By Katy Moore, Director of Member Services
At the “Philanthropist to Philanthropist” luncheon earlier this month, top philanthropists from around the region came together to learn from one of their own: Vicki Sant, co-founder and President of The Summit Foundation and The Summit Fund of Washington. In an interview-style session, Vicki shared her passion and commitment for our community, as well as some of the strategies that have helped her and her team achieve powerful results with their giving.
Vicki and her husband Roger moved to Washington, D.C., from Palo Alto, California, in 1974. In the early 80s, Roger co-founded AES (Applied Energy Services) which became a Fortune 500 global energy company. In the early 90s, driven by a strong commitment to their community, the Sants opened a donor advised fund at The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. Soon thereafter, the Sants converted their fund into a supporting organization of the Community Foundation. This new structure allowed The Summit Fund of Washington to operate much like a private family foundation but with the benefits of the ties to the Community Foundation staff, administration, and leadership.
As the Sants grew their local commitment, they also knew they wanted to give at the national and international levels. In 1991, they founded The Summit Foundation as a vehicle to do just that.
Giving Priorities & Philosophy
Since the late 90s, the Sants have directed their giving – locally, nationally and internationally – in two key areas: environmental conservation and empowering youth to reduce teen pregnancy.
At the international level (through The Summit Foundation) they focus on:
Shifting the Context: Viewing the Anacostia River as an Opportunity
The Anacostia River has long been considered Washington’s “other” river—one that divides the city, the region, and our nation’s capital economically, geographically, racially, and socially. In 1998, recognizing the river’s potential to unite, heal, and inspire the community, The Summit Fund set a long-term goal of making the Anacostia a “biologically productive, socially viable river that is a source of pride for the Greater Washington region.” More specifically, The Summit Fund’s goal is for the Anacostia to be fishable and swimmable by 2025.
While much work is left to be done, the recent release of DC Appleseed’s report on the revitalization of the Anacostia River: A New Day for the Anacostia (supported by The Summit Fund) has generated new energy among funders, mapped out a plan for the next 15-20 years, and has reengaged the public’s connection to–and appreciation for–this important natural resource.
Achieving Results: Dramatic Decreases in Teen Pregnancy in D.C.
In the early 90s, teen pregnancy had become shockingly commonplace in D.C., affecting nearly one in four girls ages 15 to 19. The Summit Fund had already been working in the area of teen pregnancy prevention, but in 1997, it narrowed its geographic focus to D.C. and aligned efforts with national programs that were beginning to take shape. The Sants and The Summit Fund provided a strong voice for the issue and were successful in rallying the community around a very public and ambitious goal: to reduce teen pregnancy by 50 percent by 2005.
In 1998, The Summit Fund provided a lead gift of $750,000 over three years to launch the DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and joined with like-minded foundations to fund public opinion polls. The Sants and their staff spent countless hours collaborating with community leaders and city administrators to reach a shared understanding of the problem and align efforts towards a solution.
Their hard work paid off. Between 1997 and 2005, D.C. experienced a 57 percent decrease in teen pregnancy, exceeding local and national goals. The DC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has been the energy and means behind the dramatic decrease. Summit and other funders have supported and launched related programs across the community. Today, the successful experience of the 90s is fueling a renewed effort to prevent teen pregnancies in our region.
For more information, see WRAG’s publication Beyond Dollars: How Washington Area Grantmakers Are Creating Lasting Impact (p.4-5).
About the Series: WRAG’s “Philanthropist to Philanthropist” luncheons are exclusively for family philanthropists in the Greater Washington region. These invitation-only events provide a rare opportunity for philanthropists to openly share their giving challenges, successes, and failures, and learn from their peers. For more information, contact Katy Moore at 202-939-3436 or firstname.lastname@example.org.