schools throughout the state of California. Schools in Redwood City offering the SEAL program include Adelante, Clifford Transitional Kindergarten, Fair Oaks, Hawes, Hoover, John Gill, Orion, Roosevelt, Selby Lane and Taft.
University of San Francisco receives $15 Million gift from John A. and Sue Sobrato
to transform War Memorial Gym; establish multi-use student center
November 18, 2015
– Largest gift by living donors in University’s history
– Honors Sobrato commitment to Jesuit education
Today, the University of San Francisco announced a groundbreaking gift that will “help create a state-of-the-art athletics facility and multi-use center honoring USF’s rich tradition of athletic excellence and reflecting its Jesuit commitment to educating the whole person.”
The Sobrato Center will include a grand, campus-facing entrance that welcomes students, alumni, and the San Francisco community to the university. Inside, the renovated facility will include expanded weight and training facilities, and premium seating and hospitality in a new John A. and Sue Sobrato Club Level.
“We believe that those of us who have had successful business careers have an obligation to give back,” said Sobrato, whose family-owned firm is one of California’s most successful real estate development companies. “We like to support Catholic education, whether it’s at the elementary, high school, or university level. We really believe in supporting those institutions and USF is right up there on the top of the list.”
View these links for more information from USF about this historic gift, for a closer look at John and Sue’s commitment to Jesuit education, and for a short video describing their motivations for giving back.
TSO named Top Corporate Philanthropist in Silicon Valley
by the Silicon Valley Business Journal
November 6, 2015
– Leads the list for fourth consecutive year
– Corporate contributions to the Valley continue to climb
TSO was recognized at last evening’s Corporate Philanthropy Awards held by the Silicon Valley Business Journal as the top local giver to the Valley for the fourth year in a row. The Sobrato Organization funded $21.92 million in cash grants to local organizations in 2014, a 12.8 percent increase over the year before. Accepting the award, John A. and Sue Sobrato relayed, “Healthy communities and educated children are our best building materials.” According to SVBJ’s Lynn Peithman Stock, the companies on this year’s Corporate Philanthropists List (which ranks the Valley’s top 50 biggest givers based on cash contributions) increased their donations collectively by 2.4 percent this year. Click here for the full story.
Silicon Valley Leadership Group presents
“Spirit of Silicon Valley” Lifetime Achievement Award
to John A. and Sue Sobrato—
October 30, 2015
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, founded in 1978 by David Packard, represents nearly 400 of Silicon Valley’s most respected employers on issues, programs and campaigns that affect the economic health and quality of life in Silicon Valley. Each year, the group honors outstanding community leaders based on three criteria: Impeccable Ethics, Business Excellence and Community Engagement. This year’s recipients of the “Spirit of Silicon Valley – Lifetime Achievement Award” are long-time Silicon Valley philanthropists and business leaders John A. and Susan Sobrato and John and Tashia Morgridge. The award was presented at SVLG’s Annual Public Policy Luncheon, with featured speaker Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.
Michael Malone’s Conversation with John Sobrato
for Santa Clara Magazine titled “Like no place on earth”
October 30, 2015
On the occasion of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s “Spirit of Silicon Valley” award, “Professor Emeritus of Silicon Valley” Michael S. Malone (SCU ’75, MBA ’77) sat down with John A. Sobrato (’60) to talk about his decades of philanthropic leadership. Topics ranged from regional history, how the family’s philanthropy was formalized, Sobratos’ longtime support for Santa Clara University—and John’s excitement for Santa Clara University’s future. Click here for the full article and associated video. A couple of excerpts:
Malone: SCU is your alma mater, but I can’t help but feel there are a million things calling for your attention out there. Why this university?
Sobrato: …At Santa Clara, in addition to a technical education, you have your education pretty well grounded in ethics. The Jesuits believe in educating the whole person. We have the three C’s here at Santa Clara: competence, compassion, and conscience. That’s driven into students. My son John Michael ’83 and his deceased wife, Abby ’83, both graduated from Santa Clara. I had two grandsons graduate here three or four years ago. All of them were taught the same thing I was taught: that if you are successful in a particular business, you have an obligation to share some of that success with the communities where you were able to succeed—for us, where we were able to construct buildings and make our business a success…
Malone: You pioneered a trend by going into philanthropy. I think of you and I think of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard beginning all this. Thirty years ago the complaint was that Silicon Valley didn’t give any money to charity. “It’s tightwads, new money”—and all that. Now Silicon Valley seems to lead the philanthropic role in some ways.
Sobrato: I think so. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation now is the largest in the United States. They have $7 billion under management, all in donor-advised funds. A few enlightened folks, like the Zuckerbergs, have set aside $150 million of their billion that they gave to the foundation to go into education in Silicon Valley. But I would say all the other major donors have an alma mater outside of California that they donate to—or they get involved with international causes. As a consequence, very few of those $7 billion gets invested in Silicon Valley. So we as a foundation have decided that we need to primarily focus our giving on causes here in Silicon Valley. We hope that what we’re doing will create a culture of philanthropy that gives back in our own neighborhood…
Sobrato Family honored at
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s “Anything Goes” Gala
October 26, 2015
Sal Pizarro wrote in the San Jose Mercury News, “Anyone visiting the Santa Clara Marriott on Saturday night for a reason besides TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s ‘Anything Goes’ fundraiser would definitely have done a double take at all the characters walking through the parking lot around 6 p.m. There were nuns, sheiks, a couple of Cleopatras, a court jester and even a gunfighter a la Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name,” at the benefit — which also serves as one of the best costume parties around. The evening’s honorees were the Sobrato family and Sobrato Philanthropies, well represented by John A. Sobrato and his wife, Susan Sobrato… The Sobrato Philanthropies, which has donated $314.5 million to local nonprofits since 1996, has supported TheatreWorks through its office-space grants program, providing space for offices, rehearsal, classrooms and storage…”
Project Welcome Home launches in Santa Clara County—
California’s First “Pay for Success” Project
– Improves housing stability and supportive services for the chronically homeless
– Sobrato Family Foundation makes $1.5M program related investment
– Fellow funders include The California Endowment, The Health Trust, The Reinvestment Fund, Corporation for Supportive Housing, The James Irvine Foundation, and Google.org
August 14, 2015
The County of Santa Clara, California, the largest community in Silicon Valley is launching California’s first Pay for Success (PFS) project in partnership with Abode Services, a national leader in innovative housing services for homeless persons. Project Welcome Home will provide community-based clinical services and permanent supportive housing to 150-200 chronically homeless individuals who are currently frequent users of the County’s emergency rooms, acute mental health facilities and jail.
Pay for Success is a funding model under which governments pay for services only if and when a service provider achieves clearly defined, measurable results. Pay for Success leverages upfront funding for service providers from the private sector and philanthropic foundations and rigorously measures the effectiveness of programs over time.
“The Sobrato Family Foundation’s participation in this project signals our support for keeping individuals and families permanently housed and connected to their communities,” said Rick Williams, CEO of the Sobrato Family Foundation. “We also support Pay for Success as an innovative funding strategy that creates a pathway for private investors to participate in efforts to improve their communities while making a social and financial return.”
