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While many foundations bear the name of their founders and are very obviously linked to a particular donor, other grantmakers require a bit of digging to discover who is pulling the strings. The Enlight Foundation falls into the latter category, not only because of its name, but also because it has a limited web presence and maintains a low-profile.
Here are a few things to know about the Palo Alto-based Enlight Foundation and how it gives in the Bay Area and beyond.
A Photojournalist Founder
The driving force behind the Enlight Foundation is Xin Liu, who co-founded the foundation with Chinese electrical engineer Yongping Duan and serves as the foundation’s president. It looks like Liu really runs the show, since recent tax records indicate that she is Enlight’s director, CEO and sole trustee.
So who is Xin Liu? Career-wise, she is an award-winning photojournalist in both the U.S. and China. She has worked for China Youth Daily, the Baltimore Sun, the Miami Herald, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Palm Beach Post, Time Magazine, Newsweek Fortune and other publications. Liu also co-founded and directs the Xinhe Foundation, previously known as the Xinping Foundation, in China. After working extensively in both countries, her philanthropy has largely been driven by experiences in education inequality and a desire to engage youth for social change.
Major Foundation Interests
Dating back to its founding in 2004, Enlight Foundation grantmaking mostly revolves around creating equal education opportunities for children. Education interests also extend to action-driven research projects aimed at advancing education.
Through her foundation, Liu also supports projects encouraging young people to become change-makers and social entrepreneurs committed to the public good. Although Liu has strong roots in the Bay Area of California, she is particularly interested in alleviating rural poverty and strengthening rural communities though early education programs.
A Local/Global Focus
As noted above, Liu worked for dozens of years in the U.S. and China, and her philanthropic interests span both locations. In the Bay Area, the Enlight Foundation has recently supported Friends of Palo Alto Parks, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Presidio Graduate School. A few years ago, the foundation provided a $1 million grant to World Savvy to help the organization prepare K-12 students to become better global citizens in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City and Twin Cities.
The Enlight Foundation’s grantees are largely based in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Stanford, Redwood, Los Altos Hills, Berkeley and Emeryville. Grants in those places have gone toward youth academic programs, community education, human rights, arts and culture and special education.
Connecting with the Enlight Foundation
Even if a nonprofit’s mission aligns perfectly with the Enlight Foundation, it can be challenging to secure this Bay Area funder’s support. According to tax records, the foundation is not open to unsolicited grant requests and only supports pre-selected organizations. Therefore, it tends to fund familiar groups it has already worked with in the past, providing grants ranging all the way from $5,000 to $1 million.