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Great golf, gorgeous scenery and celebrity antics are just part of what the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is really about. The annual event, coming up Feb. 3-9, plays a huge role in supporting more than 200 charities and nonprofits across the Monterey Peninsula each year. The event is one of two major benefit tournaments each year hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Foundation, which in the last fiscal year donated more than $15.6 million to community nonprofits.

That $15.6 million has an impact in countless ways across the tri-county region: Grants that help support a marine biology program for students at Chalone Peaks Middle School in King CityCommunity Solutions for Children Families and Individuals program for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking in San Benito County, help the Monterey Museum of Art buy vans, and that support the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation’s efforts to create the next generation of ocean leaders. From summer camps for children affected by cancer, to rebuilding local markets for local and sustainable seafood, the Monterey Peninsula Foundation’s philanthropy is felt widely.

Among the organizations awarded grants last year was MBEP, supporting its multi-year special initiative to facilitate and coordinate affordable housing in the region.

With the goal of helping create safe, healthy, and thriving communities, the Monterey Peninsula Foundation awards grants to nonprofits focusing on five areas: arts and culture, community and environment, education, health and human services, and youth. Invest as much time and energy looking at nonprofits as the Monterey Peninsula Foundation does, and you have a unique insight into the complex needs of Monterey Bay region communities. 

While those needs continue to evolve, the mission of the Monterey Peninsula Foundation hasn’t changed, says Monterey Peninsula Foundation CEO Steve John, who says the foundation reviews anywhere from 70 to 90 proposals each quarter. “We have the ability to widen our aperture wherever the need may be,” says John. “Our board gives us great flexibility. That’s our greatest strength, our ability to assess and adapt.”

The scope of the need is amplified by the number of nonprofits addressing similar issues in different parts of the region, says Mary Shipsey Gunn, Director of Philanthropy for the Monterey Peninsula Foundation. “What’s unique about us is we really try to listen,” says Gunn. “We are going out with our grant committee and with our staff and trying to understand those needs.”

One of those emerging needs in recent years has been what Gunn describes as a “staggering amount of youth homelessness,” giving rise to a swell of youth programs struggling to meet those needs. At the root of the problem is housing affordability.

“Our support of MBEP has gone to support their housing initiative,” says Gunn. “The need for housing in each of our communities is huge.”

Those grants often provide operating support for nonprofits across Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, says Gunn. “I think of our funding as kind of a ‘meat and potatoes’ funds, addressing basic needs that agencies have. It really helps them to provide their services.”

Another trend Gunn notes is increased collaborations among and between hospital partnerships. “In previous years, they’d compete more; now they are working alongside each other more.”

The organization is helping dispel the myth that philanthropy is the work of the wealthy.

“One of the best ways we’ve done that is Monterey County Gives!,” says Gunn. “A few years back, we approached the Monterey County Weekly and Community Foundation for Monterey County, and joined with them to provide additional matching money to groups that participate. ” The campaign runs in a short window, from early November through New Year’s Eve, accepting donations as small as $5. The 2019 campaign raised more than $5.3 million, with nearly 5,000 donors supporting 163 nonprofits.

Particularly heartening, says John, is that the campaign promotes young and new donors, “very creative in a way to pull people to give,”  he says. “It’s a community effort to show that every dollar counts across all landscapes.”

The Monterey Peninsula Foundation is proud of its role in helping to develop philanthropy in the region, says Gunn. “Last year, we did $15.6 million in giving, which was really remarkable,” says Gunn. “We’re not a funder that has a small, circumscribed target: we’re really aimed at making the experience of the community as rich as it can be for all of its residents.”

So when the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am starts up next month, think about all the good the golf tournament brings with it. “We try not to talk about golf without talking about giving, and we try not to talk about giving without talking about golf,” says Gunn. “The whole capacity to give at all comes directly from those sponsors and volunteers. Without that whole formula, we wouldn’t be in the position to do what we do.”