On any given night, more than 6,500 people in the County of Santa Clara are homeless, of whom over 2,200 can be classified as chronically homeless. Studies have shown that chronically homeless individuals consume significant and disproportionate government resources in the form of emergency room visits, jail time, and other services that provide only short-term relief.
For individuals enrolled in Project Welcome Home, Abode will provide an array of supportive services integrated with housing, delivered through an evidence-based “Housing First” approach, designed to end the participants’ homelessness and provide increased access to ongoing physical and behavioral health services.
Project Welcome Home has received $6.9 million in upfront funding from private and philanthropic funders. As part of the upfront funding, Abode has also committed $500,000 of deferred service fees as additional investment in the project. Through this Pay for Success model, funders will only be repaid based on Abode’s success in assisting participants in achieving continuous stable housing.
For full text of press release, and list of Project Welcome Home participants, visit Abode Services
PropelNext California Partnership Selects 15 Grantees
–SFF Grantee Teen Success in Milpitas, CA chosen for 15-organization cohort
–Sobrato Family Foundation to provide 3 years of strategic support
July 28, 2015
The PropelNext California Partnership is excited to announce that 15 nonprofits have been selected to receive PropelNext grants and join its first California grantee cohort.
Five foundations—the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Sobrato Family Foundation, Weingart Foundation, and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation—are partnering to deliver the PropelNext program to local nonprofits serving economically disadvantaged youth in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.
Each California PropelNext grantee receives a combination of unrestricted funding along with expert coaching, group learning sessions, and a peer learning community so that grantees are able to strengthen their ability to collect, use and apply data for ongoing improvement and learning. Each organization will receive up to $400,000 in funding over 3 years from one of the four California-based funders (noted in parenthesis below). EMCF will invest an equal amount in tailored coaching and consulting, facilitated group learning sessions and an online learning community.
Through the initiative, the 15 nonprofits will enhance and sharpen their program models, implement strong performance management systems, and develop organizational cultures that facilitate and practice ongoing learning and assessment. The Sobrato Family Foundation is supporting Teen Success and its involvement in the PropelNext initiative.
Rick Williams, CEO of the Sobrato Family Foundation, said, “We are deeply pleased Teen Success is part of PropelNext’s California grantee cohort—this is a wise investment.” He continued, “As a funder, the Sobrato Family Foundation has supported and witnessed Teen Success’ work for years. We are certain that PropelNext’s innovative coaching and peer learning opportunities, and its focus on meaningful data collection and application, will lead to an even smarter, even stronger organization.”
“Teen Success’ work of breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty is critical to increasing the wellbeing of our entire community,” said Mara Williams Low, Program Director of the Sobrato Family Foundation, “Its focus on empowering teen mothers through a strengths-based, relationship approach is working—we’re pleased to support and learn alongside this already-effective grantee as it participates in this unique program.”
The 15-organization PropelNext California cohort includes:
- Alternatives in Action, Oakland, CA (Hewlett Foundation)
- Asian Youth Center, San Gabriel, CA (Weingart Foundation)
- Beyond Emancipation, Oakland, CA (Hewlett Foundation)
- Bresee Foundation, Los Angeles, CA (Weingart Foundation)
- Coalition for Responsible Community Development, Los Angeles, CA (Weingart Foundation)
- Community Youth Center of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA (Hewlett Foundation)
- East Oakland Youth Development Center, Oakland, CA (Hewlett Foundation)
- Huckleberry Youth Programs, San Francisco, CA ) (Hewlett Foundation)
- Lavender Youth Recreation Information Center, San Francisco, CA (Hewlett Foundation)
- Los Angeles Brotherhood Crusade, Los Angeles, CA (Weingart Foundation)
- My Friend’s Place, Hollywood, CA (Weingart Foundation)
- Reach Out West End, San Bernardino, CA (Weingart Foundation)
- Silicon Valley Children’s Fund, San Jose, CA (Packard Foundation)
- Social Advocates for Youth, Santa Rosa, CA (Hewlett Foundation)
- Teen Success, Milpitas, CA (Sobrato Family Foundation)
These 15 organizations were chosen through a comprehensive selection process. Over the coming years, the five foundations that make up the PropelNext California Partnership will share what they learn from this work, including publishing the results from a formal evaluation when it is available.
The Sobrato Organization again recognized as a 2015 Top Bay Area Corporate Philanthropist by San Francisco Business Times
July 24, 2015
– Shares SFBT’s “Top Five” spots with Google, Chevron, Wells Fargo and Cisco
– Combined, Top Five gave nearly $105 million to local nonprofits
– Sobrato’s share totaled $22.66 million
For full story, visit San Francisco Business Times
On Thursday, July 23, the San Francisco Business Times held its annual Corporate Philanthropy Awards summit in the City. On hand were top giving officers from a full range of companies doing business in—and giving back to—the Bay Area. The Sobrato Family Foundation’s CEO Rick Williams, and SFF Program Director Mara Williams Low represented The Sobrato Organization as it was recognized as a top corporate philanthropist, having given $22.66M of the nearly $105M provided to local nonprofits by the top five corporate givers. (Google’s $39.63 million topped the list, followed by Sobrato, Chevron, Wells Fargo and Cisco.) Journalist Lemery Reyes wrote about The Sobrato Organization in San Francisco Business Times‘ July 24 issue:
The Sobrato Organization wants to keep building in the Bay Area. The real estate company wants to build more than office and housing projects. It also wants to help create strong economic opportunities for those who call Silicon Valley home. Sobrato, which was the No. 1 corporate philanthropist in 2012 with $36.9 million given to Bay Area charities, has continued to give generously over the past few years. “We want the Valley to be seen as not just a place to work and build the next great thing, but as a community of families and interconnected neighborhoods that are vital to the economic success that this region is known for,” said Rick Williams, CEO of the Sobrato Family Foundation. In 2014, the company’s largest cash grant, $1.45 million, was to the Sobrato Early Academic Language Model, or SEAL, in Milpitas. The program was developed to help Silicon Valley teachers address the needs of Spanish-speaking students entering English-speaking Pre-K to third-grade programs.
“So when our family looked at how the Sobrato Family Foundation could make a difference in Silicon Valley, we knew that it started with closing the achievement gap for low-income Latino students — particularly for those who enter school not speaking English,” said John A. Sobrato, founder of The Sobrato Organization and board chairman of the Sobrato Family Foundation.
In addition to cash grants, the company continues to provide free office and conference space as well as leadership training opportunities to 69 local nonprofits. Those groups occupy a combined 333,000 square feet of office, conference and storage space at the Sobrato Centers for Nonprofits in Milpitas, San Jose and Redwood Shores. The company’s largest nonprofit tenant is TheatreWorks, a Mountain View professional theater company, which occupies 38,700 square feet of space in Redwood Shores. Their second-largest tenant is United Way Silicon Valley with 18,236 square feet of space at their San Jose location.
SFF grants $2.4M in General Operating Support to 16 SV Nonprofits focused on Housing & Shelter, Employment & Financial Sufficiency, and Capacity Building;
Increases Support to Ensure LCFF Dollars Target Region’s Highest Need Students
June 25, 2015
– Multi-Year, flexible grants benefit 16 local organizations
– Support for organizations working to ensure LCFF funds are used as state intends
General Operating Support
This June’s awards granted nearly $2.4M to 16 organizations focused on housing & shelter, employment & financial sufficiency, and nonprofit capacity building in San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Southern Alameda Counties.
