Hidden Leaf Announces the Transition of Executive Director, Supriya Lopez Pillai

Six years ago, Hidden Leaf Foundation began a new chapter as we welcomed Supriya Lopez Pillai as Executive Director, taking the baton from Tara Brown who had led the foundation for seventeen years.  Supriya brought with her deep experience and relationships in the field built over decades of work in both movements and philanthropy for social justice.  She also brought her own years of transformative practice, embodying in her life and work the integration we support and believe in.


According to Karie Brown, board chair, “Supriya helped Hidden Leaf evolve from a ‘hidden’ leaf to a bold and visible experiment in liberatory philanthropy. She guided Hidden Leaf toward stronger trust-based grantmaking; helped us invest more of our endowment in regenerative economies, center spirit more fully, and partner more actively with other funders to support transformative approaches within justice movements.” Before Supriya joined the foundation, Hidden Leaf gave $1 million in grants.  During Supriya’s tenure, the foundation saw an increase in its endowment due to careful stewardship of our assets as well as significant asset transfer from the David A. Brown Trust into Hidden Leaf.  Further, the board and staff, informed deeply by the field, embraced a trust-based approach to our giving as well as one that looked at all of the financial tools in our toolbox as a philanthropic institution.  This resulted in an increased payout of 8% for five years alongside a five-year grantmaking program that, when completed, will result in $15 million in low-barrier, long-term support to the field.  This commitment includes a game-changing integrated capital approach, which provides grants alongside non-extractive, community-led investments. We hope that our integrated approach will be catalytic in creating and sustaining change for those leading the way toward a healthier, inclusive, and equitable future.


During Supriya’s tenure, we have expanded our commitment to racial justice and a just transition, believing that spirit is at the center of creating a world in which people and planet can flourish. As our work evolved, we needed to be in our own practice as an organization; turning the gaze back on ourselves, we asked how we could best align and leap toward the changes needed now?  Part of our practice included democratizing our board and decision-making.  The family asked Supriya to join us as our first independent, community board member.  We then expanded on this commitment by inviting Alta Starr, a somatics practitioner, movement veteran, former funder and Director of Training with BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity) to join us.  We intend to continue living into these principles of democracy grounded in spirit, care for people and planet, as we thoughtfully bring on broader Brown family membership, especially the next generation.


Supriya shares, “From the beginning, I have shared profoundly in the work of the Hidden Leaf Foundation, including the deep respect for the communities we have the privilege to serve and who fight on the frontlines of social and environmental change every day. I thank the Brown sisters, Tara, Karie and Kristen, for entrusting me to shepherd the beautiful vision they co-created with their father, Dave Brown. I am grateful to the team of Hidden Leaf–the phenomenal staff and our incredible advisors–along with the board, who work so solidly together, delivering on a big, bold vision.”  Our work will continue to deepen and evolve because of the ways in which Supriya touched it.


Supriya leaves us to join the Libra Foundation and Tao Rising LLC. We see this, too, as an evolution of the bigger work we are all a part of.  “Supriya brings love, delight and joy to all that she does. We will miss her dearly. We are truly excited that Supriya will be leading Libra Foundation. Colleagues from Libra have been important funding partners for Hidden Leaf, especially as we have more deeply aligned our investments with our values and as we participate in organizing philanthropic partners. We look forward to continuing this work with Supriya in her new role,” says former Executive Director and current Hidden Leaf board member, Tara Brown.


Because we are in the midst of a five-year grantmaking program and have done deep work to set the course for our longer-term strategy, the foundation is in a place of great stability.  We will turn to onboarding an interim leader before we embark on a search for a new Executive Director.  We thank our grantee partners, philanthropic allies and the wider ecosystem we feel so indelibly a part of for your partnership, resilience and grace.  We look forward to continuing to growing stronger with and for you.

The Ohlone Have Never Forgotten, and We Are Remembering

I have always had a real love for the Brown family and for our many generations in California; it is only recently that I woke up to the fact that I know very little about our family history and our relationship to this land.


My father grew up on the Sacramento River Delta in a place called Walnut Grove. He went to UC Berkeley on an ROTC scholarship and soon after stumbled into commercial real estate in the San Francisco East Bay. I thought our family’s wealth and relationship to land started there, but as I learned more about my family’s migration to this land alongside the history of the dispossession of Indigenous people from their land, it became clear that although ours might be “new wealth,” it’s built on years of generational white privilege and the deep disruption of other cultures.


