The Sierra Nevada has attracted the interest and attention of national and international scientists and environmental organizations for decades. Much of this attention has come from outside of the boundary of the region, with groups looking at the towns and rivers of the Gold Country on maps without much understanding of the community dynamics of the region. While this attention is welcome and helpful, it must be met by strong, place-based organizations that understand the current situation and are committed to implementing real solutions on the ground.
The Sierra Nevada region is served by a thin but growing network of community and environmental groups working to protect and restore the region. Many have vision and passion but lack capacity to build a lasting and sustainable organization. These groups need new resources to grow, including administrative and technical capacity and funding.
Research into philanthropic giving for the Sierra Nevada region is thin on data. It is easy, however, to document that most of the large public and private foundations in California are located in either the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles, and that none make their home in the region. This results in a perception of the region that is clouded by distance and lack of familiarity of the full story of the Sierra Nevada.
Building a strong philanthropic services presence in the region, led by people who live and work here, will bring new sensibilities to the world of philanthropy. Major donors living in the area first helped form The Sierra Fund by creating Donor Advised Funds that allowed these donors an opportunity to have their charitable investments advised and implemented by an organization that is dedicated to the region. The unstable economic drivers that have impacted the nation and state as a whole, and ushered in the end of the era that created new “dot com” wealth, have also slowed the development of new philanthropy in the region.