A vision for California: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation envisions a productive, vibrant, and sustainable California that is a model of success and a source of innovation.

A commitment to now: California faces many critical challenges, which require resources and imaginative solutions. In response to this reality, the Board of Directors decided to invest all the Foundation’s assets by 2020. This decision reflects a commitment to identifying lasting solutions for education and the environment sooner, rather than later. The Foundation also invests in building the capacity and resiliency of grantee organizations to leave them positioned to carry on the work of furthering a successful California for decades to come, and in the overall effectiveness of the philanthropic sector.

Learn more: sdbjrfoundation.org.

 

Contributions

Special grantmaking: A purposeful, flexible resource for foundations

Posted on January 8, 2021 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

Many foundations that are guided by a long-term commitment to move the needle in a finite set of issue areas also hold “special grantmaking” funds. These program dollars can be flexibly deployed for nascent opportunities, innovative ideas, emergencies, local causes, and/or areas of high interest to their leaders. Little has been written about special grants as a vibrant resource for… Read More

Strategy and Evaluation: The Twin Engines of Effective Philanthropy

Posted on January 8, 2021 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

This essay provides a fast-paced tour of grantmaker approaches, launching with the advent of long-range planning in the 1980s and visiting scenario planning, social return on investment, human-centered design, big data, and other developments that have influenced practice. The author lands on strategy and evaluation as the anchor approaches that will fuel greater philanthropic impact in the new decade. This… Read More

Rehearsing the Future: An Introduction to Developing and Using Scenarios

Posted on January 8, 2021 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

Scenarios are stories about different future environments in which today’s decisions might play out. We cannot predict the future. However, by thinking creatively and rigorously about a range of scenarios, we can rehearse future possibilities and prepare for what might be next. In the summer of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, job losses mounted, and the movement for racial… Read More

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 3: 2018-2020

Posted on January 7, 2021 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California’s critical challenges “sooner rather than later.” The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to… Read More

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 2: 2014-2017

Posted on January 7, 2021 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California’s critical challenges “sooner rather than later.” The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to… Read More

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 1: 2009-2013

Posted on January 7, 2021 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California’s critical challenges “sooner rather than later.” The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to… Read More
Voices from the Field

Reflections from the Spend Down of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

Posted on January 7, 2021 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Lauren B. Dachs

Courtesy of Jonathan Petersson from Pexels Excerpted from Spending down: Laurie Dachs answers questions for family philanthropies What was the process that your foundation went through to make the decision to spend down? What drove the decision? Our Board of Directors held multiple conversations across a year, 2008, sparked by my dad as founder and board chair. At that time,… Read More

Sooner Rather Than Later, Prologue: 1957-2008

Posted on January 7, 2021 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California’s critical challenges “sooner rather than later.” The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to… Read More

Spending down: Laurie Dachs answers questions for family philanthropies

Posted on January 7, 2021 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

Courtesy of Jonathan Petersson from Pexels In October 2020, Nick Tedesco, president and CEO of the National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP), talked with Lauren B. (Laurie) Dachs, president and vice chair of the board at the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, about spending down all assets. The Foundation was founded in 1957; in 2009 it became a limited-life philanthropy… Read More

Resilience in 2020

Posted on December 10, 2020 by S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

New field research examines how nonprofits have experienced the crises of 2020 – and what this tells us about organizational resilience. Findings are based on interviews with 22 leaders at 19 nonprofits and intermediaries in September and October… Read More