Why I give locally - By Kathy Kwan
We invite you to be inspired by our Community Voices blog series. Here Magnify Community pledger Kathy Kwan of the Eustace-Kwan Family Foundation shares her thoughts on local giving.
Local giving has been a cornerstone of the family foundation that Kathy and her husband Alan Eustace – a former Google executive – started in 2005. Since its inception, the foundation has directed 85% of its grants to local organizations and programs that are tackling critical regional issues including education (nonprofits such as Aim High and Eastside College Preparatory School), job training, and public health.
The decision to give locally is simple. “I live in the mid-Peninsula and giving locally is one opportunity to give back” Kathy explains. “My parents grew up in San Francisco's Chinatown during the 1950s when there was a lot of discrimination and limited economic opportunity. Without the after school support and leadership development provided by Cameron House and the Presbyterian Church, my father might never have aspired to go to college and obtain his degree in Civil Engineering. Supporting local organizations like St. Francis Center in Redwood City and the Recovery Cafe in San Jose is my way of acknowledging the valuable role nonprofits played in my family’s journey."
For Kathy, there are many benefits associated with this style of giving. “It’s personal. Local giving allows me to be more hands-on. I have an opportunity to build strong working relationships and witness how programs evolve and grow. Being local means I have more chances to volunteer, take tours and meet the beneficiaries of my grants at nonprofits like Second Harvest Food Bank or Hidden Villa. I have also had tremendous opportunities to learn more about some of the most difficult challenges facing our region.”
Kathy’s giving philosophy mirrors that of any wise investor: diversify.
I have a portfolio approach to grantmaking, and I think that local giving could be a valuable and worthwhile part of any Silicon Valley philanthropy effort
“I advise people to talk to your trusted sources and identify one or two local organizations with a track record of strong leadership and high impact in an area that are meaningful to you. Start by making small donations and/or volunteering, and if you like what you see, make a bigger commitment over time. Through my network, I’ve been connected to nonprofits and local school districts where I’ve built meaningful relationships, including JobTrain, the St. Francis Center for families and children, and the Redwood City School District.”
For anyone who thinks that it’s too hard for a single donor to fix a complex local challenge like homelessness, Kathy offers this thought: Focus on where your philanthropy dollars can move the needle. “I’m not solving homelessness, but by donating to local schools and safety-net programs, I can help make sure at-risk children are educated and families feel supported.”
Kwan takes a portfolio approach to grantmaking and believes local giving has a valuable place in that portfolio. From Kwan’s perspective, however, there is no one right way to give. Each person will have a different and valuable philanthropic journey. “I’m not sure there are any ‘should’s’ or ‘could’s’ in this field, but I do believe that giving back to your community can yield enormous personal and philanthropic benefits."