Leading Voices

Philanthropy’s Opportunity to Leverage Trillions in Federal Spending Towards Equity

In the summer of 2022, Don Howard, the President and CEO of The James Irvine Foundation, penned an essay for The Chronicle of Philanthropy calling on the field to ensure massive federal infrastructure spending was allocated with an eye to equity.  Pointing to the $3.1 trillion pouring into the economy through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the American Rescue plan, Howard called out the need to go beyond “repairing roads and bridges, upgrading water infrastructure, expanding broadband access, and building a national network of electric-vehicles,” but changing “who decides who builds and who benefits.”  Before coming to Irvine [...more...]

Closing the Loop: Elizabeth Faraut’s Purpose-Driven Life Combines Business with Philanthropy

In addition to her innate style and fashion sense, Elizabeth Faraut is perhaps best known for two things: Her Los Angeles-based company, LA LOOP (where she’s the Creative Director and CEO), and her unwavering dedication to social justice through philanthropy. Now she’s conjoined these two endeavors, creating an inspiring model for others seeking to live a purpose-driven life. Famous fashion diva Diana Vreeland once proclaimed, “The first thing to do is arrange to be born in Paris. After that, everything follows quite naturally.”  Faraut did the next best thing; she was born in Los Angeles and spent most of her [...more...]

Systems-Change Provocateur

The 2013 murder of an 8-year-old named Gabriel Fernandez at the hands of his mother and her partner, dominated the headlines of the Los Angeles Times and every other news outlet in the region. Outraged, the County Board of Supervisors empaneled a Blue Ribbon Commission to make recommendations to improve the county’s sprawling child welfare system. One called on child-serving public agencies to partner with philanthropy. Philanthropy stepped up with one of its most prominent cheerleaders, Wendy Garen, the longtime President and CEO of The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. In the near decade since, Garen, with partners across philanthropy and [...more...]

Time to Switch ‘Our Investment Thesis’?

Michael Tubbs was just 26 when he was elected mayor of Stockton in 2016. Raised by a low-income, single mother, he became the youngest-ever mayor of a large American city. Under his leadership, Stockton was named an All-America City in 2017 and 2018 by the National Civic League.  Tubbs was named a fellow at MIT media lab, was a member of Fortune’s 40 Under 40, and he launched a groundbreaking Universal Basic Income program in Stockton that has led to pilot programs in cities across the nation, thanks to his Mayors for a Guaranteed Income coalition. Made up of mayors [...more...]

Wilma Melville: Dogged Determination

Wilma Melville is the most inspirational person I’ve ever met. She has done more during her retirement than most people have done during their entire careers. I recently had the pleasure of visiting her at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation Training Center in Santa Paula, California, and then again in the hangar where she lives with her airplane. “Spark plug” is an overused term I have never used before. She is a spark plug. She is Annie Oakley. She is Amelia Earhart. Above all, Wilma Melville is an exhauster of my internal thesaurus of superlatives. One of the things [...more...]

Mona Sinha’s Journey to Gender Justice

It’s a long way from Calcutta (now called Kolkata) for Mona Sinha, Board Chair of Women Moving Millions. Growing up in a family of three girls, Sinha could never escape the feeling that her parents had really wanted a son. She’s since overcome this feeling of inadequacy, but it informs her world view and her approach to philanthropy which works to build a gender equal world where everyone is valued for who they are. Supporting gender justice, for Sinha, is part of her DNA. “I grew up very well cared for. I’d watch my mother dole out the food for [...more...]

Island Boy’s Philanthropic Reach Fills the San Fernando Valley

In his childhood, Milton Valera lived near the airport on the Garden Island of Kauai, where at a young age, he had started setting his internal clock to a very specific hour. “This is a true story,” Valera says. “Seven o’clock on Kauai was very, very significant for me, because at seven o’clock in the evening, the last plane left the island. And, as young as I was – I don’t know, I was eight years old – I just felt trapped until seven o’clock the next morning when a new plane would come back in.” Valera, it seems, couldn’t [...more...]

The ‘Other,’ Kalyan Balaven

As the first person of color to serve as Head of Dunn School in Los Olivos, California, Kalyan (“Kal”) Balaven is, in many ways, a long way from his youth in the San Francisco Bay Area, where his family found itself houseless, surviving on what Balaven calls community wealth.  From an ethnic perspective, Balaven says that he’s always thought of himself as “other.” An outsider identification that informs his work today as the head of an esteemed private residential school with a rich history that didn’t always include leaders (or many students) that looked like him. “The idea of being [...more...]

