For our Philanthropist Around Town series, Starfish Impact recently spoke with Cara Esposito, Executive Director of the Leonetti O’Connell Family Foundation about what they’re doing in our communities. The Foundation serves Southern California by funding innovative projects and initiatives that serve to benefit Los Angeles County and improve the wellbeing of its communities. Cara has championed the Foundation’s efforts to foster partnerships that draw on the specific expertise, resources, and capabilities of various nonprofit, philanthropic, public, and private organizations and she shares a bit about these efforts below:
Describe your philanthropic work in a few words:
Collaborative, leveraged, strategic, and innovative
If you could positively change one negative issue facing the Los Angeles community, what would it be and how would you start to approach solving the problem?
Cara’s passion is in cross sectoral partnerships and collaboration and she truly believes that real social change will happen in this intersection. From philanthropy to government to the for profit sector, she believes that “things are slowly changing, but not quickly enough”.
What is your greatest achievement to date as a philanthropist?
Not surprisingly, a cross sectoral collaboration is what Cara describes as her greatest accomplishment thus far. The Mathematics Leadership Corp envisions a future where all students have the mathematical reasoning and procedural skills to design creative solutions to complex problems. It is a unique partnership between Loyola Marymount University and The Cotsen Foundation to implement two research-support
ed math teacher leadership professional development programs. What makes this project particularly meaningful is that it leverages capacity building to create larger systemic change, engaging students and bettering their math skills along the way. True to Cara’s passion in philanthropy, the project generates changes that are “systemic, sustainable, and replicable”.
What do you still hope to accomplish as a philanthropist in your community?
Cara’s leadership has helped the Foundation think big. They’re looking to “continue to create innovative programs with the overarching goal of implementing positive systems change”. This is a critical component so that the change is sustainable and the programs can be both “self-perpetuating and successful”.
What organizations and individuals do you believe are making the greatest social impact and why?
On picking projects or programs out of the crowd, Cara deferred, adding “I don’t think there is one, or even a few. There are many, many organizations and individuals making profound social impact.” But she adds, “it is when we aggregate the work of many that enormous social impact can occur”. By looking at just one, we blind ourselves to the greater impact and power of collaborations and partnerships across the sector.
What is the best way for non-profits to approach you with projects?
The Leonetti O’Connell Family Foundation is a proactive grantmaker, so they don’t accept unsolicited grant applications.
For more information about the Leonetti O’Connell Family Foundation, click here.
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