Del Mar resident coordinates philanthropic efforts in San Diego


By Kristina Houck

As the executive director of San Diego Grantmakers, Del Mar resident Nancy Jamison spends most days with people who give to others.

“The people I get to hang out with are people who are doing great things,” Jamison said. “These are fun and smart people. They care. They are passionate about their work in the community.”

Founded in 1976 and established as a nonprofit in 1999, San Diego Grantmakers is a membership association for philanthropic organizations like foundations and corporate giving programs. Through conferences, workshops, quarterly newsletters and other communications, the organization aims to connect and educate philanthropists.

With the rebounding economy, Jamison said more businesses in San Diego are recommitting to philanthropy, but they want to see a return on their investments.

“Funders that are giving money want to get smarter about it,” she said. “We help them by helping them talk to each other, doing research for them and helping them make the most of their dollar so they can combine forces.

“With the government’s shrinking resources, philanthropic resources are challenged to meet the needs that we have in our community. Our function is to help people be as effective as possible and have the most impact as possible, so you don’t have any wasted dollars.”

When Jamison became executive director in 2005, the nonprofit organization had just one part-time employee and 65 members. Now, San Diego Grantmakers has five staff members, several consultants and nearly 100 members, including Bank of America, Cox Communications, Ford Motor Company Fund, Mission Federal Credit Union and Qualcomm Incorporated. The nonprofit has also launched a number of funder collaborations, which are public/private partnerships of philanthropic employers and foundations that join forces to address social issues like education and homelessness.

Still, Jamison hopes to grow the organization even more.

“If our network is bigger and there’s more members, more companies and more family foundations talking to each other, than their networks are stronger,” said Jamison, who serves as a board member of the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers. “If we can create bridges between philanthropy and government, philanthropy and business, philanthropy and academia, and of course nonprofits, then there will be less working in silos and more connection. I think our social problems will be better addressed, and I think more innovative and efficient ideas will come up.”

Before joining San Diego Grantmakers, Jamison worked as a senior consultant for TrustWorks Group, a San Diego organizational development firm. Co-author of the TrustWorks series of training products on how to build trust in the workplace, Jamison provided strategic planning and leadership training to a variety of for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations. The 58-year-old mother of two said she transitioned to San Diego Grantmakers because she wanted to make an even greater impact on one organization.

“It’s an honor and a terrific opportunity to get to work with these philanthropists,” said Jamison, who lived in Carmel Valley before moving to Del Mar in 2011. “I’m proud that our organization can be involved and has hopefully contributed to smarter philanthropy in San Diego. I do believe that what we do helps people, which helps the community.”

For more information about San Diego Grantmakers, visit