Jessica Mancini, David and Lucile Packard Foundation

TITLE: Program Officer, Local Grantmaking Program

FUNDING AREAS: Arts, children and youth, conservation and science, food and shelter, and population and reproductive health

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Mancini's grantmaking priorities align with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation's long-term strategy for local grantmaking in the Bay Area. She believes multi-year general support and capacity-building grants give organizations the flexibility, stability, and autonomy to direct their spending as needed and contributes to the strength and impact of an organization. This, in turn, builds vibrant communities. 

PROFILE: When it comes to grantmaking in Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties, Jessica Mancini, a program officer at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, is one person fundraisers should get to know. Mancini is a recent addition to the foundation's local grantmaking program, taking the reins as program officer for two Bay Area counties in September 2012.

Mancini is responsible for providing more than $3 million each year in funding for non-profit organizations in Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties. She is also responsible for the local program's learning and evaluation work.

When asked about the theory of change behind her grantmaking, Mancini told IP, "The Local Grantmaking Program is a place-based program, which funds in the five counties surrounding our headquarters in Los Altos, California. We have many areas of focus including the arts, environmental education, afterschool, food security and homelessness. We believe that investing in a diverse group of community organizations will lead to stronger, more vibrant communities.  We also believe that multi-year, general support grants as well as capacity building support enables our grantees to most effectively leverage our funding for the greatest community impact."

Prior to becoming a program officer, Mancini was already involved with the local program at the foundation, since 2010. She was instrumental in developing the local grantmaking program's "Beyond the Check" program, which was designed to provide grantees with training opportunities for planning and governance strategies, a project she completed while working as a fellow through the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. She's also worked as a consultant in both the business and nonprofit sectors.

As for Packard's grantmaking in Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, the focus and priorities haven't changed since Mancini assumed the role. The foundation still supports nonprofits in the arts, children and youth, conservation and science, food and shelter, and population and reproductive health. So far, the grants Mancini has provided are right in line with the foundation's prior funding. "Our grantees are leaders and anchor organizations in the communities they serve. They have strong, adaptive leadership, impactful programming, and a high level of community participation, engagement, and support. Many grantees have long track records of success and impact, while others have new programs with high potential," Mancini explained.

For grantseekers, Packard's local program is very accessible. Non-profit organizations are free to submit letters of inquiry throughout the year, and there's information online that can help further guide applicants. The only catch is that the selection process is fairly competitive. Knowing how to make your organization stand out to program officers is essential, and the best way to do that is by looking at the local program's past grants in Santa Cruz and San Benito. "We appreciate the opportunity to learn about organizations serving within our five counties and each letter of inquiry is reviewed and responded to on an ongoing basis," Mancini told IP.

In the last few years, the foundation has been a supporter of the resurgence of the Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center (MAH). Since Nina Simon took over as director of the museum, it has had a complete turnaround, with attendance up 57% and individual giving growing by 400%. A point nonprofits should recognize is that grants were made available not only because of Simon's effective leadership, but also because MAH fits within Packard's funding priorities as an arts institution with high quality programming and support from the community. Organizations that have set solid goals and have a strategic framework for their success will certainly benefit.

When Simon launched the Renewed Ambition campaign to bolster individual giving at the museum, Packard helped out with a $200,000 grant. The foundation also provided a general support grant of $40,000. The key was Simon's effective leadership and vision for turning the museum around and bringing it into the 21st century.

As for other recent grants Mancini has overseen, earlier this year the local program provided $70,000 to the United Way of Santa Cruz County, one of its longtime grantees, to support youth violence prevention; $100,00 of general support to Pie Ranch, a seed to table food and farmer education organization; $60,000 in general support to the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. A note for fundraisers in San Benito County: The majority of the foundation's funding in the county is provided through a re-granting partnership with the Community Foundation for San Benito County. To learn more about the the local grantmaking program's strategy, check out the Grants Database section of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation's website.