Advancing Philanthropy

PVF is a demonstration foundation

We strive to be a model for the philanthropic community, demonstrating new concepts in giving and disseminating this information to colleagues across the country and abroad.

Grantmaking Consulting

In the last twenty years, PVF has consulted with over 400 community and family foundations in the United States, Canada and Europe. The focus is on creative grantmaking, streamlined operations and community impact.

Our consulting services include meeting with foundation boards and staff and reviewing and analyzing foundation operations, grant making procedures, and public relations. We also conduct performance reviews and board retreats.

Performance Reviews

Intensive four-day onsite review of all foundation operations, focusing on grantmaking, board concerns, administration, staffing, development and fiscal health. Visit is followed by an extensive written report on findings and recommendations.

Board Retreats

Facilitating board retreats, for one-half day to full day. Work through issues facing foundations, including growth, community outreach, and grantmaking.  Results of retreats include critique of foundation’s work, new insights for change and recommendations for the future.

Chinese Visitors
PVF Founder and President, Bill Somerville, has decades of expertise from hands-on visits to nonprofits in the community.

“Bill Somerville is an energetic and tireless ‘servant’ of our field. Many, many years ago, Bill came to Indiana for a session with staff and board of about four community foundations. Many of Bill’s suggestions were taken at that time and have become truly our culture of access and no red tape!” 


– Sandy Daniels, President and CEO, Johnson County Community Foundation, Franklin, Indiana

You have caused us to rethink some very fundamental issues. Your ideas on grants are excellent and I think we will change the direction of our foundation. We have been missing the excitement that should be a fundamental part of giving.


– J. Kane Ditto, Board Member, Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, Jackson, Mississippi

Through his work with PVF, Higa is on a mission to discover what’s next in philanthropy, to take the old models of charity and shake them up.

– from the article “Bold New Vision” in the August/September 2014 edition of Gentry Magazine 

Innovative Pilots

You may have heard or read about Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs), but are not quite sure what all the ballyhoo is about. With emerging technologies, it is often the case that underrepresented populations have historically been left behind and the last to benefit from important technology trends. We aimed to close this opportunity gap by bringing knowledge first instead of last into East Palo Alto.

PVF Executive Director, James Higa, at the Generative Art Workshop in East Palo Alto

Philanthropy Fellowships

PVF administers many types of fellowships and scholarship programs, all designed by donors who have an idea that we help formulate into a giving program.

For example, when Susan Ford Dorsey wanted to create a program to honor her late husband, Tom Ford, PVF designed two programs: the Tom Ford Fellowship Program — one-year internships for Stanford graduates in U.S. philanthropic foundations related to the fellows’ interests and experiences; and the Sand Hill Fellowship Program — intensive full-time summer internships for Stanford undergraduates at local foundations. These programs are in their tenth year of continued funding by the Sand Hill Foundation, and are managed by PVF in collaboration with Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service.

Fellowship Meeting
Before Kiah Williams founded the nonprofit SIRUM, she was a Tom Ford Fellow at the Clinton Foundation.

I am proud of the Tom Ford Fellows and the Sand Hill Fellows Programs at Haas Center for Public Service. I credit PVF with the wonderful idea and for your hard work to get them set up. Thank you for helping to continue Tom’s legacy.


– Susan Ford Dorsey

The Tom Ford Fellowship is a wholly unique and invaluable experience of immersion into the philanthropic sector.  Due to the traditions persisting in an old field, it often takes structured opportunities such as fellowships to allow young people a meaningful point of entry into philanthropy.  It is difficult to imagine where else I would have been able to interact with such a wealth of diverse individuals, from professionals, academics, policy makers, pastors and teachers to low-income workers, social entrepreneurs and youth organizers. Foundations are fertile ground for breeding exciting partnerships, and progressive frameworks to resolve age-old dilemmas.


– Patricia Soung, 2001 Tom Ford Fellow

Top and bottom banner photo credit: Craig Sherod

“We were delighted to discover that of the 30 on Forbes’ 2015 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list, PVF has known, funded, and mentored three of the awardees. One awardee is Kiah Williams, whom we first met when she was a Tom Ford Fellow in Philanthropy at the Haas Center for Public Service.  This fellowship program, founded by PVF, took Kiah on the road to work at the Clinton Foundation and then to start SIRUM, which PVF funded with an early seed grant.  SIRUM takes the billions of dollars of unused medicines that go to waste every year and applies technology to distribute this surplus to those in need.”


– PVF’s Executive Director, James Higa, in our January 2015 Progress newsletter, “Finding ‘Em and Funding ‘Em”