SAM: The group is a giving circle that uses its expertise and cash to support good causes. Courtesy photo

Chandler Braxton / SMDP Intern

The SAM Initiative has recently completed its 2021-2022 annual giving cycle by donating a total of $350,000 in grants to seven local non-profit organizations. 

The Initiative is a group of volunteers who use private philanthropy to fund a rotating group of organizations that support their three primary areas of focus for that year which include supporting work in educational equity, at-risk youth, and mental health, with an expanded focus on social enterprises for 2022. 

The donations are given as part of an annual cycle developed by Mindy Freedman, a Los Angeles philanthropist and non-profit strategist who started SAM to drive social change within the community. The organization lives by Freedman’s personal motto: “We can do far more together than we can alone.”

​​“At a time when so many individuals feel powerless to make a difference, SAM unites us for a collective purpose: to impact the world together,” said Jonathan Zeichner, founder of A Place Called Home.

Since 2014, SAM has donated over $2.5 million dollars to local nonprofits with the goal of finding and helping smaller organizations that are working to fix the community but do not have the funds. The support from SAM’s early investment helps smaller organizations grow and as SAM members get involved with these other non-profits they often lend expertise in addition to cash. 

“They don’t have the time or energy or resources to get the sort of next-level funding from a larger organization or a foundation. They’re just not there yet. And they don’t have the resources. So we kind of go in on the idea and find organizations doing the work and really fixing problems that have solutions to issues, and going in and funding them and taking a chance on them,” said SAM member Marcie Goldstein. “We’re sort of writing the grant proposals for them. We’re helping them put together the information that we need.”

The SAM Initiative hopes to spread the word about their organization to bring in donations from members of the community. SAM also hopes to bring in new members and build new connections with the non-profits in the community. The more members in SAM, the more new or smaller nonprofits are able to get recognized and get SAM can get involved with their organizations as well. 

“It’s also the other ideas and connections that people have, that they bring to the table. It’s those ripples, the ripple effect, I can’t just come and write a check. But the idea is you come, you write a check and you also are maybe involved in another organization as a board member that’s small that we should know about? Or you heard about something, or you have a kid that works in some amazing organization we should know about, or you have connections through your church or your synagogue or whatever it may be. That you could sort of turn us on to other organizations that should be on our radar and aren’t on our radar,” said Goldstein. 

For the third consecutive year, SAM engaged students from Wildwood Schools’ Wildwood Institute for Social Leadership (WISL). WISL consults with local nonprofits and organizations in order to define and address social issues. WISL members conduct community and field research, resulting in both deep understanding and concrete plans to create positive change. Sixteen students actively participated in SAM’s entire due-diligence process for this past cycle. The collaboration with WISL emphasized SAM’s commitment to the community by including local youth perspectives as they work to improve the lives of women, children, and families in Los Angeles through engaged philanthropy.

“It’s been another powerful year for SAM, especially coming out of the throes of the pandemic. Our members continue to be generous with their time, their commitment and resources,” says Founder and President Mindy Freedman.

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