Future Forward: The Power of Diverse Partnerships for Social Good

By Jamie Bruning-Miles, President and CEO, YMCA of San Francisco

As a result of the pandemic, the YMCA of San Francisco, and the nonprofit sector, quickly pivoted from traditional, existing services to respond to the immediate needs of Bay Area communities. Among the results of our efforts, 1,286 youth from 956 families participate in the Y’s community hubs program, which supports students with the greatest need to navigate distance learning. Our work wouldn’t have been possible without the robust support of our donors and philanthropic efforts throughout our community.

The Changing Face of Philanthropy

As we all began to shelter in place, we witnessed — almost immediately — changes in our donor base and in the types of contributions we received from large and small donors alike. The pandemic disrupted the old paradigm of giving. We began seeing a shift toward investment in community-based organizations and prioritization of grassroots organizations that have a history of supporting the community’s ongoing needs. This shift streamlined traditional modes of giving to meet the COVID-19-specific needs of the community.

YMCA of San Francisco and Google.org

In one of our most notable donations to date, Google.org granted YMCA of San Francisco $1 million in philanthropic support, as well as access to their 9,000 square foot community space on the Embarcadero. This generous donation has allowed us to expand our role in the community hubs program by strengthening the Power Scholars Academy’s (PSA) academic program — created to address summer learning loss in math and reading and to foster physical and social-emotional growth amongst first through eighth-graders — and creating additional hubs across the city. “We are thrilled to be able to aid in the expansion of vital in-person learning opportunities for San Francisco youth this summer, after a year of remote learning. The YMCA is a pillar in our community, which is why we support them and their programs that help youth in need,” said Adrian Schurr, Google.orgs Regional Giving Lead.

Additional community hubs will serve youth from kindergarten through 24 years of age, ensuring those affected by the disparate impact of the digital divide and the learning gap will have academic support and enrichment to thrive this summer prior to returning to in-person learning. Donations like Google.org’s make it possible for us to cast a broad net and ensure young people who are often underserved, like transitional age youth (TAY), can access critical programming.

In an innovative spirit, Google has provided shuttles and drivers to assist 300–400 youth facing transportation barriers to and from community hubs. Safe and reliable transportation provided by Google shuttles will ensure resource-stressed families and people who are underserved by the public transportation system will be able to attend the program.

Turning Point

We find ourselves at a watershed moment in the pandemic. The City is rapidly meeting milestones for reopening, vaccine access is expanding, and children are beginning to go back to school. However, the future is still uncertain — we are in the midst of a recession, and many are still facing the hurdles of unemployment, debt, and learning loss from an inequitable year of online learning. These challenges have emphasized critical gaps in support for our communities — one that companies like Google have stepped in to fill.

As we begin to rebuild, it will be crucial for leaders across all sectors to draw from the tremendous number of silver linings: our adaptability, ability to collaboratively partner, and our common goals toward the betterment of our communities. We are much stronger and efficacious when we work together in service to the community and to each other. The public, private, and nonprofit sectors often work in silos, using different paths even when working toward the same outcomes. Countless public and private partnerships, some unlikely, have been successfully forged and we hope many will continue on in the future.

The pandemic tested the status quo on what could truly be possible, what it means to make a difference in one’s community, and how. Our ability to pivot successfully is greatly contingent on donors and true partners like Google, who have been willing to change and iterate with us to create solutions for immediate community needs. This past year will serve as a roadmap for working together with our funders to build back an even stronger, more equitable, and vibrant San Francisco.

San Francisco YMCA: Serving San Francisco Bay Area Youth and Families