How a Homebuilding Company Lays the Foundation for Community Development

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

This is one in a series of profiles highlighting the work of our longtime members to commemorate the 40th anniversary of San Diego Grantmakers' founding in 1976.

For more than 30 years, the name “Fieldstone” has been synonymous with development—whether that development was homes or the neighborhoods surrounding those homes. 

The community improvement arm of Fieldstone, The Fieldstone Foundation, was founded in 1983 by The Fieldstone Company, which was, at that time, very young itself. According to Fieldstone Foundation Executive Director Janine Mason, who joined the organization in 1988, this charitable arm of the Fieldstone company had always been part of the founders’ plan. 

Constructing the Framework of Giving

The Fieldstone family’s desire to give back came from the belief that they were called to share their blessings with others,” says Janine. “As homebuilders who expanded into areas with little housing, they felt that part of their mission was to help create communities’ social infrastructure. So they went into these areas to support nonprofit education, arts, and humanitarian efforts through a very robust giving program.” 

The foundation spent the first decade of its existence as a traditional grantmaker, making up to $2 million in cash grants a year to organizations throughout San Diego and Orange counties. They gave across the board to organizations dealing with everything from gang violence to teen homelessness to child abuse to the arts. SAY San Diego, Casa de Amparo, San Diego Youth Services, The Old Globe, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the San Diego Symphony, Pop Warner, and the endeavors of various town councils are just some of the community-based organizations that benefitted from The Fieldstone Foundation. 

Building the Future in San Diego

Around the time of The Fieldstone Foundation’s 10th anniversary in 1993, the foundation decided to assess the impact they were having in the communities they were serving: “We went out into the world and looked at what we were doing well, what not so well, and what people were telling us they wanted,” says Janine. 

This is when Fieldstone found out that what local nonprofits really needed was help with executive leadership and training. At the time, the economy was weak and training for nonprofit leaders was being cut left and right. To answer this call, the foundation decided to create a curriculum to develop and nurture nonprofit leaders. 

Redesigning Executive Leadership 

Since The Fieldstone Foundation started their leadership training efforts in 1994, more than 1,800 nonprofit organizations in San Diego and Orange Counties have benefited—and continue to benefit—from their leadership development. Fieldstone’s leadership training and development provides nonprofit leaders with the skills they need to respond to the demands of the nonprofit community.

“If we support and strengthen the individual leader, they can then provide their services in a more efficient and effective way. Then their organization becomes stronger and better and the other organizations and clients that depend on them become stronger,” says Janine. “This strength then extends far into the community.”

Even though Fieldstone no longer exists as a homebuilding corporation in Southern California, the foundation is more solid than ever, with a range of individual leadership programs that include one-time seminars to six-month long learning groups and year-long coaching. The approach of Fieldstone’s leadership programs is very much aligned to what Fieldstone’s goal has always been – to build communities.  

Through participation in the foundation’s leadership development initiatives, nonprofit leaders become part of a group of people who share their skills, collaborate, trust each other and, ultimately, become greater as a whole for the benefit of the entire community. They find themselves part of a network that is committed to continuous learning and rock-solid support. 

As the head of a nonprofit organization herself, Janine knows all too well the power of Fieldstone’s leadership programs: “Being an executive director can be very lonely. Many nonprofit leaders are isolated. They work in a bubble. Their board and staff have different roles than them so they may not have others to bounce ideas off. These leadership groups make people feel connected and more in touch with the integrity of the work they do.”

The success of Fieldstone’s unique approach to community involvement has really resonated with nonprofits, with leaders from nearly all the most recognizable organizations, across a variety of disciplines, participating. “From libraries to schools to healthcare to the arts, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a local nonprofit leader who hasn’t participated in one of our leadership programs,” adds Janine. 

Fieldstone and San Diego Grantmakers Build Each Other Up

It is probably no surprise that San Diego Grantmakers (SDG) President and CEO Nancy Jamison is one of the nonprofit leaders to come out of The Fieldstone Foundation’s leadership development programs. She is a graduate of its Executive Learning group. 

And the collaboration goes both ways. Janine continues, “I was invited to become part of SDG early in my career, when I was still very new and the only person in the area doing my job within a company context. I was so grateful to be part of a community that could mentor me, and SDG has continued to do so throughout my career.”

In the early 1990s, before SDG even had staff, Janine served as SDG’s Board Chair out of Fieldstone’s corporate offices. “This is when SDG was entirely volunteer-driven and we all took turns running the organization.” Ironically, according to Janine, this early work as a leader of SDG is very similar to what SDG has been for her. 

“SDG is really a professional organization to give people who do important nonprofit work the leadership skills to do their jobs better. There is an alignment there between SDG’s work and the Fieldstone Foundation’s mission. At the end of the day, we are really all working toward the same thing.” 

Janine’s passion for both leadership and SDG has not waned. She has served on SDG’s Board of Directors, the Program Committee, has chaired the Annual Conference, and was appointed to the SDG Advisory Board as a result of her longtime leadership and involvement. Janine and Fieldstone Foundation have contributed mightily to the SDG of today.


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