Getting Acquainted with the Elfenworks Foundation and Its Bay Area Giving

With partners in education, policy, law, media, and at the grass-roots, there’s a small, Silicon Valley foundation that’s taking an interesting approach to Bay Area philanthropy. The group we’re highlighting today is called the Elfenworks Foundation, which has been working on projects related to fostering student social justice filmmakers, promoting peace initiatives, assisting nonprofits to safely navigate IT security, and helping kids cope with stress.

This is a foundation affiliated with Elfenworks Productions, LLC, a multimedia production company that’s all about awareness-raising projects, both in-house and for nonprofits. The company has music, film, and book divisions, and its philosophy can be described like this:

Music and the arts feed the soul, so we’re creating a positive value with our artistry, and when we work in public-private partnerships or with other like-minded socially responsible businesses, we’re helping foster the sort of environment in which we’d all prefer to live.

This foundation came onto our radar when it announced three new grants totaling $75,000, which are going to Bay Area nonprofit founders who just so happen to be women. The awards are going to the following visionary local women; Suzanne McKechnie Klahr, Founder and CEO of BUILD; Laura Weidman Powers, Co-Founder and CEO of CODE2040; and Doniece Sandoval, Founder and CEO of Lava Mae.

These three women were chosen for the Elfenworks $25,000 awards because of their roles in the following movements:

  • Leveraging the potential of disadvantaged students through entrepreneurship
  • Encouraging Black and Latino students to get involved in the technology industry
  • Providing hygiene services for the homeless

Over the past decade, the Elfenworks Foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to nonprofits, not just in the Bay Area, but nationwide. Yet the foundation is based in San Mateo, and much of its funding stays in the Bay Area. These types of causes are important ones to Elfenworks and representative of the types of organizations it regularly supports. Although each of these ideas is very different, they’re all rooted in hope. And hope is what the Elfenworks Foundation is all about.

What’s interesting about this particular foundation is that it’s incredibly multi-faceted and led by a team of technology advocates, social entrepreneurs, and advisors with expertise in communications, computers, film, music, the law, finance, and business administration. And because of the group’s industry connections, much of its support goes towards utilizing media and technology to raise public awareness about important causes.

Elfenworks founder and CEO, Lauren Speeth, said in a press release, “This year’s honorees have very different skills and niches. Each has a vision for how to help that is different from the other, but they all share an address. They all dwell in possibility. That’s where hope lives. And their work keeps hope alive.”

Speeth is a filmmaker, educator, and social entrepreneur who has spent all her working life in the Bay Area, mostly in the software engineering industry. Which explains the foundation’s local support in the region.

The awards ceremony for these three Bay Area women took place on September 29, and Elfenworks enlisted the help of Wells Fargo to kick in an additional $10,000 to support the awards program and facilitate a place to exchange ideas among past and current award winners.

The best way to get in touch with this foundation is via online form, but according to the foundation’s website:

Our final major grant, which established the Elfenworks Center for Employment Justice at Golden Gate University, solidified our working-partnership-based (rather than donor-focused) policy. While we already have a full roster of partners, we are currently entertaining grant requests for researchers interested in studying the impact of the Butterfly Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

Breathing Butterfly is an Elfenworks stress-busting app designed for young mobile users as a game to help children relax, breathe, and meditate.