President’s Message

A Powerful Ripple Effect


These remarks are excerpted from Susan Ford Dorsey’s acceptance speech for Outstanding Foundation Grantmaker at National Philanthropy Day, November 2016.

A couple of days ago, an acquaintance asked me the following question. Now that the Sand Hill Foundation has been in business for 20 years, do you think you have made a difference and why?  Great question, and I leapt to say that I did think that we had made a contribution to the people in our community and the primary reason is because we work, for the most part, locally – right here in San Mateo and northern Santa Clara Counties.  This has allowed us not only to get to know the local nonprofits but has also allowed us to get to know the people and families they serve.   We have the privilege of being a partner in making life better and witnessing the tremendous goodness that comes from giving.

As I reflected longer on this question and my response, I realized one of the things that excites me most about our work is the potential ripple effect.  I like to think that the teenager who interns at Canopy planting trees at East Palo Alto schools or the kid who spends three days at Vida Verde might become a scientist who helps address climate change.  Or the graduate of Eastside College Prep goes onto medical school and either discovers new a medical breakthrough or sets up her own clinic in a low income community.  Or the child who was fortunate enough to grow up in a home constructed with the help of Habitat for Humanity goes onto college and a profession, having had a safe home in which to study and thrive.

And of course it is not just the youth involved who benefit from the programs.  Their siblings, their families, their friends benefit too.  We often hear that a student who is the first in their family to graduate from college will make sure that their children finish college, effectively breaking the cycle of poverty.


That student will also encourage younger siblings and friends to succeed – the ripple effect.  A culture of success, a concept of the future, and what it takes to achieve that future emerges, bringing along not just individuals but whole families, whole communities.

Some of us can drop boulders and some of us can drop pebbles into the water.  But whatever the size of the rock, the effect is the same.  The ripples extend, sometimes they turn into waves, and sometimes they turn into tsunamis.

Thank you to all the organizations we have the honor of supporting.  We couldn’t do our work without you and we admire and appreciate you so much.

With kind regards,

Susan Ford Dorsey