SFF Program Officer Kavitha Sreeharsha noted, “Our mission as a Foundation is to make Silicon Valley a place of opportunity for all its residents, and we know this requires supporting essential human services. Whether connecting people with housing or employment, or helping engage the public in community concerns, this slate of grantees does tremendous good in the Valley—we’re deeply proud to support their work.”
Housing & Shelter
- Abode Services
- Bill Wilson Center
- Ronald McDonald House at Stanford
- Family Supportive Housing, Inc.
- InnVision Shelter Network
- Human Investment Project
- Kainos Home & Training Center
Employment & Financial Sufficiency
- Downtown Streets Inc.
- Upwardly Global
- JobTrain, Inc.
Nonprofit Capacity Building & Community Improvement
- Silicon Valley Creates
- People Acting in Community Together
- AnewAmerica Community Corporation
- Opportunity Fund Northern California
- Tapfound Inc.
- Hands on Bay Area
21st Century Education Grants
Last summer, SFF provided support to a coalition of organizations whose aim was to promote effective implementation of supplemental grants funded through California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in four of Silicon Valley’s highest-need public school districts.
SFF’s Senior Program Officer for Education Kenji Treanor said, “Over the past year, this coalition has successfully mobilized hundreds of parents and community members to engage in the LCFF process. Their efforts have resulted in greater district transparency, and major progress toward ensuring these supplemental resources aren’t diverted, but rather target our highest-need English Learner and low-income students as state law requires.”
To build on this success, in June 2015, SFF provided an additional $240,000 in grants to increase alignment between LCFF spending plans and other funding within district budgets, and further formalize parent engagement in all aspects of the LCFF process. Mr. Treanor added, “Much has been accomplished, but hard work remains. Ensuring LCFF supplemental funds are allocated as the state intended—particularly in Silicon Valley’s districts with high numbers of English Learners and low-income students—is critical to closing the achievement gap.”
21st Century Education Strategic Support Grantees:
- Californians for Justice Education Fund
- People Acting in Community Together
- Somos Mayfair, Inc.
SFF grants $4.45M to Silicon Valley Nonprofits at close of 2014:
— $2.75M to Support 21st Century Education and Pathways to Careers
— More than $1.7M in General Operating Support for Health & Legal Services
January 8, 2015
Strategic and responsive grants to help improve quality, equity and choice in Silicon Valley’s educational market for low-income and English learner students.
Multi-Year, flexible grants to benefit Silicon Valley health clinics, hospice providers, organizations serving people with disabilities, domestic violence prevention and legal services
The Board of the Sobrato Family Foundation approved a third $multi-million grant round at the close of 2014, bringing the total cash committed to local nonprofits in 2014 to more than $9.5M.
21st Century Education Grants
This latest round includes $2.475M in support to 7 educational organizations. “These grants reflect the family’s deep commitment to high-quality education for low-income and English Learner students,” said SFF’s Senior Program Officer Kenji Treanor. “To improve outcomes for these students in our region, we are focusing on building leadership capacity—bringing strong and effective principals, and a pipeline of well-trained, enthusiastic teachers into our local schools—as well as increasing the number of high-quality options available to parents and students who seek a college-preparatory education.”
SFF is investing in selected charter school operators with a proven record of creating schools in Silicon Valley where low-income and English Learner students experience high levels of academic growth and achievement: Grantees include KIPP, Downtown College Prep, ACE Charter Schools, and Voices College-Bound Language Academy. These resources will help create approximately 12,500 seats for students in East San Jose, Redwood City, Morgan Hill, and other local communities over the next five years. Also receiving Sobrato support is the California Charter Schools Association—awarded $50,000 for an in-depth study of potential facility options in Santa Clara County.
Additionally, SFF is investing in school leadership and teacher development to expand avenues for preparing and placing exemplary talent in local schools and classrooms. Grantees include New Leaders, Bay Area ($325,000 over two years to help grow outstanding principals in the South Bay) and Santa Clara University ($100,000 to complete the design and planning for a new three-year professional residency and Master’s program for novice teachers in Catholic schools within the Diocese of San Jose.)
Career Pathways Grants
Reaching the goal of economic opportunity for all Silicon Valley residents requires expanding the employment pipeline beyond jobs that require four-year, specialized degrees—another key priority of the Sobrato Family. SFF’s first set of “Career Pathway” grants support programs that help clients develop much-needed career skills. Grantees also include organizations that work with employers to build a business case for reconfiguring jobs into middle-skill careers.
Grantees include Opportunity Youth Partnership of Santa Clara County, the Upward Mobility Program of Building Skills Partnership, United Way of the Bay Area’s SparkPoint Center in the Redwood City school district, and Puenta De La Costa Sur. SFF Program Officer Kavitha Sreeharsha stated, “This initial set of grantees was chosen because of their demonstrated ability to track and evaluate outcomes for their clients—particularly low-income and English Learner youth and parents—and to partner effectively with employers.” She continued, “Promoting pathways out of poverty for all our Valley’s youth requires a multifaceted approach. We look forward to developing and expanding SFF’s Pathways to Success portfolio in 2015.”
General Operating Support Cash Grants
A community mainstay for nonprofits in the region, this grant round awarded support to hospice care providers, health clinics, organizations providing services for those with disabilities, domestic violence prevention programs and shelters, and legal services. Because SFF’s GOS grants are 2:1 “challenge” grants, this $1.7M multi-year commitment to these 16 organizations will stimulate at least another $834K from non-governmental sources. In all, $2.5M in community gifts will be generated by these grantees, as they increase and diversify their funding sources to meet Year-1 matching requirement conditions. GOS grantees include:
Community Clinics & General Health Services
- MayView Community Health Center
- Rotacare Bay Area
- School Health Clinics of Santa Clara County
- South County Community Health Center
- Tri-City Health Center
- Healthier Kids Foundation Santa Clara County
- Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
- Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
Family Violence Shelters
- CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse)
- Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence
- Hospice of the Valley
- Mission Hospice of San Mateo County
- Pathways Home Health & Hospice
Centers for Developmentally Disabled
- Abilities United
- Via Rehabilitation Services
- Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund [SV2]
CSBA’s Prestigious Golden Bell Awarded to SEAL at December 16 ceremony
with special recognition from CSBA’s Business Affiliate Program
December 16, 2014
Demonstrating tremendous outcomes for English Learner Students, SEAL is the first and only winner in CSBA’s new Common Core category. SEAL is now in 30 schools across 5 districts in the Valley, impacting 20,000 students. [View press release]
SEAL Director Dr. Laurie Olsen, Anna Herrera (Coordinator of SEAL’s demonstration site at Hoover), Jennifer Analla (Director of Training), and Lead Trainer Jill Fraka joined Hoover Principal Amanda Rothengast and Redwood City School District Superintendent Jan Christensen at the 2014 Golden Bell Awards ceremony in San Francisco today. Hoover Elementary School’s SEAL team was on hand to receive the California School Boards Association honor, chosen as 2014’s best in class in CSBA’s brand new “Common Core” category. Also, this year, CSBA’s Business Affiliate program established five annual Golden Bell Award sponsorships of $1,000 each. SEAL was one of 5 deserving Golden Bell Award recipients benefiting from these sponsorships throughout this year’s Golden Bell. CSBA’s CEO & Executive Director Vernon Billy presented the sponsorship award.
