Bay Area Philanthropist Bill Somerville Featured in SF Chronicle

Bill Somerville, President and Founder of Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, was featured in today’s San Francisco Chronicle (“Philanthropist Goes His Own Way to Find Causes“).  I reviewed Somerville’s book Grassroots Philanthropy:  Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker in a post earlier this year.

The article identifies Somerville as “[q]uite possibly the Bay Area’s fastest philanthropist” noting that he “gives away $5 million a year to fight poverty, granting each proposal he likes within 48 hours.”  Here are some quotes from the article:

“When a donor gave Philanthropic Ventures $100,000 to “help education,” Somerville sent a letter to 47,000 public school teachers asking them to fax him one-page, $500 requests for supplies and field trips. The “fax-grant” program was such a success it’s now a permanent fixture at Philanthropic Ventures and is also offered to social workers.”

“”His approach makes sense for certain organizations that are smaller in scale,” Paul Brest, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, said in a recent panel discussion on philanthropy with Somerville in San Francisco.  “But if you are granting $10 (million) or $20 million to improve the educational development in an entire country, you do need a strong evaluation process. Fax grants are not for the Gates Foundation that is trying to develop a vaccine,” he said.”