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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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.


So You Want to Hire an Equity Consultant: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations

December 7, 2020

This content was originally published as a Woke@Work blog series designed to help nonprofit and philanthropic organizations engage consultants to build a Race Equity Culture. Building a Race Equity Culture is a years-long process of intentional, focused work that is deeply challenging and nuanced, both in theory ("making the case" for it) and execution (the "how" of doing it) for organizations. It is work on which organizations will need to maintain the sustained, intentional focus traditionally dedicated to strategy and mission. The support of expert facilitators and consultants is a critical element of doing the work in a manner that yields meaningful, measurable and sustainable transformational change.

Working with Consultants

Center for Evaluation Innovation Publication Collection

April 30, 2020

Center for Evaluation Innovation is a nonprofit that works with foundation leaders and other evaluators to advance evaluation and learning practice in philanthropy. This collection includes teaching cases, presentations, insights, event summaries, and other publications on a variety of topics related to philanthropy evaluation.

Evaluation Practice

Betting on the Workforce: An Interview With the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation

March 11, 2020

In this article, Deborah Moroney and Jill Young from the American Institutes for Research interview Rebecca Goldberg and Alex Hooker, senior program officers from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. Rebecca and Alex describe their experience as members of the youth development workforce and how that experience inspired them to support the youth development workforce on the grantmaking side, focusing on adult practice and youth character development. As the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation sunsets in 2020, Rebecca and Alex also share their hopes for the youth development workforce going forward.


Creating a Rising Tide: Improving Social and Emotional Learning Across California

March 11, 2020

Given the recent emphasis on social and emotional development, many professionals who manage, develop, or influence expanded learning systems are beginning to ask, "How do we better prepare staff to promote social and emotional development?" California has adopted a statewide professional development strategy for publicly-funded expanded learning programs that is designed to raise awareness of the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL) among practitioners and build tools for the field to support implementation. The strategy -- led by a partnership among a state agency, expanded learning intermediaries, and funders -- combines leadership development, field-building initiatives, and program-level supports. It also complements the current expanded learning system. In this article, we describe the statewide strategy and discuss how it addresses workforce challenges, the core levers that California used to develop the strategy, and why and how the state-level leadership prioritized social and emotional learning. We conclude the article with lessons learned about collaboration, implementation, and assessing impact.


Strategy and Evaluation: The Twin Engines of Effective Philanthropy

February 1, 2020

This essay provides a fast-paced tour of grantmaker approaches, launching with the advent of long-range planning in the 1980s and visiting scenario planning, social return on investment, human-centered design, big data, and other developments that have influenced practice. The author lands on strategy and evaluation as the anchor approaches that will fuel greater philanthropic impact in the new decade.This writing draws on content the author originally published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog in March 2014. It makes the case that philanthropy needs to reclaim the meaning of strategy and conveys insights via "five things strategy isn't" -- e.g., strategy cannot be inflexible, insulated, or disconnected from those responsible for implementation. The author concludes with a refreshed set of predictions for the next chapter in the unfolding story of strategy and evaluation.

Evaluation Practice

Stanford Water in the West Publication Collection

October 1, 2019

Stanford University established Water in the West in 2010 to address the West's growing water crisis and to create new solutions that move the region toward a more sustainable water future.A joint program of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Bill Lane Center for the American West, Water in the West marshals the resources of one of the world's preeminent research institutions to address one of the most urgent questions about the West's future - how can the region continue to thrive despite growing water scarcity?Water in the West bridges the gap between academic research and applied solutions by creating new practical tools and forming strong partnerships to inform policymakers, water managers, businesses and environmental groups. Stanford University brings a range of unique assets to solving the West's water scarcity challenge, including world-class faculty, researchers and students across an extraordinary breadth of disciplines; and credibility capable of influencing a broad range of leaders.Water in the West harnesses these resources toward solving the West's growing water scarcity problem.


Migration Moneyball

November 12, 2018

Migratory birds are nature's marathon runners. They trek between their summer and winter homes each year, some flying to the end of the earth and back again. Certain species can travel for days without eating or sleeping - but eventually they all need a place to rest and refuel.For the birds that migrate along the Pacific Flyway, which stretches thousands of miles from the Arctic to Patagonia, California's Central Valley was once the ideal pit stop. Its lush wetland terrain supported tens of millions of birds on their annual pilgrimage. But today, more than 95 percent of those wetlands have disappeared, lost to farmland, urban sprawl, an overburdened water system and extreme drought.Climate change is putting pressure on migratory species, shifting and compacting their ranges. A 2014 study found 90 percent of North American shorebirds surveyed, most of which migrate along the Pacific coast, were expected to face an increased risk of extinction due to climate-driven threats."Birds are under a lot of stress," says Mark Reynolds, lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy's migratory bird program. "They're flying around looking for habitat and mostly not finding it."To protect birds that are always on the move, The Nature Conservancy looked to pioneers of the sharing economy, such as Uber, Airbnb and Zipcar. If short-term deals can work for cars and condos, why couldn't it work for conservation?With this model in mind, the Conservancy rolled out an innovative program called BirdReturns in 2013. Combining images from NASA satellites, data from citizen scientists and land rented from local rice farmers, the program provides pop-up habitats when and where birds need it most.