View November’s press release for more information.
Youth-Serving Organizations in Silicon Valley and throughout California
to benefit from PropelNext California Partnership
December 15, 2014
Sobrato Family Foundation joins the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Weingart Foundation in Los Angeles, and New York’s Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in this unique funding partnership. [View press release]
PropelNext, an initiative of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation [EMCF], helps leading nonprofits gain the mastery to collect, use, and apply data for ongoing improvement and learning. EMCF first launched PropelNext in 2012 with a national cohort of 13 grantees (in 10 states). For its second cohort, the initiative is taking a regional approach, selecting 12-16 California youth-serving nonprofits that are eager to transform their passion for helping disadvantaged youth into data-driven insights and practices that will help them deliver even stronger results.
PropelNext grantees are high-potential youth development organizations that change the life trajectory of foster youth, youth in the juvenile justice system, and others disengaged from school and employment. The initiative offers these grantees an integrated program that couples unrestricted funding (up to $400,000 per organization) with an equal investment in expert coaching, group learning sessions, and a peer learning community over three years so they can enhance their program models, implement strong performance management systems, and develop organizational cultures that practice ongoing learning and evaluation.
As a result, these nonprofits will be able to set strategic priorities informed by data and improved decision-making, measure and track performance and impact, and use evidence to increase support for their work. In the end, the foundations involved in funding the partnership believe the life prospects of disadvantaged youth in California will be improved by smarter, stronger organizations.
“Committed to a thriving nonprofit sector—and to ensuring Silicon Valley is a place of opportunity for all—the Sobrato Family Foundation is proud to partner in this collaborative,” stated Mara Williams Low, Program Director at the Sobrato Family Foundation. “PropelNext’s first, national cohort is proving deeply effective, and this second, regional approach in California is something we’re excited to support. We know that these investments will strengthen organizations, and lead to greater outcomes for the youth in our region.”
“We are happy to be part of this initiative for several reasons, including the fact that PropelNext will help focus national attention and resources in Silicon Valley, “ said Rick Williams, Sobrato Family Foundation CEO. “Compared to neighboring counties, here in the Valley we have fewer youth-serving organizations serving a larger population of youth in need—and doing it with far fewer philanthropic dollars. Calling attention to the situation, while launching organizations to the next phase of impact, will help create real and lasting change for Silicon Valley families.”
The PropelNext California Partnership focuses on nonprofits operating in 15 counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. “The Hewlett, Packard, Sobrato, and Weingart foundations are deeply committed to supporting organizations in their communities,” stated Lissette Rodriguez, managing director of PropelNext, “so we are excited to partner with them and focus on our next group of grantees in California.” All five foundations share a desire and commitment to communicate learnings from this new partnership, and will publish the results of a formal evaluation.
The process for selecting the California grantees began in November 2014, when the five foundations solicited referrals for prospective grantees through their local and national networks. In January 2015, PropelNext will invite approximately 100 nonprofit organizations to apply, with final selections made by July 2015 and grants awarded soon thereafter.
For more information about PropelNext, please visit www.propelnext.org. For questions about the grants competition, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colonial Acres kindergartners make huge strides toward mastering language–
SEAL phasing into all San Lorenzo Unified schools
December 6, 2014
Full text here and below. Article by Rebecca Parr, Bay Area Newsgroup
“We are learning collaboration,” a group of Colonial Acres Elementary School kindergartners read out loud Friday as their teacher pointed to the words.
The San Lorenzo kindergartners have explored their community, taking a field trip to the library, walking around the neighborhood and being visited by firefighters. Using what they had learned, the 5-year-olds built miniature towns, giving “tours” of their works to parents and staff Friday.
“I’m surprised and amazed at how much they have learned,” said Veronica Ruiz, mother of Ricardo Lieba, who proudly pointed out the Ashland Community Center replica he had constructed. “We read a Dr. Seuss book last night, and Ricardo could read every word. He loves to read and go to the library now,” Ruiz said.
On a board in the classroom were some sentences students had written. “Firefighters extinguish wildfires,” one read. Many of the children wore toy firefighter helmets.
“Most of these students didn’t know their letters at the beginning of the year,” kindergarten teacher Tammy Braun said.
The 112 students in five kindergarten classes are taking part in a Sobrato Family Foundation pilot program to help them be literate earlier, said Colonial Acres Principal Linda Santillan. The program integrates reading and spoken and written language, with a lot of writing and focus on language, she said.
The Sobrato Family Foundation started its Sobrato Early Academic Language program in 2008 to help Spanish-speaking students develop language and academic skills so they can succeed.
The program is based on the work of educator Laurie Olsen, considered an expert in English learner education. Most of the program is in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, where more than 25 percent of students entering public schools are English learners.
This is the second year the San Lorenzo Unified is taking part, and the early language model is being phased in at all its schools. The Sobrato program includes preschool through third-grade students, with the goal of closing any academic achievement gap by the beginning of the fourth grade.
Of the 700 students at Colonial Acres, more than 60 percent come from homes where English is not the primary language. The number is even higher — more than 80 percent — for students through the third grade, most of them Spanish speakers.
“We are addressing the problem of long-term English learners” who never master the language, said Katarin Jurich, San Lorenzo Unified director of assessment and English learners programs. In the past, the schools had inconsistent instruction for those students, she said. The goal is that by the end of third grade, all students will be fluent in English.
All San Lorenzo kindergarten students, not just English learners, take part in the language project.
The children are learning more than just phonics vocabulary words such as “hat” and “cat,” Santillan said. They are being taught academic language, or words they are going to encounter later in school.
“When they enter ninth-grade science and see the word ‘crustacean,’ they’ll say, ‘Oh, I learned that in kindergarten,’“ Braun said.
The students studied what firefighters, custodians and librarians do, Santillan said. But their model towns also included churches, supermarkets, a courthouse and other landmarks. One town had a Kaiser hospital with a paper nurse in front, her face a girl’s cutout school picture.
“That’s me!” Adriana Camarena said. “I drew the gloves; I want to be a nurse. But sometimes I like being a vet,” she said.
Friday’s open house was a swirl of excitement; in one room, children read sentences out loud to their parents in one area, children sang as Braun pointed to the words and others put stickers with their names on a hand-drawn map of the community. Maps of their classroom that teams of children had drawn hung in the hallway outside.
“Collaborating is when people are listening to each other and they work together,” kindergartner Layla Valle said, her soft voice almost drowned out by the noise from all the activities around her.
“It’s really powerful in terms of what the kids have learned in such a short time. They’re 5, and they know how to use some really big words,” Santillan said.
“They’re learning academic language that will help them understand content. At same time, they’re learning to read — not just words, but long words with big chunks of Latin roots.”
Hoover Elementary SEAL model wins prestigious Golden Bell Award from CSBA–
SEAL now in 30 schools in 5 districts in SV, impacting 20,000 students
November 6, 2014
For 35 years, the California School Board Association [CSBA] has honored educational programs that exemplify highly effective governance, teaching, and student learning through its Golden Bell Award program. This year, Hoover Elementary School’s Sobrato Early Academic Language model [SEAL] was chosen as 2014’s best in class in CSBA’s brand new “Common Core” category.
