S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

Legacy Collection

In December 2020, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation concluded operations. Founded in 1957, the Foundation was committed to building a productive, vibrant, and sustainable California. In 2009, the Foundation decided to invest all of its assets, or spend down, by 2020 in order to spur significant progress on the challenging issues facing the state in education and environment. This collection features knowledge produced by the Foundation and its partners during its final decade of work. Read concluding reflections from the Foundation's president and learn more about its grantmaking.

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Featured

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 3: 2018-2020

December 14, 2020

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California's critical challenges "sooner rather than later." The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to establish 2020 as the Foundation's end date. In the series, "Sooner Rather Than Later: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-down Journey", the Foundation documented its journey to inform the interests and practices of other philanthropies that are considering or conducting a spend down. Chapter 3 of the series reports on the Foundation's final years and carries perspectives on major programs and operations across the spend down.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story
Featured

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 2: 2014-2017

May 1, 2020

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California's critical challenges "sooner rather than later." The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to establish 2020 as the Foundation's end date.In the series, "Sooner Rather Than Later: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-down Journey", the Foundation documented its journey to inform the interests and practices of other philanthropies that are considering or conducting a spend down. Chapter 2 of the series describes the evolution of the Foundation's major program investments and initiatives during the central spend-down years.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story
Featured

Sooner Rather Than Later, Chapter 1: 2009-2013

November 1, 2019

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California's critical challenges "sooner rather than later." The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to establish 2020 as the Foundation's end date.In the series, "Sooner Rather Than Later: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-down Journey", the Foundation documented its journey to inform the interests and practices of other philanthropies that are considering or conducting a spend down. Chapter 1 of the series is a chronicle of the activation of spend-down practices, including the "strategic refresh" that would guide Foundation program investments through its conclusion.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story
Featured

Sooner Rather Than Later, Prologue: 1957-2008

November 1, 2019

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California's critical challenges "sooner rather than later." The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to establish 2020 as the Foundation's end date.In the series, "Sooner Rather Than Later: The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-down Journey", the Foundation documented its journey to inform the interests and practices of other philanthropies that are considering or conducting a spend down. This series prologue summarizes the evolution and work of the Foundation across five decades of grantmaking, culminating with the decision to spend down all assets.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story

Spending Down: Laurie Dachs Answers Questions for Family Philanthropies

December 17, 2020

In October 2020, Nick Tedesco, president and CEO of the National Center for Family Philanthropy (NCFP), talked with Lauren B. (Laurie) Dachs, president and vice chair of the board at the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, about spending down all assets. The Foundation was founded in 1957; in 2009 it became a limited-life philanthropy and completed its spend down at the end of 2020. Nick's questions and Laurie's responses are captured here for reference by other grantmakers that are implementing or considering spending down.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story; Spend-down and Exit Practice

Learning Alongside Grantees: Environment Program Examples and Reflections

December 17, 2020

This essay describes the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation's approach to evaluation in its Environment Program. This approach was grantee-centric, shaped by the varied needs of nonprofits in the environment field as well as the Foundation's decision to spend down all assets by 2020 – which limited the number of years available to conduct evaluations and put new lessons to use. The Environment Program funded grantees to evaluate work they deemed critical to their missions or to build organizational capacity to conduct ongoing learning and evaluation. Knowledge gained through grantee activities informed their internal improvement efforts as well as the Foundation's grantmaking decisions.Seven examples illustrate the range of nonprofit learning and evaluation efforts supported by the Foundation. These experiences surfaced challenges as well as recommendations, presented later in this essay, that might be instructive to other environment funders who value learning and evaluation as means to greater impact. 

Evaluation Practice; Land; Water

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Spend-Down Timeline

December 10, 2020

In 2009, following five decades of Foundation growth and impact, the Board of Directors for this family philanthropy chose to spend down all assets. In the words of its founder, this decision reflected a commitment to finding lasting solutions to California's critical challenges "sooner rather than later." The spend-down horizon was initially set for eight years and then adjusted to establish 2020 as the Foundation's end date. This timeline summarizes the Foundation's most significant programmatic activities in relation to relevant external events, as well as key information about the Foundation's grants, endowment, and staffing, from 2008 (the year prior to the spend-down decision) through 2020.

