Woman waves flag at citizenship ceremony Photo by John Moore

A Milestone in Grantmaking

Spring 2015 Letter from the President

As the Fund marks a grantmaking milestone, we also look to the tremendous work still ahead.

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A Milestone in Grantmaking…

The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund recently reached an important milestone when our total grantmaking over the past 62 years surpassed $500 million. That number is a testament to the Fund’s belief in the leaders, organizations and movements that are working so diligently to achieve the goals we share for our community, our state and our country.

But dollars do not measure social impact; results for people do. I am thinking about people like “New,” a young medical student in San Francisco who arrived in the United States from Thailand when he was nine years old. After he was mugged at gunpoint one evening while he was in college, “New” was terrified—but not for the reasons you might think. New is an undocumented immigrant. He didn’t want to report the crime because he feared he would be deported.

New’s story is a stark reminder of the distance we still need to travel in this country to achieve the vision of “a just and caring society” that motivated Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. to start their foundation in 1953.

In the past year, we have seen important (even historic) progress on the issues at the heart of the Haas, Jr. Fund’s work. Marriage equality for same-sex couples is now a reality in 36 states and Washington, D.C. President Obama has taken action to help 5 million undocumented immigrants enter the mainstream of our society.

And school leaders in San Francisco are moving forward with bold new plans to bring equal education opportunities to all students.

…With Miles to Go

But our work on these issues is by no means complete. The following are our priorities for the year ahead:

  • Getting to the finish line on marriage equality. With the Supreme Court due to rule in the coming months on this issue, it’s time to keep building public support for same-sex couples to have the same opportunities to show their love and commitment through marriage. At the same time, we need to educate the public and policymakers about the appropriate balance between safeguarding religious liberties and protecting gay couples from discrimination.
  • Supporting fairness for immigrants. Even as President Obama’s executive action on immigration faces delays in the courts, it’s critical to plan and be ready for its implementation. That means reaching out to millions of undocumented Americans (including 1.5 million people in California alone) who will be eligible on a temporary basis for deportation reprieves, work permits and Social Security numbers. At the same time, we should never lose sight of the need for comprehensive immigration reform so undocumented immigrants can find a permanent place in the mainstream of American society.
  • Making our schools work for all students. Like many other urban school districts across the nation, San Francisco is wrestling with how to ensure that all students, especially those from low-income, largely minority communities, get the education they need and deserve. With the district’s new Vision 2025, the city’s schools are on a path to change, but the San Francisco Unified School District cannot do this work alone. Parents, city government, community groups, business leaders, foundations and other partners need to join forces with the district to change the odds for all students in our public schools.

At the Haas, Jr. Fund, we are working with nonprofit, government and foundation partners on each of these issues to bring justice, equality and opportunity to more people. Through the Haas Leadership Initiative, we also are investing in the leaders of the nonprofits, public institutions and social movements that carry this work forward over time.

Milestones like the Haas, Jr. Fund’s $500 million mark in grantmaking can be important moments for reflection and appreciation for the visionary people who came before us, and those working day in and day out to achieve real change. They are also moments to recommit ourselves to the only true measure of our work: the ability of all people to live, work and raise their families with dignity.

In New’s story, he shares his plans to practice medicine in underserved communities and to stay involved in the movement for justice for undocumented “Dreamers” like himself. New’s story is an inspiration—and a reminder of the work still ahead to create a just and caring society for all.

What’s Your Perspective?