President’s Update: Spring 2019

The year 2018 was significant for the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, our grantees, and our partners – and brought us closer to the Foundation’s sunset at the end of 2020. The external context for our work was turbulent, as unprecedented and devastating California wildfires underscored the importance of landscape-level conservation and the need for improved water infrastructure and management. November elections ushered in a new governor, state administration, and agency leadership, promising a mix of continuity and change that spell challenges as well as opportunities for the Foundation’s primary program areas.

Nevertheless, 2018 was another productive year for the Foundation. Following are highlights within the Foundation’s major lines of work:

Environment

We furthered our commitment to building a new generation of leaders capable of navigating a complex policy arena through the Water Solutions Network. We continued to partner with other funders in the important work of the Water Foundation; the 2018 election set in motion a notable transition for that organization as CEO Wade Crowfoot has now joined Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration as Secretary of Natural Resources.

The Foundation elevated it support for durable public lands through investment in the Parks California launch. We also built on our efforts to support innovative habitat conservation throughout the Central Valley. 

Education

We concluded direct support to school districts in connection with our seven-year Math in Common® Initiative. The Foundation continues to support a community of practice for participating districts.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Early Implementers thrived in its fourth year. Initiative leaders appeared before the State Board of Education in November to provide an update about district transitions to NGSS.

Many of the 11 partnerships within California State University’s New Generation of Educators Initiative made significant progress in their work to transform how teachers are prepared to succeed in 21st-century classrooms.

Grantees conveyed much enthusiasm around the National Character Initiative communities of practice, which facilitated connections and peer learning among participating organizations. 

Effectiveness

Foundation staff formulated and published lessons learned to inform the practices of other funders as well as nonprofit agencies. Featured resources offered insights to grantmakers and nonprofits involved with capital grants, and introduced tools to guide these entities as they seek to engage external consultants effectively to serve their organizations.

In keeping with our spend-down trajectory, total Foundation grant payments in 2018 continued to decline slightly as the size of the endowment decreased. However, the number of organizations we support held steady – reflecting the reality that our grantees and staff continue to be very active in implementing Foundation program strategies and advancing progress in our remaining years. I invite you to review the updated spend-down timeline chronicling the Foundation’s past decade.

We appreciate your continued interest in the Foundation, and the work so many are doing to make California and our world a better place.

Sincerely,

Lauren B. Dachs