Acclaimed today as an international leader in philanthropy, Emmett Carson got his call to the field – literally and unexpectedly – from a Ford Foundation recruiter after completing groundbreaking research on individual giving by African Americans while working for the Congressional Research Service after earning his Ph.D. “'Look, you’ve done a lot of research on philanthropy,” Carson remembers the caller saying, “how’d you like to come work for a philanthropic institution?’”
It was a good question, and Carson eventually headed Ford’s worldwide grantmaking program on philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. Another call, this time from the retiring head of The Minneapolis Foundation, led him to become its CEO; Carson saw its assets more than triple during his 12-year tenure.
Since 2007, as founding CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), Carson has responded to yet one more philanthropic call: this one from people in need, worldwide. He oversees the annual distribution of some $200 million in nearly 11,000 grants to 24 countries, making SVCF both the largest supporter of Bay Area causes and one of the top 20 largest international funders. This impressive claim is the result of Carson’s work to support both the local and global interests of today’s younger philanthropists who, he has found, “don’t see themselves as limited to a single place.”
For Carson, keeping pace with the evolving concept of community and the emerging generation of donors is not a problem. He embraces it, doing what he can to try to “make the community a better place,” at home and abroad.