Philanthropy = Hanging Out With Police Chiefs?

By Dave Peery

Ok, so I wasn’t “hanging out” with the him, but other day I met with Police Chief Ron Davis, of East Palo Alto.  This guy is a legend and has done great things to reach out to the community and create a more effective and transparent police department.  Anytime someone like this calls me up, I’ll meet with them because I’ll end up learning something.  In fact, instead of having him come meet at our office, I went to his; after all, I’m sure the EPA police chief is busier than I am. Here are a few takeaways from my visit:

When I arrived at the station I saw an incredible 120 ft. mural created by theTeen Mural Program - a summer program for East Palo Alto Youth. I’ve heard about this program, but admittedly never seen one of their murals. Whether we fund them or not down the road, we will evaluate them with different eyes.

Chief Davis’ primary reason for calling me was to seek funds for a gun buy-back program that was coming up.  The request was small and requiring any more from him outside of that meeting would be a waste of precious time.  He inquired with other funders and we filled whatever gap was left.

We moved from talking about the gun buy-back program to discussing issues and opportunities in the community as he sees them.  For example, he brought to my attention an effort by community leaders who are working to be part of the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative (based on the Harlem Children’s Zone) - to “improve outcomes and opportunities for children and families, at scale, in defined neighborhoods”. Considering our goals in East Palo Alto - this is something we want to be aware of and sitting across from the Chief was how I learned about it.

In summary - I came away more convinced than ever that philanthropy is about getting out of your office.  The chance to get out and see, touch, and smell, informs our decision-making, deepens our understanding of a community, and makes us aware of opportunities we may not have found otherwise.

With that, we’re going to sign off until the New Year. Now that the blog is live, we’re excited to continue and the topic ideas are growing.  Please feel free to chime in with comments or things you’d like for us to discuss here on the Whiteboard. Have a great holiday season and see you in 2011!