S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation Story

Water Solutions That Meet the Needs of People and Nature

December 9, 2020

California's water system supports nearly 40 million people, the world's fifth largest economy, diverse natural ecosystems, and one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world. Yet this critical system is under significant stress: Californians face increased water scarcity, declining water quality, greater flood risk, and the deteriorating health of ecosystems.Promising solutions exist, and there are many examples of innovation and collaboration to address the state's water challenges. However, the speed and scale of change are often limited by a lack of cohesion in practices, fragmented institutions, complex technical challenges, under-resourced nonprofits, and the lack of political will. In this context, between 2009 and 2020, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation awarded more than $130 million in program funds to support California's transition to a more sustainable water future.Grants were orchestrated within three interconnected strategies: building knowledge to improve decisions, pursuing integrated solutions to complex challenges, and engaging more funders. These strategies spurred progress on interrelated goals involving groundwater management, flood protection, stormwater and urban resilience, drinking water quality, and open data. Foundation grants also helped bring forward billions of dollars in new public funding as well as more than $400 million in new philanthropic capital.Milestones achieved are transforming how California manages water. This impact was the product of difficult, dedicated effort by many individuals, organizations, and coalitions committed to change. Their progress was aided by public attention and desire for solutions emanating from an historic, extreme drought. Their work was supported by flexible risk capital and capacity-building outlays for the water field provided by philanthropy.This brief further describes the primary strategies, outcomes, and takeaways from the Foundation's water program. While drawn from one grantmaker's experience in California, this content can have broad relevance to practitioners, policymakers, and funders everywhere who seek a secure water future for people and nature.

Water

Environment Program Snapshot: Water Portfolio

December 9, 2020

The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation's water program is rooted in the belief that California can manage its water to meet the needs of people and nature – but only if these needs are considered together and only if management strategies jointly address surface water, groundwater, water quality, and flood protection challenges.The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation envisions a California that manages, stewards, and conserves its water and land to support a resilient environment and healthy communities. This snapshot, prepared as the Foundation nears conclusion in 2020, documents essential aspects of the Environment Program's water portfolio.

Water

California Environmental Flows Framework

December 9, 2020

The California Environmental Flows Framework (CEFF) provides an approach for determining ecological flow criteria and guidance for developing environmental flow recommendations that can accommodate a variety of stream types and biological communities, while supporting regulatory and management agency programs aimed at protecting beneficial uses for aquatic life. CEFF applies a Functional Flows approach and provides ecological flow criteria based on the natural variability of ecologically-relevant functional flow metrics. It provides a process for considering physical and biological constraints within a stream system and provides guidance on developing environmental flow recommendations that balance ecological and water management objectives.

Water

Conversations with Distinguished Citizens: Lauren Dachs and The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

November 30, 2020

A special program in The Commonwealth Club's series recognizing recipients of the Club's 2020 Distinguished Citizens Award. This program honors Lauren (Laurie) Dachs and her colleagues at the S. D. Bechtel Jr., Foundation.

Spend-down and Exit Practice

What Education Leaders Can Learn About NGSS Implementation: Highlights From the Early Implementers Initiative

November 1, 2020

From 2014 through 2020, eight diverse school districts and two charter management organizations ran a substantial experiment with ways of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in elementary and middle grades, called the California K - 8 NGSS Early Implementers Initiative. The Initiative certainly illustrated that a big financial investment can produce powerful change. However, even districts facing resource challenges may benefit from the lessons that were learned and the strategies that were developed by the Initiative.An external evaluation team has previously released a series of reports on what can be learned from the efforts of the Initiative districts. All reports are intended to be helpful to administrators at the school and district levels, education policymakers, and people charged with designing and/or delivering science professional learning. After briefly describing how the NGSS call for big shifts in science teaching and learning, this highlights report shares high-level, major learnings from the evaluation, distilled into only a couple dozen pages of main narrative. The report describes NGSS instruction as a powerful lever for equitable learning, explains how the Initiative made this kind of instruction happen, and describes the importance of the Initiative's ambitious professional learning for administrators.

STEM - Science

About this collection:   Presidents reflections | Intellectual property