This month for our Member Spotlight series, we are highlighting FCCP and Funders Census Initiative leader Stephania Ramirez. Stephania currently serves as Director, Strategic Initiatives at the California Community Foundation.

Q: For those who don’t know you, tell us a little about yourself and how you arrived at working in philanthropy. How did you get started?

It’s definitely been quite the journey to get here. I came to the United States with my parents when I was 8 years old from Puebla, Mexico and settled in the Los Angeles area. I grew up in challenging circumstances being an immigrant and experiencing homelessness firsthand. Little did I know so many years later that I would end up working in my own community on critical issues affecting myself and my neighbors. I eventually moved from the LA area and attended the University of California, Berkley thinking I’d become a lawyer and take a job in New York City. 

On a chance meeting, I ended up getting to know members of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. They told me about philanthropy and what they did – giving away money to good causes – it seemed like an unfathomable job to me. “You do what?” And, yet, somehow they eventually convinced me to join their team where I worked my way up the ladder. I oversaw a $40 million portfolio of science education, research, and STEM-related programming grants in the San Francisco Bay Area and served as the project manager in the launch of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis.  I knew I ultimately wanted to make my way back to the Los Angeles and when an opportunity opened to work with the California Community Foundation, I jumped at the chance.  

Q: What do you do at the California Community Foundation?

I joined the California Community Foundation in 2012 working on board and community relations, which allowed me to play an important role in the development of our 10-year strategic plan. From there, I bridged to strategic communications through leadership of the foundation’s Centennial Campaign in 2015 which was focusing on engaging our multiple constituents from donors to community leaders across Los Angeles County. This opportunity led to my role today as Director of Strategic Initiatives. A large part of my portfolio is obviously our Census 2020 efforts, but I also get to manage our fellowships to outstanding Los Angeles County-based visual artists through the Fellowship for Visual Artists, which enables me to engage at the intersection of civic engagement and the arts. 

Q: You’ve been quite active in our Funders Census Initiative 2020. Can you tell us more about your Census 2020 work at the foundation?

The California Community Foundation started working on Census 2020 in late 2017. We have brought together over 100 organizations from different geographies and backgrounds to develop a plan of action for the state. We didn’t want the foundation to dictate to the community how to engage on the census, but rather we wanted the community to tell the foundation what it needed. We’ve developed a plan with regional subleads and philanthropy working hand in hand with community organizations. 

For the foundation’s team, we really need to keep in mind the priorities of our constituents. Los Angeles County is the hardest county to count in the country. With a population of 10 million, of which 5.5 million are considered hard to count, we are investing significant resources to ensure our constituents are accurately counted. 

With the Funders Census Initiative, we are able to share our efforts, strategize collaboratively, and learn from other funders who are doing similar work. The forum has been critical in supporting the outreach, education, resource development, and technical assistance we have needed as funders. If you are at all considering census efforts, you should definitely reach out to the FCI team. 

Thanks so much for your time and engagement, Stephania! We are grateful for your efforts in Los Angeles County and around the country. If you’d like to get involved with FCCP’s Funders Census Initiative, please reach out to FCI Director Jocelyn Bissonnette at jbissonnette@funderscommittee.org or click here.