After a rigorous review of the model by a 26-member panel of education experts that included on-site validation and assessment, SEAL at Hoover has been recognized for fully aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessments, along with providing cutting-edge professional development and building effective collaboration between all stakeholders, to successfully implement Common Core State Standards in Hoover classrooms—with particularly impressive outcomes for English Learners.
“Hoover was an excellent choice to pilot the SEAL model,” said Sobrato Family Foundation’s Senior Program Officer Kenji Treanor, “A convergence of conditions ensured its success: Hoover’s deeply-committed school site and district office administrators, a teaching staff unusually open to innovation, a visionary Redwood City school board, Dr. Laurie Olsen’s cutting-edge program design, and the Sobrato Family’s dedication to high-quality education for all students. Looking at student outcomes, it’s clear their commitment is paying off.”
Bolstered by student outcomes achieved during its pilot stage, SEAL has expanded not only to 4 additional schools in the Redwood City School District, but to a total of 30 schools in 5 districts throughout Silicon Valley this school year, already impacting more than 20,000 students. (View list of SEAL sites in Silicon Valley.) Rick Williams, Sobrato Family Foundation CEO said, “Golden Bell Award criteria require winners to be innovative, data-driven, and proven to make a significant difference for students. SEAL is precisely those things. As SEAL expands throughout the Valley, the program is helping close the gap for thousands more English Learners and low-income students.” Adds Mr. Williams, “By 2019, our goal is to partner with approximately 50 schools in the region to train nearly 2000 teachers, and impact up to 40,000 students with this effective, powerful model of language learning.”
SEAL at Hoover will receive the Golden Bell Award at a recognition ceremony on Tuesday, December 16, 2014, at CSBA’s Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in San Francisco.
Op-Ed: San Jose’s Jungle: It will close, but homelessness will remain a huge problem
September 9, 2014
Frederick Ferrer, CEO of The Health Trust, Jennifer Loving, Executive Director of Destination: Home, and Rick Williams, CEO of the Sobrato Family Foundation co-authored a piece for today’s San Jose Mercury News, calling for deeper investments, regulatory changes, and a stronger regional commitment to bring the Housing First solution to scale, and respond effectively to chronic homelessness in Silicon Valley. “We can’t do it without our broader community recognizing that our success really means our valley will be healthier overall,” they state. “Let’s use the innovation and capital of Silicon Valley to solve this crisis.” Download PDF of full article
Sobrato Philanthropies grants $3.8M to Critical Health & Human Service Organizations, and Local Control Funding Efforts in Silicon Valley
August 22, 2014
The Board of the Sobrato Family Foundation (SFF) has approved a second $multi-million grant round this year, giving more than $3.8M to a range of organizations working toward the goal of economic mobility for all residents in an increasingly divided Silicon Valley. View Press Release
“It is crucial that our community addresses economic disparity, and the hopelessness it creates,” said Sobrato Family Foundation CEO Rick Williams. “Far too many people in our community see the wealth generated and the opportunities created in the Valley as unattainable. That’s why Sobrato Philanthropies supports strategies designed to create opportunities, and help individuals grow the skills needed to take advantage of these opportunities when they’re presented.”
$3.8M in awards includes:
- $245K to ensure that funds received by high-need districts through California’s new Local Control Funding Formula are used as intended—helping to close the achievement gap of low-income and English Learner students.
- Nearly $1.5M in general operating support through SFF’s Healthy People & Places program to help 13 organizations continue to provide critical services to Families and Children throughout the Valley.
- More than $1.75M in flexible funds to 11 Emergency and Food Assistance providers throughout San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda Counties to meet growing local needs.
- $55K toward a coordinated plan to improve the delivery of services to homeless and formerly homeless individuals and families in Santa Clara County through Health Trust / Destination: Home.
This grant round’s nearly $3.4M in multi-year, conditional general operating support will stimulate $5M as grantees meet Year-1 conditions, which include a 2-1 matching requirement met by increasing and diversifying funding sources.
Kavitha Sreeharsha, SFF’s new Program Officer for Healthy People & Places said, “Sobrato Philanthropies is committed to providing unrestricted funding to the region’s critical service organizations upon which so many of our residents depend.” Ms. Sreeharsha continued, “It is clear that the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in the Valley is growing. Using a range of grantmaking strategies, we’ve begun identifying and supporting effective pathways out of poverty for the economically disenfranchised.”
Noting that access to high-quality education is key to economic mobility, Kenji Treanor, SFF’s Senior Program Officer for Education reiterated Sobrato’s longtime commitment to low-income and English Learner students. “California’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is a critical mechanism for districts to allocate resources to help close what is a daunting achievement gap. These funds could make economic mobility a real possibility for thousands of future graduates in our community who can be better supported to succeed in school and in life.”
Mr. Treanor continued, “Sobrato Family Foundation has stepped in to help fund a collaboration between Californians for Justice, PACT, Somos Mayfair and Pivot Learning Partners to promote effective implementation of LCFF in four of the highest-need Silicon Valley districts, where parents and students are engaged in monitoring the use of these funds.” When asked what success looks like, Mr. Treanor said, “It means advancing transparency and reflecting parents’ and students’ priorities for the $24M in additional LCFF resources—putting those resources directly towards achievement of low-income students and English Learners in our schools. Basically, success means LCFF supplemental funding does what it was designed to do.”
SFF welcomes Kavitha Sreeharsha
as new Program Officer for Healthy People & Places
June 16, 2014
Sobrato Philanthropies is pleased to announce Kavitha Sreeharsha as the Sobrato Family Foundation’s Program Officer for Healthy People & Places. Ms. Sreeharsha will continue SFF’s decade-long program of unrestricted cash support for hundreds of our region’s critical health and human service nonprofits, but she is also charged with further developing the program through strategic and responsive investments—carrying out Sobrato Philanthropies’ intention to promote economic opportunity for all Silicon Valley residents.
Ms. Sreeharsha has spent the past fifteen years—nearly all in the non-profit sector—as an attorney working in community services, policy and advocacy, training and technical assistance, organizational management, and corporate social responsibility. She has worked on behalf of low-income communities and working immigrant women and families throughout her career, developing community programs, coordinating coalitions and managing grants and organizational finances.
She most recently co-founded Global Freedom Center, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides training to an expanded set of stakeholders to increase human trafficking identification and prevention. From this work, Ms. Sreeharsha brings valuable skills in program design and implementation, communication strategy, and impact analysis. She is widely recognized as a national expert on the subjects of human trafficking and violence against immigrant women, and serves as adjunct faculty at Santa Clara University, teaching a course on Violence Against Women.
“We are at a crossroads in Silicon Valley, where there is an unprecedented growth in our economic and opportunity gap, manifested in a rapidly decreasing middle class,” said Ms. Sreeharsha, “I am honored to help the Sobrato Family Foundation invest in the most strategic solutions to lift our most disenfranchised communities out of poverty.”
Rick Williams, CEO of the Sobrato Family Foundation, said, “Ms. Sreeharsha brings a deep understanding of how to engage communities to confront some of our toughest social challenges. This addition to our team provides us with another person who combines first-hand experience in running a social enterprise with a passion for achieving the impact so desperately needed in the Valley.” He added, “A big part of her work will be convening and collaborating with multi-stakeholder groups to identify and cultivate cross-system investments that will effect real change. We are thrilled she’s on board.”
