Case Study 4: David & Tina

Case Study 4: David & Tina



Ensuring their city’s most vulnerable youth survive and thrive.

Social Impact Goals

Ensuring their city’s most vulnerable youth survive and thrive.

Philanthropic Approach

Less directed, started anonymously, focused on direct service programs and evolved to more public, collaborative efforts, including championing policy change.

Talent for Giving

Investigative journalists who covered stories in local media; nonprofit staff; acquaintances with direct experience serving the population (social worker, homeless outreach worker, emergency room nurse); philanthropic advisors; peer funders and professional grantmakers; local government leaders.

David and Tina shared a deep commitment to their local community. As newlyweds in their mid 20s, they moved to California where they started their professional careers and raised their two children, now young adults and living outside of the state. When the couple retired from working full-time, they decided to dedicate much of their energy to their philanthropy. They focused their efforts on helping the young people who were struggling most. Many were adolescents who had dropped out of school, were homeless, or were about to transition out of foster care. Many were dealing with mental health problems and addiction and had lived lives marked by poverty and abuse. Having raised two children who were now happily independent, David and Tina were deeply moved by the stories they heard about the needs of these young people and what might help.

In addition to the poverty and abuse these children experienced, these young people were also disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), unlike David and Tina, who are white. Given all the differences between their lives and those they hoped to support, they knew they had much to learn before settling on any approach.

They read relevant articles from their hometown newspaper. Some mentioned specific, local nonprofits that were helping; one mentioned a national foundation dedicated to addressing the needs of “disconnected youth.” They went to the websites of those organizations and the national foundation, reviewing reports and profiles of successful programs, as well as recommendations of policies that might help.

They began seeking out individuals in their networks who could help them understand the situation better. They reached out to Tina’s cousin, a longtime social worker. David remembered that the brother of a former colleague had been an outreach worker to the homeless. These    early conversations naturally led to ideas for more reading and people to speak with. They began what they later described as a “listening tour,” a series of conversations, one-on-one and in small groups, where they would learn more about why these children were in the circumstances they were in and what ideas people had for changing the situation. They often relied on the perspectives and recommendations of those working directly with young people — social workers, case workers, emergency room nurses, and teachers. Along the way, they sometimes learned of a nonprofit that they immediately wanted to support, such as an organization providing safe shelter and crisis mental health care. When that happened, they would quietly make an anonymous donation out of their Donor Advised Fund (DAF). They had a high profile in their community and knew that as soon as their interests were more public, they would be inundated by requests and questions that neither felt ready to handle.

Over time their approach evolved. They hired Sara, an experienced philanthropic advisor who helped them reflect on what they were learning and offered advice on ways they could begin implementing what they learned. As they put more structure in place, they worried that they might get too far removed from the young people they hoped to help. In response, Sara worked with them to ensure their grants built in resources for the grantees to listen to and integrate beneficiary voice (i.e., the experience and insights of the intended communities and people who may benefit from social programs) and looked for opportunities where David and Tina could hear directly from vulnerable youth. They began working with other stakeholders in their community: a peer high-net-worth donor who shared their philanthropic interests, a key person in city government, and the head of the national foundation whose report they had read early in their journey. As their talent network and knowledge grew, they expanded their approach to include investments in select policy campaigns and participation in funding coalitions advancing systemic change. As their profile as funders grew, they were able to bring people to the table who might not have connected before.In fact, that convening role became a tremendous source of satisfaction: “It was clear early on how much work needed to be done and how many people needed to be involved to be successful. Our money alone would never be enough.”