Alumni Spotlight: Brianna Rogers, The San Francisco Foundation

Posted in News Story Spotlight

Brianna Rogers is currently an Initiative Officer at The San Francisco Foundation, which works to ensure that everyone in the Bay Area has a chance to get a good job, live in a safe and affordable home, and have a strong political voice. The Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership spoke with Brianna about her experience as a leader in the philanthropy field and her experience in the Center’s Executive Certificate in Philanthropic Leadership Program.

What inspired you to pursue a career in philanthropy, particularly in your current role as an Initiative Officer at the San Francisco Foundation?

I was part of the inaugural class of the National Urban Fellows program at Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy and I was placed with the Andrus Family Fund in New York which supports the self-determination, power and liberation of Black, Brown, AAPI and Indigenous youth impacted by the youth justice, child welfare and other disruptive systems. As a former foster youth myself, I recognized the need for diverse voices in the sector. With my lived experiences as a formerly incarcerated Black woman navigating the United States and my degrees in this field from Berkeley and Georgetown, I was drawn to philanthropy’s potential to empower communities, especially through funding. The San Francisco Foundation stood out to me for its commitment to community-centered funding strategies and its diverse team, which prioritizes action. After my graduate school program I made a promise to myself that I would never exchange time for money again. It was important to me that I used the power in my voice to bring people to action! I’m doing just that! Philanthropy needs bold fearless leaders who are willing to challenge its current status quo and willing to share power with communities in a real way that leads to co-creating new funding practices and ways of being in philanthropy.

What are some of the current challenges or emerging trends you’ve observed in the field, and how is your organization adapting to address these evolving needs?

The philanthropic funding system often operates in silos, with decisions made independently and funders acting as the gatekeepers. This fragmentation can perpetuate myths and misinformation and hinder collaboration. At the San Francisco Foundation, we’re tackling this by emphasizing collaboration and participatory grantmaking through initiatives like my project, ReWork the Bay. We strive to create inclusive solutions that prioritize community voices and foster restorative opportunities and programs. Despite the challenges, I’m proud of our team’s intentionality and commitment to centering the communities we serve.

As an alum of the Executive Certificate in Philanthropic Leadership, what motivated you to enroll, and what were some key insights or skills you gained that have influenced your approach to philanthropy and community engagement? Additionally, what advice would you give to professionals who are considering participating in the Certificate Program?

Enrolling in the Executive Certificate program allowed me to step into a powerful space to reimagine philanthropy. I’m still growing in philanthropy and I want to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from others in the field. Guided by the encouragement of my colleague, Brandy Howard, I saw this as an opportunity to contribute to the program’s development and connect with professionals nationwide. I knew I could pour into this prgram but didn’t expect that I would be poured into from this certificate, I left with so much more than I thought I would. My lived experience equipped me with the courage to lead fearlessly and this program reaffirmed the importance of collaboration and community engagement in philanthropy. The cohort was my greatest takeaway because I got to see how others are approaching their work, I got to see myself in their work, I was reminded I was not alone in this field, and I was reminded why I do this work. My advice to professionals considering the program is to seize the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves and contribute to the transformation of the philanthropic sector. 

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for the future of philanthropy, particularly within the context of your work at the San Francisco Foundation? How do you plan to leverage your experience and expertise to drive positive impact and change within the sector and the communities you serve?

Moving forward, I intend to continue driving positive change in philanthropy, pouring into others, and being bold. I am working towards organizing Black funders and fostering alignment within the sector. By working together and funding initiatives that prioritize outcomes for Black communities, we can amplify our impact and create meaningful change. My experience and expertise, coupled with the collaborative efforts of our team at the San Francisco Foundation, has really invigorated me to strategize about tangible ways to advance equity and empowerment within the communities we serve.