Ms. Sreeharsha is a longtime community leader and has served on several different Boards of Directors and continues to volunteer her time to assist low-income communities. Born and raised in Silicon Valley, Ms. Sreeharsha received her B.A. in Environmental Science and Development Studies from U.C. Berkeley and her J.D. from U.C. Hastings College of the Law. [View pdf]
John A. Sobrato honored by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors
for $5M gift to Valley Medical Center
April 15, 2014
At the April 15 meeting of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, John A. Sobrato was presented with a resolution honoring the family’s philanthropic commitment to the county’s key public hospital. Interviewed by ABC7 reporter David Louie, John said “Valley Medical Center takes anyone, regardless of their ability to pay, whether they’re undocumented, documented, it doesn’t matter. They get absolutely excellent care and we want to support that effort.”
ABC7 / KGO-TV produced a follow up story describing the Sobrato Family’s strong philanthropic commitment to the region. Including interviews with John A. Sobrato, Jenny Niklaus (CEO of HomeFirst), and Rick Williams (CEO of the Sobrato Family Foundation) ABC’s coverage outlined Sobrato Philanthropies’ near $263M in community gifts since 1996, concluding with “Sobrato doesn’t just donate money, he shares their passion… and the valley that made him and his family rich is all the richer because of their philanthropy.”
To view the KGO piece in its entirety, click here.
John A. Sobrato with Mike Wasserman, President, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, fellow Valley Medical Center supporters, and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
Sobrato announces $3.5M in Responsive Grants for Education, and $3.45M in General Operating Support for Education & Youth Development
March 3, 2014
The Sobrato Family Foundation (SFF) is known as a place-based grantmaker that funds millions of dollars each year in general operating support to critical health and human service organizations, donates land and buildings directly to nonprofits, and provides rent-free office and conference space to Bay Area organizations through their three Nonprofit Centers.
Responsive grantmaking is now another tool SFF uses to realize its mission of promoting economic opportunity and mobility for a strong and vibrant Silicon Valley. SFF’s board recently approved $3.5M for 21st Century Education efforts in the region. [See press release.]
“It’s an exciting time for the Foundation,” said Rick Williams, CEO. “Though Sobrato family members have made project-specific gifts for decades, bringing responsive grantmaking into the Foundation’s mix means even larger investments in opportunities that demonstrate real success in improving lives, and have the ability to scale.”
Sobrato’s first set of responsive grants in late 2013 were aimed at addressing the immediate needs of homeless individuals and building on the efforts of the region’s Housing 1000 and Housing First initiatives. “This next set of responsive grants funds innovative solutions within 21st Century Education,” Mr. Williams said, “an ingredient crucial to building a strong and vibrant community.”
“We know full well that thousands of residents in our community are not benefiting from our region’s growth,” says Kenji Treanor, SFF’s Senior Program Officer for Education. “The size and reach of these Sobrato grants clearly signal the family’s commitment to supporting economic mobility for all Silicon Valley residents. Our slate of grantees is addressing one of the root causes of the problem—lack of access to high-quality education for all our region’s kids.”
A total of $3.5M in multi-year grants will support NewSchools Venture Seed Fund‘s education technology efforts, Silicon Schools Fund‘s early-stage seed capital for blended learning schools in the region, BASIC Fund scholarships to enable disadvantaged students to attend high-quality schools, Innovate Public Schools‘ development of a comprehensive education reform agenda for Silicon Valley, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Silicon Valley Common Core Initiative.
Sobrato Family Foundation’s board also approved $3.45M in multi-year grants to a slate of 34 education and youth development grantees. SFF’s General Operating Support (GOS) grantmaking has been a mainstay for nonprofits throughout Silicon Valley since 2003—providing the kind of flexible, dependable support nonprofits say is most needed. Additionally, Sobrato’s 2:1 challenge feature encourages grantees to publicize and leverage these grant dollars to gain additional contributions from new sources.
Our Thriving Nonprofit Sector Speaker Series Begins:
Building Blocks for Creating Greater Impact: An Introduction
February 19, 2014
A group of 156 local nonprofit leaders from 95 organizations participated in our inaugural event to network with peers, and learn more about key building blocks for creating impact with Fay Twersky , Tess Reynolds, and Kathy Reich. This session 1 panel discussed the importance of theories of change and logic models, aligned performance metrics, and business models focused on sustainability and scale. They provided an overview of what these terms really mean, why they are vital for driving social change, and illustrated practical examples of implementation—addressing some of the misapprehensions leaders may face.
A copy of the resource list shared at the event is available on our event page. You may also access a recording of the session posted on the Sobrato Family Foundation’s YouTube channel by Monday, February 24.
Please remember to RSVP to Session 2: The Importance of Business Plans and Models scheduled for March 19. Panelists will include Jehan Velji, Portfolio Manager, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and Sam Cobbs, CEO, First Place for Youth.
Silicon Valley’s Out of School Time Collaborative Enters Second Phase
January 31, 2014
Sobrato Philanthropies has been proud to partner with Sand Hill Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2) on the Silicon Valley Out-of-School Time Collaborative—a group of nonprofits providing after school and summertime programs for low-income students who don’t receive all of the supports they need during a regular academic day.
Our aim as funders with this Collaborative in its first three years was to build capacity: bring these groups together to learn from one another, strengthen their individual enterprises, and provide access to outside expertise to help them realize significantly increased impact.
In 2014 and 2015, the Collaborative will focus on embedding organizational practices that build character strengths, as well as academic skills. Click here to see a video produced by PlusM Productions about the collaborative and the nine participating organizations.
Sobrato Philanthropies Announces $525,000 in Responsive Grants to Silicon Valley Nonprofits focused on Homelessness
December 19, 2013
The Sobrato Family Foundation has been known for nearly twenty years as a place-based grantmaker that funds millions of dollars each year in general operating support, donates land and buildings to community nonprofits, and provides rent-free office and conference space to Bay Area organizations through their three Nonprofit Centers. Now, the Sobratos are engaging in responsive grantmaking—recently approving $525,000 of support to projects that specifically address homelessness in Silicon Valley.
“The economic disparity in this very wealthy region is deep, and has been underscored by recent headlines about the dire situation of our Valley’s homeless population,” said Rick Williams, Sobrato Family Foundation’s CEO. “Having children, families, and veterans living on our streets and riverbeds is simply unacceptable. As a region of wealth and ingenuity we have the means to end homelessness.”
These first responsive grants from the Sobrato Family Foundation are aimed at addressing the immediate needs of homeless individuals, but also look to build upon the efforts of the Housing 1000 and Housing First Initiatives.
Williams continued, “The Sobrato family hopes these foundation grants serve as a signal to other high-wealth individuals, foundations, and corporations to commit to joining the effort to end homelessness in our community. At the very least, we must ensure that 2014 is the last year children will have to sleep outside in Silicon Valley. Let’s set the example for the country.”
