The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a regular recipient of Dsea Wong Foundation funding. Andrew Zarivny/shutterstock

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is a regular recipient of Dsea Wong Foundation funding. Andrew Zarivny/shutterstock

While some wealthy business owners in the Bay Area wait until retirement to dive into philanthropy, others start dipping their toes into the local giving scene a bit earlier to test the waters. The latter better describes the situation of Dennis J. Wong, the developer who co-founded SPI Holdings, now known as Verbena Road Holdings. The Harvard alum has been at the head of the company for over 25 years, but he and his wife, Shannon, have been getting more involved in philanthropy for more than a decade now.

Dennis and Shannon Wong created the Dsea Wong Foundation in 2007 to channel their charitable giving, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. To help inform local grantseekers, here are a few facts to know about the Dsea Wong Foundation.

A Strong Connection to the Arts

In the Bay Area, the Wong couple is closely tied to the local arts scene and often supports well-known institutions around town. For example, Dennis Wong serves on the board of trustees for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and is the organization’s current secretary and treasurer. The couple has also significantly supported the San Francisco Symphony, and Dennis Wong used to be a trustee of the Bay Area Discovery Museum as well. The Wongs mostly stick to big-name arts organizations rather than smaller arts groups or start-ups.

Dedication to Education and Children

Another big interest area for the Wong couple is education and its impact on San Francisco-area children. Dennis Wong is a former trustee and board chair for the Nueva School, the Menlo School and the Homeless Prenatal Program. The Wong Foundation’s grantmaking has extended to Kipp Bay Area Schools in Oakland, All Stars Helping Kids in Santa Clara and the Nueva School in Hillsborough in recent years. These types of grants typically go towards annual funds, holiday matching grants and general operating expenses.

Broader Interests in California

Since the Wongs first created their foundation, most of the couple’s grants have stayed close to home in the Bay Area. But the couple also has interests in Southern California. Dennis Wong’s company Verbena Road acquired some Los Angeles real estate a few years ago, and the couple has been paying attention to what’s happening in L.A. communities too. For example, the couple recently supported the Chris Paul Foundation in Los Angeles and the Franklin Education Foundation in Pasadena. Other California grantees are based in Menlo Park, Atherton and Union City.

Limited Transparency and Access

However, Bay Area grantseekers should know that transparency is limited—both the Dsea Wong Foundation and the Wongs maintain a low profile with their giving. According to recent tax records, the foundation does not accept unsolicited requests for grants. The couple has neither created a website for their foundation nor made their grant guidelines publicly available.

Yet this is still a local power couple to watch in Northern California that’s likely just setting out on their philanthropic endeavors. Annual giving has been under $1 million in recent years, but that could very well change as time passes.

To get in touch with the Dsea Wong Foundation for general questions or to learn more about this funder’s local giving, check out the full profile in our Bay Area and Northern California funding guide.

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