President & CEO Ron Gallo Shares "Learnings" from the League of California Community Foundations

The League of California Community Foundations (LCCF) was founded in 1994 as a statewide network of community foundations that works to strengthen the links between local community needs and available resources. A member for many years, the Santa Barbara Foundation has benefited from the League’s network of expertise and support. The following Q&A with Santa Barbara Foundation President & CEO Ron Gallo, who was recently elected by his colleagues as the new League president, reflects on how LCCF helps the Santa Barbara Foundation better serve the community and how the Santa Barbara Foundation can continue its work through LCCF to increase capacity for good will across the state.

Q:In your words, what is LCCF?

A:The League provides a way for each community foundation to learn and understand what others are doing in their respective regions of California. It provides a venue for us to meet standards, understand regulations, monitor Congressional and statewide legislative activity, and support each other in our roles as community leaders. More recently, the League, which represents over $10 billion in assets, has realized the opportunity and responsibility it has as a collective unit. We are not just 30 silos. We can make more of an impact together.

Q:What are some examples of how LCCF fosters collective action?

A:One concrete example of this newly-recognized collective power is when the League took a public policy stance advocating for the implementation of the Mathematics Placement Act of 2015, which ensures that each high school student has an equal opportunity to be placed in a math class that corresponds to their abilities and not any other factors. It was the first time that the League took a public policy stance at the forefront of a bill and flexed its muscles to do what is right and get something done.

While advocacy has not been the legacy of community foundations, the passing of this bill shows how both legislators and policymakers are beginning to see LCCF’s role differently. Increasingly, legislators are recognizing the influence that community foundations have in advocating through philanthropy. We are no longer just viewed as organizations that collect and distribute philanthropic dollars to local nonprofits.

Q:You were recently elected president of LCCF. What does that mean for the Santa Barbara Foundation?

A:As the newly elected president of the League for the next two years, I will have some influence over topics and agendas, but LCCF really is a committee of peers and we work together to advance philanthropy in California. However, I would like to believe my election is somewhat connected to my peer’s view that the Santa Barbara Foundation is a leadership organization amongst California community foundations.

Q:What is the biggest benefit of LCCF membership for the Santa Barbara Foundation?

A:The biggest benefit of LCCF membership is learning from colleagues and getting to offer and test ideas with each other. Being a CEO of a community foundation in 2016 remains, as it has always been, a privilege, but it also comes with considerable stresses. To be able to trade stories, insights and, sometimes, a hug, has been a huge comfort because it helps remind me that there are others out there who are facing the same opportunities and challenges as I am.

Q:How do you think the LCCF can improve?

A:I think that LCCF’s success with legislation and public policy demonstrates that we can do more to identify regional issues that affect our communities and that we can, where appropriate, band together to solve them. We have this great network of knowledge that allows us to inform important conversations. Although this has not traditionally been our role, identifying issues and advocating for sensible solutions that will make our geographic region, and California, a better place is a legitimate role of philanthropy and I would like to see the League do more of that in the future.

Q:What was your biggest takeaway from the LCCF member meeting on November 4 and what do you anticipate to be prevalent in future LCCF discussions?

A:In addition to our discussion about LCCF’s future role in advocacy and public policy, one discussion that was prevalent in our conversation at a November 4 meeting was how to continue to work towards achieving diversity. Diversity is often a moving target. It is not just race, ethnicity, gender, economic status, sexual orientation or identification, but it also includes being open to different political perspectives. Just as we are imperiled by excluding those who don’t look like us, we also fail when we don’t harness the energy and talent of multiple perspectives and ideologies. In my opinion, having different perspectives always makes you stronger.

Another topic we discussed at the meeting is the future of community foundations in general. For a long time, community foundations were built on a set of philanthropic transactions, and in the area of donor advised funds, we were the sole providers. Now community foundations operate in a far more crowded marketplace. Going forward, even as we remain a concierge to philanthropy, most of my colleagues and I agree that our real value proposition will be built around our community knowledge, the facilitation of key community conversations, the identification of tough problems and exciting opportunities, and most of all, leading our communities to their best collective future.
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