This slate of responsive grants includes support for four Human Services and Public Benefit organizations—
- $50,000 grant for Gilroy’s Compassion Center, providing services for homeless in southern Santa Clara County
- $300,000 gift to EHC LifeBuilders in San Jose to help their efforts to bring shelters into alignment with Housing First
- $75,000 in funding toward Pay for Success—a public-private partnership with Santa Clara County developing a performance-based contracting program to better serve vulnerable populations, and
- $100,000 award to Project We Hope, aiding their critical emergency homeless shelter in East Palo Alto.
Sobrato Organization once again recognized as Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Top Corporate Philanthropist
November 5, 2013
For the second year in a row, TSO was recognized as the region’s top giver to local causes—$36.8 million in cash support was provided to the community in 2012. All giving through the Sobrato Philanthropies is made possible by TSO’s building sales and business activities, and comprises all Foundation grants, special initiatives, nonprofit center expenses, family giving, employee matching gifts, and direct corporate support.
According to the Journal, corporate philanthropy in Silicon Valley tracked the region’s economic gains last year, with giving increasing by double-digit percentages. The total contributed by businesses on SVBJ’s list of corporate donors jumped 29.8 percent in 2013 to $102.7 million, compared to an 8.7 percent increase in giving from 2011 to 2012. TSO drove most of that growth—its peers on the Top 10 list (in order of local giving) include Cisco, Intel, Applied Materials, Oracle, SanDisk, SAP, Kaiser Permanente, Wells Fargo, and the San Francisco 49ers.
SFF CEO Rick Williams and Senior Program Officer Marjorie Fujiki were on hand to accept the award on behalf of the Sobratos at the November 4 Business Journal awards ceremony. All nominees prepared 5-word summaries of their company’s philanthropy, and TSO’s approach was summarized by Williams as Strong Legacy of Community Commitment.
Sobrato Family Foundation welcomes Kenji Treanor as its first Senior Program Officer for Education
September 16, 2013
Sobrato Philanthropies is pleased to announce Kenji Treanor as SFF’s first Senior Program Officer for Education, charged with helping create opportunities for students in Silicon Valley—particularly low-income and English language learners—to receive a high-quality education and the support they need to enter and graduate from college, ready to succeed in the 21st century.
Mr. Treanor is a proven philanthropy professional and nonprofit leader, whose career is fueled by his passion for youth, education, and community engagement. He joins SFF from the James Irvine Foundation, where he served most recently as Program Officer for Youth—managing $12.3M in grants to improve college and career readiness of low-income students, and leading a number of initiatives, grant clusters, technical assistance and peer learning activities to enhance Irvine grantee impact. Prior to this position, Mr. Treanor served as Irvine’s Grants Manager and its Program Associate for Youth, and also worked with a public K-12 school system, a public university, and a youth-focused nonprofit in the Bay Area, from which he brings to Sobrato more than 12 years of experience in program design and assessment, communications and outreach, and public policy analysis.
Mr. Treanor is also co-founder and board leader of Next Generation Scholars, an educational nonprofit that serves disadvantaged middle and high school youth in Marin County.
Rick Williams, Sobrato Family Foundation CEO added, “Mr. Treanor’s deep knowledge of the field, his ability to identify breakthrough organizations in the education space, and his awareness of how funders can bolster organizations’ work is what drew us to him. His skills in designing initiatives, cultivating community support, steering implementation, and evaluating impact are key elements of the Sobrato family’s new Community Impact Platform.”
Mr. Treanor received his Master’s in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco and holds a B.A. in American Studies, with emphasis in Ethnic Studies and Socio-Political Analysis from U.C. Santa Cruz.
Celebrating the grand opening of South County Housing’s
Gilroy Sobrato Apartments for chronically homeless individuals
August 29, 2013
For several years, the 60 unit Sobrato Transitional Apartments have provided housing to homeless families in southern Santa Clara County, and now, with the opening of the LEED Platinum certified Gilroy Sobrato Apartments, an additional 26 units of housing have been added for chronically homeless men and women. Expanding housing opportunities for our lowest-income residents is the single most important tool in ending homelessness, and these apartments couldn’t better timed – with vacancy rates at all-time lows, it is more challenging than ever to find housing for those who need it most. Sobrato thanks South County Housing for taking on such an important project, as well as the City of Gilroy and the County of Santa Clara. Ending homelessness isn’t solvable by one entity alone, and the Gilroy Sobrato Apartments are proof that policy, design and teamwork can bring about meaningful community change. Below are a few photos of the grand opening celebration, courtesy Destination Home and Larry Mickartz from Gilroy Today. (Click links above to see more photos.)
Sobrato Receives Top Corporate Philanthropy Award
by the San Francisco Business Times
July 24, 2013
The San Francisco Business Times held its annual Corporate Philanthropy Awards & Summit breakfast honoring the Top Corporate Philanthropists in the Bay Area. A number of companies were called out for their generosity to the community, including Wells Fargo Bank, Chevron Corp. and Google. Sobrato led the list, with a total of $36,863,513 in cash given to Bay Area based grantees in 2012 (not counting $4.1M in in-kind office space). This number included the balance payout of Sobrato’s $20M pledge to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. The Sobrato family’s approach to grantmaking was also described in a feature article titled “Sobratos Top Bay Area Giving with $37 Million” by Mary Ann Azevedo. The awards ceremony was followed by a panel discussion featuring a diverse group of leaders in corporate philanthropy discussing their philanthropic practices and policies. For more details on the event, click here.
SCNP Redwood Shores Open House:
Meeting CEO Rick Williams and celebrating the grand opening of Rendezvous Cafe
July 11, 2013
On the heels of the SCNP-San Jose event in June, Redwood Shores Nonprofit Center played host to SFF’s Peninsula-based tenants and grantees at its July 11 Open House. Sobrato family members, SFF staff, and 121 local nonprofit leaders celebrated the grand opening of the Center’s new Rendezvous Cafe. (Why “Rendezvous”? Read here!) Participants also had a chance to network and learn more about the Foundation’s new vision. Here are some photos:
PACT to honor Sobrato Family with
2013 Leadership in Action: Philanthropy Award in October
Every year, 600 corporate, business and non-profit leaders, philanthropists, elected officials and grassroots community leaders attend the People Acting in Community Together Luncheon to celebrate outstanding members of the community who have demonstrated civic leadership for the well-being of Silicon Valley. This year, PACT will honor the Sobrato Family with its 2013 Leadership in Action: Philanthropy award, along with Jose Antonio Vargas—Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and founder of Define American. Click here for more information.
Stanford Social Innovation Review Webinar with Lisa Sobrato Sonsini
When Giving Leaves Town:
The Disconnect Between Wealth and Philanthropy and What We Can Do About It
A Silicon Valley Case Study
Thursday, July 11, 2013, 11:00 am – Noon PDT
This SSIR webinar is for nonprofit leaders anywhere in the U.S. who are struggling to capture regional philanthropic giving and for foundation leaders and individual philanthropists focused on place-based philanthropy and building healthy, local communities.
In conversation with:
- Chris Block, CEO, American Leadership Forum – Silicon Valley
- Michael Lombardo, Executive Director, Reading Partners
- Jen Ratay, Executive Director, Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund
- Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, Board President, Sobrato Family Foundation
Price: $49 (includes access to the live webinar and unlimited access for 12 months, along with downloadable slides). For more details, or to register for this webinar through SSIR, click here.
