In Episode 102 of the Charity Charge Show, Stephen talks to Lisa Van Dusen, Executive Director of Palo Alto Community Fund, whose mission is to focus on the unique needs of our community and channel charitable giving of local donors to effective organizations that improve the quality of life for everyone in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.
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Stephen and Lisa Van Dusen talk about innovating quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic and trust based philanthropy.
Van Dusen has dedicated her career to helping build thriving communities through philanthropy, advocacy, entrepreneurship and media, bringing more than 30 years of cross sector experience to the Palo Alto Community Fund.
Previous to joining the Palo Alto Community Fund, Van Dusen was Chief Relationship Officer at Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund (SV2) where she led innovation and learning initiatives that deepened awareness, engagement and giving to address social and environmental challenges in Silicon Valley and globally.
Her accomplishments include expanding and diversifying SV2’s donor community, introducing field-leading impact investing and spearheading advocacy program offerings.
Van Dusen, who has lived in Palo Alto for 35 years, has held a variety of professional and civic leadership positions, including launching two groundbreaking local media ventures—Cable Communications Cooperative of Palo Alto (Cable Co-op) and Palo Alto Online.
She revived and co-led Leadership Palo Alto and created and hosted First Person, a video interview series featuring Silicon Valley trailblazers. In addition to her experience as a social entrepreneur, Van Dusen brings expertise in sales, marketing and communications with the Palo Alto Weekly and other organizations.
She has served on a variety of nonprofit boards including, Palo Alto Art Center, Planned Parenthood (Golden Gate), WINGS Guatemala and in numerous civic leadership roles.
She has been recognized extensively, including as a Silicon Valley Women of Influence, TEDx speaker, Leadership Midpeninsula Senior Fellow and California College of the Arts Leading by Design Fellow.
Lisa Van Dusen on trust based philanthropy:
In June 2019, our board signed off on a strategic plan that was committing to trust based philanthropy meaning that instead of the dollars that were raised each year going into our endowment that the default would be for the funds to go out the door and pass through grants to nonprofit organizations in our community.
Our donors could still specify if they wanted their contribution to go to our endowment but the default would be to get the money out to the organizations making a difference in our community.
We believe this would lead to a deeper connection and knowledge exchange with our community, organizations, and other leaders, to connect us with what is going on. I also see it as investing in ourselves as an organization, which I think is really significant.
We had great support for this initiative and met our three year plan goal in the first year. Trust base philanthropy is at it’s core saying, “here is money, we trust you as an organization to know how to deploy it best.”
If that is to pay your staff, then that is what you should do, or it’s to keep your lights on, use the money for whatever you need.
With our strategic plan we are fundamentally choosing, who we who we are betting on as an organization, and trusting them to do what they need.
About The Palo Alto Community Fund
The Palo Alto Community Fund (PACF) focuses on the unique needs of our community and channel charitable giving of local donors to effective organizations that improve the quality of life for everyone in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Menlo Park.