On June 9, 1976, representatives from the San Diego State University Foundation and the 1-year-old San Diego Community Foundation met to form a network of grantmakers in San Diego. Members of the Los Angeles Inter-Foundation Center spoke about their experiences in building a similar consortium.

The founding participants in the grantmakers network include:  The re-named San Diego Foundation (and San Diego Grantmakers’ first fiscal sponsor), The Parker Foundation, J.W. Sefton Foundation, Willis and Jane Fletcher Foundation, Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, Copley Foundation, City of San Diego, and United Way of San Diego County.

The name San Diego Grantmakers is officially adopted in 1980.


The Fieldstone Foundation becomes San Diego Grantmakers’ fiscal sponsor, under the leadership of Chair Janine Mason. SDG adopts a more formal leadership structure with a rotating Steering Committee developing quarterly luncheon programs.


The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, an operating foundation established by the Jacobs Family Foundation, becomes San Diego Grantmakers’ fiscal sponsor. Jennifer Vanica, Executive Director of the Jacobs Family Foundation, and Tim McCarthy, Secretary-Treasurer of the McCarthy Family Foundation, are San Diego Grantmakers’ Co-chairs.


San Diego Grantmakers increases from quarterly to bi-monthly programs and a strategic planning process is launched under the leadership of the Board and part-time Director Nina Smart in order to strengthen the organization and expand its services. Dues are altered from a single rate of $100 for all members to voluntary higher support levels with ranging from $100 to $1,000.

Seed capital grant proposals were sent to all members and $75,000 was contributed by member organizations to fund an 18-month transitional staffing plan, membership and program development, and expanded opportunities for collaborative grantmaking.

  • Alliance Healthcare Foundation
  • Fieldstone Foundation
  • Girard Foundation
  • Jacobs Family Foundation
  • McCarthy Family Foundation
  • The Parker Foundation
  • San Diego National Bank
  • United Way of San Diego


“San Diego Grantmakers Celebrates its Incorporation”

With more than 40 members, San Diego Grantmakers received official 501(c)3 status and joined 28 other associations that were part of the national Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers.

Original mission statement: "San Diego Grantmakers is a network of private sector Grantmakers, committed to promoting cooperation among local, regional, and national Grantmakers, improving the effectiveness of Grantmakers to address important community issues, enhancing the skills and knowledge base of Grantmakers, and promoting the value of the nonprofit sector."


San Diego Grantmakers hires its first full-time staff member – Director Julie Holdaway – and moves into its first office provided in-kind by San Diego National Bank. SDG hosts approximately 24 programs each year, launches its first website, and revises its dues structure to a required range of $350 to $5,000 based on annual grantmaking in San Diego.

The Leadership Council is introduced for those contributing more than $7,500 and charter members include:

  • Alliance Healthcare Foundation
  • Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • The California Endowment
  • The California Wellness Foundation
  • Qualcomm, Inc.


Now hosting approximately 30 programs a year for more than 65 members, San Diego Grantmakers expands services to meet growing funder needs:

  • Grows to one full-time and one part-time staff positions
  • Hosts its first Annual Conference
  • Convenes collaborative funding groups—HIV Funding Collaborative, Child Welfare Funders and Homelessness Working Group
  • Develops a Community Leader series with The San Diego Foundation and LEAD San Diego with more than 350 participants
  • Creates a library of more than 450 sample grantmaking documents
  • Adopts a new mission: “To connect, educate, develop, and inspire a diverse group of foundations and corporations in order to stimulate effective philanthropy in the San Diego region.”


Julie Holdaway leaves San Diego Grantmakers to move closer to family and Nancy Jamison is hired as the new Executive Director. An additional part-time staff person is hired, for a total of three employees. A Common Grant Application is launched in order to help make the grantseeking process simpler and more efficient for nonprofits.


Notable Accomplishments:

San Diego Grantmakers and the University of San Diego Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research publish the first-ever research study on local foundation giving to nonprofits, The Grantmaking Report: Foundation and Corporate Giving in the San Diego Region. This effort was funded by:

  • Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego
  • McCarthy Family Foundation
  • The Parker Foundation
  • The San Diego Foundation
  • United Way of San Diego County
  • Washington Mutual

SDG also works with the San Diego Business Journal and Volunteer San Diego to publish the first “Corporate Philanthropy Special Report” designed to help small- to medium-sized businesses get involved in corporate giving and volunteerism.

