A few days after I began working at Los Altos Community Foundation (LACF), a friend from North Carolina emailed me to offer congratulations on my new role. Then, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, he proceeded to let me know he’d visited the communities we support before and questioned our real need for local philanthropy. In his dry wit, he asked me if we were going to issue grants to help improve the conditions of residential lawns and gardens.
This is not the first time someone has skeptically asked me about what possible issues our communities might face given our significant local prosperity and wealth. And yet, when we peel away the veneer, we find our communities struggling with major issues that undermine their vibrancy.
In my first month as executive director, I’ve met with many community members who have identified housing and transportation as the top challenges. But, I’ve heard agreement on other issues. These include income inequality, economic opportunity, and social mobility, access to affordable education, disparities in access to social services and health care, adolescent mental health, an overburdened nonprofit ecosystem, protecting our arts and culture, senior isolation, and the impact of climate change (looks like we’re back in drought conditions again!).
The list of issues seems endless and belies the notion that our communities do not need philanthropic engagement. Instead, I believe these issues speak to the need for community-driven solutions. To me, they underscore the need for local residents to belong to – and engage – more closely with their communities.
Most of these issues require changes to systems. And while LACF cannot affect those changes on its own, I firmly believe that we can play a role in those efforts. We can align direct action – whether that’s volunteerism or local philanthropy – with our values and support local nonprofits and coalitions vital to making our communities more vibrant, resilient, and embracing of their cultural, socio-economic, ethnic, and racial diversity.
I’m excited about where the coming months will take us. I see LACF’s staff, board and volunteer leadership, engaging more community members in supporting local action. I see us expanding local philanthropic participation and lowering the barriers to such engagement. I see us strengthening the local nonprofit ecosystem and centering equity in our work. And, I see us opening doors for more people to feel as if they belong to our local communities – empowered to align action with values.
Please join me as we start this journey together. We look forward to your engagement and support.
Adin Miller, Executive Director, Los Altos Community Foundation