How is it that Silicon Valley, a region burgeoning with new wealth and so noteworthy for its overall philanthropic giving, is uniquely spare in providing for its own neediest causes and populations? To better understand these trends, this webinar will explore new data from a review conducted by Philanthropy Futures, with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s local grantmaking program, which took a deeper look at giving in Silicon Valley. Join Alexa Cortes Culwell as she shares key findings from the review, which are highlighted in a recent blog she authored for SSIR.
Alexa will moderate a group of Silicon Valley leaders to discuss what has caused this disconnect and new models that are focusing more attention on local issues and capturing more of the total charitable giving for local needs and causes. Some of the questions that will be explored include: What are some of the root causes driving the trend of philanthropy disproportionately leaving the region? What will it take to capture more funding for local needs (and what are successful examples)? What needs to change in our own work as nonprofits and as foundations/ philanthropists? How do we not only build awareness for social challenges in Silicon Valley but get people to care more about the region’s well being?
SCNP San Jose Open House:
Meeting CEO Rick Williams, and discussing how SCNPs can be More than Space
June 6, 2013
On June 6, Sobrato Center for Nonprofits San Jose held an open house for tenants and local grantees. 86 nonprofit leaders attended, mixed with SFF staff, met SFF’s new CEO Rick Williams, and brainstormed ways the SCNPs can be More than Space.
Several ideas emerged, including affinity group and networking events, and grantee convenings on communications, measurement / evaluation, and strategic partnerships. Rick Williams also previewed the Foundation’s new Community Impact Platform—how the Foundation is reframing its current programs and building capacity to focus on Healthy People and Places, 21st Century Education, and Philanthropy Engagement.
We will be hosting another Open House at SCNP Redwood Shores for Peninsula-based organizations on July 11. Tenants and grantees, keep an eye out for your invitation!
SFF and Raising A Reader Distribute Free Graduation Book Bags
April 23, 2013
The Sobrato Family Foundation has partnered with Raising A Reader—a Bay Area based grantee whose aim is to build literacy practices with pre-K through third grade students and their families. At the end of the school year kids graduate from the program, get connected to their local libraries, and receive a special book bag to use to carry their library books. SFF provided bags for 1,400 students in low-income communities in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and loaded them with three bilingual books to celebrate their graduation—books recommended by SEAL, our comprehensive model of intensive, enriched language and literacy education designed for English language learners.
Sobrato Family Foundation co-sponsoring free convening:
Preparing Students for Success in School, Life and Work
Monday, April 15, 2013, 8:00 – 10:30 am
For education researchers, district leaders,
program providers & funders in Silicon Valley
With implementation of Common Core Standards right around the corner, our systems are faced with the imperative of ensuring students are ready to succeed in college and find their place in our changing economy. A growing body of research and emerging programs can guide us about how to deepen our students’ belief in—and commitment to—learning, and increase their ability to persist through higher level challenges.
See Event Page for details
Sobrato Family Foundation announces Rick Williams as CEO
December 12, 2012
The Sobrato Family Foundation’s Board of Trustees today announced the appointment of Rick Williams, a long-time Silicon Valley resident and nonprofit leader, as Chief Executive Officer, effective February 2013. “We are thrilled Rick is joining the Foundation. He is an enormously talented individual who brings 30 years of experience in key roles that span the nonprofit, public and foundation sectors,” said Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, President of the Foundation’s board. “Our trustees felt that the work he has done—running nonprofits, building organizational capacity, designing and implementing strategic philanthropic programs, and working productively with boards—will serve our family very well.”
Williams is currently the President of Realize Consulting Group, a management consultant practice he founded in 2005, where he counts many of the country’s leading foundations as his clients. He also manages the Asset Funders Network, USA, a national community of foundations and grantmakers advancing programs and policies that promote economic opportunity by helping low-income individuals build and protect financial assets. From 2001-2005, Williams was National Programs Director at the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation where he oversaw human services grantmaking in the areas of homelessness, substance abuse, foster youth, after-school services, and poverty prevention. Williams said, “I am excited to join the Sobrato Family Foundation and help advance the family’s desire to build a vibrant community in which all have access to the education and opportunities they need to thrive.”
Williams started his career working in mental health services in Santa Clara County where he held positions of Director of the county’s psychiatric inpatient services and Deputy Director of the Santa Clara County’s Mental Health Department. He later served as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer for EMQ Children and Family Services, a statewide children’s behavioral healthcare organization based in Northern California. Williams holds a BS in clinical psychology from Washington State University and a master’s degree in clinical psychology and organizational development from Antioch University.
Sobrato Family Foundation honored by San Mateo County Board of Supervisors
November 20, 2012
At the Tuesday, November 20 meeting of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, the Board presented the Sobrato Family a resolution honoring their philanthropic commitment to the county.
Sobrato Organization named Silicon Valley’s Top Corporate Philanthropist
by Silicon Valley Business Journal
November 2, 2012
The Sobrato Family gave more than $13.1 million in cash to the region in 2011, ranking it 1st in the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s list of the Valley’s Top 50 corporate philanthropists. John A. Sobrato, John M. Sobrato and Lisa Sobrato Sonsini attended the Business Journal’s November 1st event to receive the Corporate Philanthropy award, as well as honor this year’s Impact Award Winners: California’s Great America, Sessions, and NVIDIA.
The Business Journal also published a cover story on the Sobrato Family’s impact in its November 2 issue, highlighting the family’s long commitment to place-based giving, and its focus on closing the opportunity gap for English language learners. All the monies granted to SV organizations originate at The Sobrato Organization—whether through sales of buildings or profits on other real estate activities, the family’s business funds all Sobrato Philanthropy vehicles. (Not included in this amount is the market value of tenant leases at the three Sobrato Centers for Nonprofits.)
Read “All In The Family” Cover Story
Sobrato Family Awards $2+ Million to 9 Silicon Valley Education Organizations
October 15, 2012
Nine grantees have been awarded first year grants as part of a new Education Fund focused on the lowest income students in Silicon Valley who lack access to high quality schools. The grantees include organizations working with students in- and out-of-school time, but also those providing professional development for teachers and school leaders, and groups that bolster the engagement of parents and community members in their children’s education.
Grantees commit to serving the Valley’s highest-need students in schools located in the geographic focus area of the Sobrato Family Foundation: East San Jose, East Palo Alto, East Menlo Park, and areas of Mountain View, Redwood City, Campbell, Sunnyvale, Hayward, Fremont and Gilroy. They must work in alignment with schools and districts, have a clear business model and plan for scaling, ensure strong leadership, and participate in knowledge sharing with other grantees and the larger community.
The majority of EdFund grants are intended to be multi-year, with future grant installments contingent upon matching funds and measured impact—using a common set of indicators co-developed by the Grantees and the Foundation.
Sobrato Summer Learning Academy Sets Students on the Right Track
July 13, 2012
The Sobrato family’s funding has doubled the size of Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula’s 2012 summer program (now called Sobrato Summer Learning Academy) and added an innovative new East Palo Alto Teen Center, all geared towards stopping summer learning loss that can cause students–especially those at risk of dropping out–to lapse academically when school is out.
Beyond fighting this “summer brain drain” the new teen center is a revolutionary approach to preventing violence and creating bridges between different cities that currently experience gang tension. This is the first program of its kind to bring together high school students from across the Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD).