Early Ed and Emergency Needs: Getting to Know the Haas Jr. Fund’s Local Priorities

The Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund has been incredibly busy with LBGT and immigrant rights work at the national and state level, the biggest things going on with the funder lately. Because of the nature of this work, Haas’s support extends well beyond the borders of San Francisco and the Bay Area.

So to touch base about local funding commitments and priorities, I recently had a chat with the foundation’s Denis Chicola to learn more.

Related: Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund: Bay Area Grants

One thing he mentioned was Haas support for the Pre-K to third grade demographic, particularly in collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District. This demographic is the No. 1 local education priority for the foundation right now, followed by college access.

Haas takes its cues from Vision 2025, which is a program committed to closing the achievement gap for students of color in San Francisco and transforming the school system. The gap between rich and poor is growing faster in San Francisco than any other city in America, and Haas knows it.

Read more: Hass Jr.’s Role in Vision 2025

Here are some local education priorities the fund benefits:

  • Integrating high-quality early learning into the district so all children are reading at grade level by fourth grade
  • Supporting district leaders in “leading for change” and help transform teaching and learning across the district
  • Engaging families and communities as essential partners
  • Building school-to-college connections so all youth are ready to attend and successfully complete college
  • U.C. Berkeley Initiative for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Also related to education equality, the foundation provided support to the New America Foundation to publish and release a report with a little hired help out of Stanford. City College is going through a transition right now, which plays heavily into Haas’ support for college access.

Critical assistance is also important to the Haas Jr. Fund on the local level. Critical assistance funding means providing emergency funds to mitigate the need to turn to social services. For example, the fund has contributed at least $500,000 to the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund each year dating back 2010. Season of Sharing, a nonprofit that Haas created with the San Francisco Chronicle, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Most of the critical assistance funding has gone to rental subsidies, lately, because of the extreme housing issues in the Bay Area. However, these funds can also go toward things like building disabled access points for homes. We wouldn’t be surprised to see more funding in this area as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach.

We’re also anticipating some interesting things with Crissy Field and the Presidio soon. There’s been talk of new investments for these types of local community projects in the near future. These entities have established long-term relationships with the Haas Jr. Fund, so this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

On the tech side of things, Haas was an early adopter of the Salesforce app to handle grantmaking digitally and cut down on heavy paper trails. With this all-digital approach, Haas can approve grants faster, use direct deposit, and provide grantees better access to their own grants. After incorporating the features five years ago, the foundation has become a leader in this high-tech approach and is talking with other organizations about it, too.

Even though the Hass Jr. Fund is only accepting grant proposals on an invitation basis right now, this policy is only temporary. Bay Area groups should sign up for the funder’s email list to keep up with new developments about the core program areas and guidelines as they may change.  We’re hoping to connect with a couple key program officers in the near future to really home in on local giving for education and emergency needs, so stay tuned.