Land; Water

Impact of extreme drought and incentive programs on flooded agriculture and wetlands in California’s Central Valley

June 29, 2018

BackgroundBetween 2013 and 2015, a large part of the western United States, including the Central Valley of California, sustained an extreme drought. The Central Valley is recognized as a region of hemispheric importance for waterbirds, which use flooded agriculture and wetlands as habitat. Thus, the impact of drought on the distribution of surface water needed to be assessed to understand the effects on waterbird habitat availability.MethodsWe used remote sensing data to quantify the impact of the recent extreme drought on the timing and extent of waterbird habitat during the non-breeding season (July-May) by examining open water in agriculture (rice, corn, and other crops) and managed wetlands across the Central Valley. We assessed the influence of habitat incentive programs, particularly The Nature Conservancy's BirdReturns and The Natural Resources Conservation Service's Waterbird Habitat Enhancement Program (WHEP), at offsetting habitat loss related to drought.ResultsOverall, we found statistically significant declines in open water in post-harvest agriculture (45-80% declines) and in managed wetlands (39-60% declines) during the 2013-2015 drought compared to non-drought years during the period of 2000-2011. Crops associated with the San Joaquin Basin, specifically corn, as well as wetlands in that part of the Central Valley exhibited larger reductions in open water than rice and wetlands in the Sacramento Valley. Semi-permanent wetlands on protected lands had significantly lower (39-49%) open water in the drought years than those on non-protected lands while seasonal wetlands on protected lands had higher amounts of open water. A large fraction of the daily open water in rice during certain times of the year, particularly in the fall for BirdReturns (61%) and the winter for WHEP (100%), may have been provided through incentive programs which underscores the contribution of these programs. However, further assessment is needed to know how much the incentive programs directly offset the impact of drought in post-harvest rice by influencing water management or simply supplemented funding for activities that might have been done regardless.DiscussionOur landscape analysis documents the significant impacts of the recent extreme drought on freshwater wetland habitats in the Central Valley, the benefits of incentive programs, and the value of using satellite data to track surface water and waterbird habitats. More research is needed to understand subsequent impacts on the freshwater dependent species that rely on these systems and how incentive programs can most strategically support vulnerable species during future extreme drought.

Land; Water

Evaluation at Sunset: Considerations When Evaluating a Program as It Concludes

April 1, 2017

While the benefits of beginning evaluation efforts at program inception are well known, many organizations simply cannot do so. There are a variety of practical reasons for this: funding concerns, lack of capacity, the need to focus energies on program development and implementation, and changing program goals and activities. As a result, many such efforts begin closer to a program's conclusion -- they are often termed "sunset evaluations."The "sunset" descriptor has been used since the 1970s in such phrases as "sunset review" and "sunset evaluation" -- public-policy terms referring to an almost always mandated periodic review of a statute, agency, or program to determine whether it should be terminated, continued, or modified. Here, we reframe the phrase "sunset evaluation" to describe a rigorous and useful evaluation that is conducted at or nearing a program's conclusion. Characteristics of these sunset evaluations are that they are voluntary and are intended to provide a road map for other foundations by describing program effects, accomplishments, and lessons learned.We previously reported findings from an evaluation conducted at the end of a community-wide effort to improve school food sponsored by the Orfalea Foundation. This sunset evaluation of the foundation's School Food Initiative (SFI) showed positive outcomes from the initiative's activities and provided recommendations for organizations interested in engaging in similar efforts (Carmichael Djang, Masters, Vanslyke, & Beadnell, 2016). Because the evaluation was begun as the foundation was spending down and exiting initiatives, it required creative.This article uses the evaluation of the Orfalea Foundation's initiative to provide a case example of a rigorous and useful sunset evaluation, and discusses other possible extensions of these kinds of methods. design approaches. This article's goal is to use the foundation's SFI evaluation as a case example showing methods for engaging in this kind of sunset evaluation. This example illustrates approaches we implemented as well as other extensions of the methods used.

Spend-down and Exit Practice

From Large-Scale Initiatives: Lessons and Insights from a National Scan of Philanthropy

April 1, 2017

Exiting from an initiative is an inevitable part of philanthropy. Yet the process is too often treated as an afterthought, and funders rarely devote enough time to planning for and working through the tensions and issues that arise. Pointing to a lack of consistency around exit planning, Jaffe and Mackinnon (2007) write, "Exiting tends to be regarded as something discrete and separate, a phase in the life of a grant or program that is fundamentally different from what comes before" (p. 2).Among the studies on foundation exits, research tends to focus on how funders can exit from specific grants or programs (Association of Charitable Foundations, 2012; Kerhoven & Herweijer, 2013). A few focus on strategies for exiting from a field or on spend-down foundations specifically (Fleishman, 2011; Jaffe & Mackinnon, 2007; Petrovich, 2011; Gardner, Greenblott, & Joubert, 2005; Markham & Ditkoff, 2013; Ostrower, 2009, 2011). To date, however, no studies have examined how funders have managed to effectively exit from major, time-limited, place-based initiatives that aimed to simultaneously change policies and systems at multiple levels.

Spend-down and Exit Practice

Changing in Place: The Skillman Foundation, Detroit, and the Good Neighborhoods Initiative -- How did a hometown grantmaker conduct and conclude its largest-ever initiative?

April 1, 2017

In 2006, the Skillman Foundation committed $100 million to a decade-long investment in six neighborhoods. Through this Good Neighborhoods Initiative, the foundation directed a majority of its grantmaking toward an intensive focus on changing the conditions where, at the time, one-third of Detroit's children lived. The goal was to ensure that children in those places were safe, healthy, well educated, and prepared for adulthood.The initiative concluded in 2016, ultimately spanning 11 years and involving $122 million in grants, which represented 67 percent of the Foundation's total grant spending in this time frame. Along the way, the foundation reset its strategy and sharpened its goal in response to seismic shifts in the local context and informed by indicators of progress.To capture information on the unique challenges facing an embedded funder as it changes program direction, Bob Tobin, senior consultant at Williams Group, interviewed Marie Colombo, Skillman Foundation director of strategic evaluation and learning. The interview took place on Dec. 8, 2016.

Spend-down and Exit Practice

About this collection:   Presidents reflections | Intellectual property