The San Diego Workforce Funders Collaborative and Coming Home to Stay collaborations become the newest groups facilitated by San Diego Grantmakers.

Assembly Bill 624, which would have required private foundations to report racial and gender information about their employees and trustees, spurred an increased focus on public policy work and a new Strategic Communications and Public Policy Committee was formed.

SDG releases two studies on diversity in philanthropy together with Southern California Grantmakers and Northern California Grantmakers, and the Foundation Center.

SDG adopts a set of Guiding Principles, and launched the San Diego Giving Stories project to tell the stories of its members through a series written narratives.

SDG co-locates into an office space donated by Alliance Healthcare Foundation and The California Endowment and more staff is added for a total of two full-time positions – the Executive Director and a Director of Communications – and three part-time membership and administrative support positions.


Notable accomplishments:

  • The Military Family Support Working Group collaboration begins the cross-sector Military Transition Support Project to develop a comprehensive plan for better coordinating community resources for veterans, and connecting those resources to service members as early in the transition process as possible. After two years of planning, advocacy and fundraising, the MTSP Community Plan was implemented in the form of an organization called zero8hundred that maintains a public website of services and resources in San Diego for transitioning military personnel, as well as provides “navigators” who support service members and their families, proactively ensuring they receive needed help six months prior and 12 months after transition.
  • The SDG member collaboration Homelessness Working Group's Keys to Housing: Ending Family Homelessness coalition launches www.KeysToHousing.org and the Toolbox to End Family Homelessness report.
  • Several members of the Education Funders collaboration commit $100,000 toward a cross-sector examination of the potential for collective education improvement efforts in our region. This effort formalized as the Education Synergy Project (ESP) and was led by a team of representatives from education, business, law enforcement, government, and nonprofits. In October 2013, the "project" launched as the Education Synergy Alliance, an entity separate from SDG that pursues regionwide career and college readiness, early education, and STEM/STEAM projects.
  • SDG partners with six other nonprofit support organizations to host a forum for candidates in the 2012 City of San Diego mayoral election that focused on the issues facing the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors and was attended by more than 500 individuals.
  • Notable program offerings include the Essential Skills and Strategies for Effective Grantmakers series, a Nonprofit Financial Analysis series in partnership with Northern California Grantmakers and Southern California Grantmakers, and a Public Policy Forum webinar series also in partnership with the other state regional associations and CalNonprofits.
  • The SDG Board of Directors approves a dues increase of approximately 15 percent over a two-year period (implemented in the 2013-2014 dues cycle) as part of a new business plan.
  • SDG hosts two large, cross-sector convenings about poverty alleviation and education -- first of their kind for SDG.


San Diego Grantmakers embarks upon two major initiatives in collaboration with other regional associations of grantmakers, both in California and throughout the country: the Real Cost Project about funding nonprofit overhead and Foundation Center's "Get On the Map" to encourage more grantmakers to voluntarily report their grants information into a national mapping database.

In late 2014, SDG launches a three-year fundraising campaign to build its capacity to better Unite, Activate, and Elevate philanthropy in San Diego. Thanks to contributions by those listed below, SDG raises $503,500 -- exceeding our goal of $410,000 more than two years early!

  • Connie Matsui (Beckman-Matsui Family Fund)
  • The California Endowment
  • The California Wellness Foundation
  • Moxie Foundation
  • Leichtag Foundation
  • McCarthy Family Foundation
  • The Parker Foundation
  • The Patricia and Christopher Weil Family Foundation
  • Rancho Santa Fe Foundation
  • San Diego Social Venture Partners
  • Sempra Energy/SDG&E
  • Alan and Louarn Sorkin
  • United Way of San Diego County

SDG also becomes the steward of a three year, $3 million Community Partnership Grant from Satterberg Foundation for community projects that promote a just society and sustainable environment.

Both projects allow SDG to add two new full time staff positions dedicated to programming and collaboration support—for a total of six full-time employees—make technology improvements, design a formal collaboration facilitation framework, increase statewide association coordination, and prepare business plan for membership growth.

2016 marks the 40th anniversary since the organization's founding. Membership numbers 115.