Creating Partnerships to Advocate for Change

Growing up in the Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles, Bobby Grace’s parents fervently hoped he would become a doctor. Upon taking math and chemistry at UCLA, Grace realized that was not a likely path for him. Then he wandered into a political science class and discovered a different calling. Three years later, Grace was elected Undergraduate Student Body President of UCLA. Upon graduating, he saw his friends head off to law school; feeling compelled to continue to use his leadership skills for public service, he followed suit. Today, Grace works in the L.A. County DA’s office as the Assistant [...more...]

Inside the Mind of a Quiet Philanthropist As told to Daniel Heimpel

While you will often see him in the “pit” right in front of the stage at L.A.’s top nonprofit galas held at the Beverly Hilton, Cliff Gilbert-Lurie is neither ostentatious in his work nor in his giving. As a managing partner at Ziffren Brittenham LLP, one of the city’s most prominent law firms representing the entertainment industry, Gilbert-Lurie doesn’t suffer for high-profile clients. His family’s move a few years ago to Brentwood, however, came at the urging of his philanthropist wife, Leslie. Cliff and Leslie were about to become empty nesters, they were looking forward to a new adventure, and [...more...]

A Practitioner of Social Entrepreneurship

As Managing Director of the Civil Society Fellowship for next generation community and civil society leaders, Nike Irvin has planted herself at the cross section of leadership development and democracy.   Irvin, a longtime veteran of Los Angeles’ philanthropic world, calls fellowships “a value-based leadership program.” Organized as a partnership between the Anti-Defamation League and Aspen Institute and its Aspen Global Leaders Network, Irvin works closely with social entrepreneurs – the next generation of community and civic leaders, activists, and problem-solvers from across the political spectrum. Prior to leading the Civil Society Fellowship, Irvin led the California Community Foundation’s grantmaking, [...more...]

Equal Parts Optimist and Philanthropist Equal Parts Optimist and Philanthropist

How would you feel if you lived with multiple sclerosis for more than half a century and, in an unrelated […more…]

A Career Spent Building L.A.’s Civic Strength A Career Spent Building L.A.’s Civic Strength

As told to Joe Donnelly Steven Nissen might be the most impactful public servant you’ve never heard of, probably because […more…]

Making Entertainment More Inclusive by Joe Donnelly Making Entertainment More Inclusive by Joe Donnelly

Ahmos Hassan is a man bent on melding his philanthropic and business interests towards a more inclusive America. Across both […more…]

A Familial Legacy of Giving Back A Familial Legacy of Giving Back

Casey Wasserman is firmly established as an influential civic and business leader in Los Angeles. But this mogul’s contemporary philanthropic […more…]

‘What Good Is a Platform if You Don’t Use It for Good?’ ‘What Good Is a Platform if You Don’t Use It for Good?’

As told to Daniel Heimpel I have known CNN host Lisa Ling for nearly a decade now. I never saw her […more…]

Nurturing Agents of Change Nurturing Agents of Change

Diana Ingram counts her blessings, big and small. And that has made her a blessing to countless others in Southern […more…]

The Problem Solver The Problem Solver

When Austin Beutner was appointed first deputy mayor and “Jobs Czar” of Los Angeles in 2010, skeptics groused that the […more…]

Money as Medicine Money as Medicine

In 2018, a Native American philanthropy professional dropped a bomb on the industry. In his book, Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom […more…]

Not Letting Life Circumstances Inhibit his Ambition Not Letting Life Circumstances Inhibit his Ambition

When a Minneapolis policeman killed George Floyd in 2020, William J. Briggs II, like millions of Americans, was appalled. But […more…]

A Children’s Advocate Who Created a Virtuous Cycle of Giving Circles A Children’s Advocate Who Created a Virtuous Cycle of Giving Circles

Jacqueline Caster remembers the eureka moment that changed her life from career woman to full-time philanthropist and juvenile-justice advocate. It […more…]

Jihee Huh and Her Uniquely American Philanthropic Legacy Jihee Huh and Her Uniquely American Philanthropic Legacy

Hope is what Jihee Huh started with and hope is what she continues to call on through hard times.  Huh, […more…]

Opening the Door to a New Kind of Philanthropy Opening the Door to a New Kind of Philanthropy

As told to Daniel Heimpel Since 2004, Antonia Hernández has led the California Community Foundation (CCF). Over those nearly two […more…]

A Public Educator for the Public Good California State University, Northridge

Erika D. Beck has been up since 4 a.m., yet as the afternoon light fills her office, she is effervescent. […more…]