Chris DeCardy, David and Lucile Packard Foundation

TITLE: Vice President and Director of Programs

FUNDING AREAS: Conservation and science; population and reproductive health; and children, families, and communities

CONTACT: cdecardy@packard.org, 650-948-7658

IP TAKE: DeCardy has years of experience in media and philanthropy and is actively involved in a number of charitable organizations. At Packard, he oversees the hundreds of millions in grants made every year and coordinates the foundation's communications.

PROFILE: Trained in journalism and public policy, Chris DeCardy knows how to raise awareness for a cause. Before the David and Lucille Packard Foundation brought him on as communications director in 2002, DeCardy was executive director at Environmental Media Services, where he spent seven years waging campaigns to improve media coverage of environmental issues. During his time at Packard, DeCardy has risen through the ranks, eventually earning himself the position of Vice President and Director of Programs. In this capacity, DeCardy oversees the foundation's grantmaking work and also leads Packard's communications and evaluation departments.

Managing grants at Packard is a major task. First, Packard's budget is enormous. The foundation has more than $5 billion in assets, giving out in excess of $245 million annually. Second, Packard just does a lot of things, philanthropically speaking. It has only three primary program areas, but they're broad: Conservation and Science; Population and Reproductive Health; and Children, Families, and Communities. It's difficult to come up with examples of charitable work that wouldn't fall into one of those three categories. By all appearances, if you help humans, animals, or the earth, you too could qualify for a Packard grant.

Additionally, Packard funds what it refers to as "local grantmaking," or projects operating in areas of geographical significance to the Packard family. (Note: Not surprisingly, given the origins of the Packard family money, this area includes Silicon Valley.)

A review of Packard's recent grants reveals the diversity of Packard's mission. Here is a sampling of some of the larger grants:

  • $2 million to California's Community Initiatives to improve preschool opportunities for the state's children
  • $25 million to expand the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford
  • $4.5 million to the Resources Legacy Fund to encourage private land conservation in the western United States

Most Packard grants are in the thousands, rather than the millions, and Packard supports dozens of charitable groups every year.

Interested in receiving support from Packard yourself? This info from the foundation's website should get you started. It explains Packard's funding priorities in detail, and the foundation encourages would-be grantees to read it before submitting a funding inquiry.

Also, DeCardy himself has some advice for groups seeking funding from his team: Make a formal case for yourself before you contact a program officer. Or, as DeCardy explains in a chat posted on the Chronicle of Philanthropy's website: "Someone asked a direct question in the cue about cold call vs. LOI [letter of inquiry] to the Packard Foundation. The LOI is likely the better way to go. Short and to the point and it may help start a conversation."

Outside of his job at Packard, DeCardy is committed to charitable pursuits in his local community of Menlo Park, California, and the surrounding area. A few of his recent endeavors: he sits on the Environmental Quality Commission for the city of Menlo Park, serves as a fellow with the American Leadership Forum–Silicon Valley, gives money to a San Francisco community center that puts on after-school and summer programs for children, and supports nature trails. It would seem that Chris DeCardy is as devoted to philanthropy in his personal life as he is when running the charitable operations of a multibillion-dollar foundation.