In the mid-1800s, my family came to California in horse drawn carriages, joining other white settlers on their sometimes violent journeys west. Others came on steamships that sailed down past the tip of South America. Most of my ancestors first arrived in the East Bay and eventually made their way up the Sacramento Delta.

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Update from the Executive Director

Happy New Year Hidden Leaf Community, 


As we enter 2024, Hidden Leaf is beginning the new year with clarity, intention, and continued commitment to supporting our grant partners and amplifying their work.


Announcing our new website: With that in mind, we are thrilled and excited to launch our new website! Hidden Leaf is grateful to our partners at Change Consulting and YolkWorks for bringing this beautiful website to fruition. We hope the site will make clear what we care about and shine a light on the amazing organizations we are privileged to support. The website will also have resources on transformative change and regular updates from the field. We welcome your collaboration—if we can join forces to help share the good word about your work to impact social and environmental change, please reach out. 


Sharpened Theory of Change: Since I joined more than five years ago, we've been wanting to refresh and update our Theory of Change.  With support from  A. E. Lynch Consulting, we’ve done just that. On our new website, you can find our new, clear and powerful Theory of Change.  We want to thank Design Action Collective for the beautiful graphic representation of this work.  


As part of this work, we have also refreshed and updated our mission statement, which now more clearly expresses the current evolution of Hidden Leaf and where we are going: 


Hidden Leaf promotes inner awareness within liberatory movements in order to advance a more just, ecologically healthy, and compassionate society. 


Shifting capital and power: Last year, as part of our five-year strategy, Hidden Leaf contributed more than $2.4 million  in grants to critical frontline groups and intermediaries centering and grounding liberatory, spirit-led practices as part of their work and vision for the world we seek. Simultaneously, we made a second-year commitment of more than $1.4 million in community investments, supporting the procurement of vital land and infrastructure; shifting assets from us to important indigenous efforts as a continued effort of repair; contributing to community-led loan funds that will build and circulate capital to build a new economy that works for all and which contributes to planetary flourishing. A full list of our amazing partners can be found on the new website here


With the leadership of board member Tara Brown, we have also rejuvenated our Investment Policy Statement, which you can find here, to reflect our dynamic approach to all of our investments: grants, community investments, deep impact investments, and more traditional investments. We hope this progressive IPS will be useful to other institutions like us and we welcome your feedback and reflections.  


We look forward to updating our website regularly to highlight the important work that movement partners are doing, to be a space where conversations about deep change can be sparked, and to stay better in touch with all of you.  


Wishing you all the best in 2024. May it be a year where our communities win big and we throw down hard for them!  


With love, 


For Real Climate Justice, Philanthropy Must Support the Frontlines, Fund Early and Fund Big


I write this from California, still in a record drought and paradoxically receiving enormous rain — floods and blizzards in places that have rarely, if ever, experienced such weather. And to add to the paradox, we have battled devastating fires, among many other climate-related disasters. Despite this, the actions of those on the front lines of the climate crisis continue to inspire. Because of them, I see a future that is already underway and being forged by environmental justice communities here and around the globe. It is our job as funders to enable bringing this future to fruition now.


We at Hidden Leaf know that one of the most transformative things we can do to bring this beautiful world — one in which we and other living beings in our ecosystems live in harmony with each other and the planet — into existence now is to fund early and fund big.

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Power California "Op-ed: Another consequence of the L.A. housing crisis: The Fresno housing crisis"

Commuters at sunset in downtown Fresno. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

When I was 7, my mom and I were displaced from our two-bedroom apartment in Fresno. With nowhere else to go, we bounced from shelter to shelter, feelings of shame, hopelessness and helplessness following us wherever we went.


I spent most of my young life thinking something was wrong with us. The truth is that we were among millions of Californians who have lost their homes across the state, and not just in its most notoriously expensive cities.


As skyrocketing housing costs in Los Angeles and the Bay Area push more people into outlying regions, those places have increasingly experienced the same pressures. Communities such as Fresno, once known as a relatively affordable oasis in a costly state, are the newest epicenters of California’s housing crisis. One study found that Fresno endured the fastest rent growth of any major city nationwide in 2021, 28%.

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