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Our teammate LeAnn Kelch Melendez shined on EPIP LA's Recent Panel + Key Takeaways


Recently, our colleague LeAnn Kelch Melendez, Director of Grants and Programs appeared on Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy Los Angeles’ panel called “Innovations in Philanthropy: Leveraging Pooled Funds, PRIs, and Community-Guided Grantmaking."

The session was moderated by Carrie Harlow of Non Profit Sustainability Initiative, and LeAnn’s co-panelists included: Jessica Haselton of ECMC Foundation, and Miguel León of Michelson 20MM Foundation.

In the realm of philanthropy, Miguel, LeAnn, and Jessie stand out as trailblazers, each leading within their foundations with unique perspectives and strategies aimed at making a lasting impact in our community. Representing diverse backgrounds and focus areas, they share a common goal of addressing societal inequalities through innovative approaches.

Below we outlined some key takeaways from their conversation.

Miguel on Michelson 20MM's Vision for Equity and Community Empowerment

Miguel, the Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives at Michelson 20MM, emphasized the importance of working towards a fairer society. Their approach involves focusing on equity and access, particularly in the realms of affordability, open education, criminal justice reform, and digital equity. Miguel emphasized the importance of ground-level thinking, community engagement, and the redistribution of wealth; together they serve as a testament to Michelson 20MM’s dedication to social transformation.

LeAnn on the Goldhirsh Foundation's Participatory Grantmaking and Community Input

LeAnn, Director of Grants and Programs at the Goldhirsh Foundation and its LA2050 social initiative, underscored the significance of participatory grant-making and community input. By involving the community in decision-making processes like the LA2050 Grants Challenge, LeAnn shared that the impact of funds goes beyond the end result. She underscored the importance of a feedback loop that reshapes grant-making based on critical feedback from applicants and winners of the LA2050 Grants Challenge. LeAnn cited the ladder of engagement concept, which emphasizes meaningful engagement rather than tokenization. The incorporation of similar concepts has been key in building sustainable movements like the Goldhirsh Foundation's LA2050 initiative.

Jessie on ECMC's Impactful Investments and Strategic Collaborations

Jessie, Managing Director of ECMC Foundation, outlined the foundation’s strategic plan to improve outcomes in higher education. Through its program-related investment arm and impact investing, ECMC Foundation seeks to align financial returns with social impact. Jessie demystified the term Program Related Investments (PRIs), sharing that they can create a recyclable source of funds for communities and emphasized their potential to democratize access to capital.

Overcoming Barriers and Fostering Collaboration

The panelists collectively acknowledge the challenges in transforming philanthropic practices within the sector. Structural and cultural barriers within can pose hurdles, and the need for collaboration can clash with public competition. The importance of aligning values, willingness to hear 'no,' and defining success cautiously is emphasized. Building trust, coming up with new solutions, and reframing success metrics are highlighted as crucial elements in the evolution of philanthropic practices.

Evolving Institutions and Sustainable Impact

The journey of these foundations, as shared by the panelists, showcases the evolution of philanthropy. They stress the significance of collaboration, learning from experts, and avoiding silos. The commitment to measuring impact, overcoming internal and external challenges, and maintaining a focus on equity emerges as a common thread in their narratives.

The Essence of Equity in Transformative Philanthropy

The values of equity and the pursuit of social justice resonate across LeAnn, Miguel, and Jessie's experiences at the Goldhirsh Foundation, Michelson 20MM, and ECMC Foundation. As they navigate the evolving landscape of philanthropy, their stories inspire a collective movement towards a fairer, more inclusive society. By incorporating participatory approaches, strategic investments, and collaborative frameworks, the panelists and the foundations they represent, exemplify the transformative power of philanthropy when guided by the principles of equity and community engagement.

AuthorTeam LA2050