Foundation Staff

Bill Somerville


Bill brings over 50 years of experience in nonprofit work, including 17 years as Executive Director of the Peninsula Community Foundation. Bill is nationally recognized as an expert on creative grantmaking. He has consulted at over 400 community foundations in the United States, Canada and abroad on effective operations and grantmaking. Bill has taught courses on philanthropy at Stanford University, UC Berkeley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and Laney Community College, in Oakland, CA.

Grassroots Philanthropy: Field Notes of a Maverick Grantmaker, by Bill Somerville with Fred Setterberg, published in February 2008 by Heyday Press, is a guide to decisive, hands-on grantmaking, to energize and motivate individual donors, foundation grantmakers, and nonprofit leaders alike.

Bill is a recipient of the 2004 Gerbode Fellowship Award in recognition of outstanding achievement as a non-profit executive. He is a founding member of the National Advisory Board Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University. He is an advisor to the Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare.

James Higa

Executive Director

James brings 28 years of executive experience from Silicon Valley to PVF. He reported directly to Steve Jobs for much of his career and worked alongside him to change the face of technology as we know it. He was at the birth of the personal computer revolution as a member of the original Macintosh team and deeply involved in the creation of many of the breakthrough products and ser­vices at Apple over the last three decades.

James had a direct hand in transforming entire consumer industries through his work on the negotiating team of the landmark iTunes agreements with the record labels that changed music forever. His spark of innovation helping to launch iTunes University was a formative event in the emerging online education revolution.

James has a long history of public service as a member of the National Advisory Board, Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University, and in the grassroots relief efforts during the 2011 Tohoku and 1995 Kobe Earthquakes in Japan. He is also a member of the Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources Advisory Council. He has served on the Stanford Alumni Association Board of Directors, Stanford Admissions Office National Advisory Board, and as an arbitrator for the International Chamber of Commerce.

Dawn Hawk

Chief Operating Officer

Dawn serves as Chief Operating Officer providing leadership around all aspects of PVF’s operations, from program design and administration to fund development, communications, grants management and evaluation, and fiscal, personnel and operational oversight. She works closely with PVF donors, nonprofit leaders and government partners, and supports programs incubated at PVF as Designated Funds.

Dawn received an MFA in Film Production from San Francisco State University and has a diverse background in small business management, teaching, and film production. Dawn’s wide-ranging volunteer efforts in the community include spearheading park renovations, grassroots organizing and service on the boards of Friends of Bella Vista Park, Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants, Preservation Park Center, and the Codornices Foundation, and as an advisory board member of Oakland Trybe and The Crucible.

Sheryl Young

San Mateo County Program Director

Prior to joining PVF, Sheryl Young was the Chief Executive Officer of Community Gatepath and She has over 25 years of managerial experience in operations, finance, and marketing. Young is a graduate of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Executive Program for Non-Profit Leaders, and also earned an M.A. of Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.A. in Special Education from Ball State University and a B.A. in Political Science from Purdue University.

Savannah Lira

Program Officer

Savannah is responsible for program management and development, and all social media and communication materials.  Prior to joining PVF, she served as an AmeriCorps Member working in economic development for the Center for Employment Opportunities and as a Legislative Intern for Former U.S. Congressman Sam Farr in Washington, D.C. Savannah received her B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Aly Quiroz-Perez

Program Associate

Aly processes the daily grants and gifts that PVF receives. She has B.A. degrees in Chicano/a Studies and Spanish from the University of California, Davis. After graduating college, Aly began exploring the nonprofit world by completing several internships with organizations around the Bay Area, such as the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and GRID Alternatives. In her free time, she likes to read, listen to music, and volunteer.


Kari Jo Bliss


Kari Jo is a Nonprofit Accounting Professional and has worked and volunteered in the nonprofit sector for more than 20 years. Kari Jo is also an Animal Behaviorist and licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator. Outside of work she enjoys spending her time rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife, waterfowl, farm birds, and working dogs.

Cayman Bentley

Administrative Assistant

Cayman provides administrative support to the COO and assists with grant administration, program correspondence, and social media. Cayman is currently studying Mass Communications/Public Relations at California State University, East Bay.

Bottom banner photo credit: Martin Klimek

“Bill Somerville’s record of accomplishment in the philanthropic field has few equals.”


– Albert Horn, Attorney, Anderson Yazdi Hwang Minton + Horn LLP