Strategic Framework

Updated December 2013 by Board of Directors


In January of 2011, the Board of Directors of the Leichtag Foundation adopted a Strategic Framework to set forth the Foundation’s priorities for the next four to five years. We chose the word “Framework” purposefully, acknowledging that we had much to learn and a great deal of flexibility would be needed. Since then, we have attempted to honor this guiding principle and avoid rigidity while still providing clear focus and transparency for the community.

As we write this update to our Strategic Framework at the end of 2013, and look back at the last three years, we reflect on all that has been learned and accomplished and seek to build on our learnings. The introduction to the last iteration of our Framework adopted in 2011 describes the board’s decision in October of 2009 to pursue a modified spend-down. At that time, we felt that the Foundation would have the most impact by spending the greater portion of its assets over a finite period of time. Our board members agreed that the needs and challenges of today are profound, and that a limited lifespan will create the urgency to motivate bolder, more inspired thought, granting and disciplined leadership. We have not wavered from this belief and seek to pursue our goals with intensive urgency and zeal in the spirit of our founders Lee and Toni Leichtag and their daughter Joli Ann.

In the last iteration of our Framework, we anticipated a termination year of 2025, 18 years after the death of our founder Lee Leichtag. While we continue to look at our work from the lens of a limited-life foundation, the acquisition of the Commons in Encinitas has caused us to re-examine the viability of the termination year we set. We must consider what will be needed in terms of talent development, program incubation, income generation and the advancement of our strategies to prepare for ceasing operations. Over the next two to four years, as we develop the master plan for the Commons, our board will consider the short and long term needs for the property and develop an approach to maintain a spend-down ethos for our grantmaking function while ensuring a vibrant and secure future for the Commons. During this time period, we plan to continue robust granting at similar levels to our prior years. Ultimately, we will articulate a plan for our future as a grantmaking foundation and for the Commons.

The ideas set forth in this Framework were both inspired by and built upon the diverse priorities and interests of our founders as reflected by a careful analysis of the Foundation’s history of granting. Each of the board members who developed the Framework enjoyed a close personal relationship with the Leichtag family. Central to this understanding is a respect for the Leichtags’ commitment to their Jewish heritage.

Additionally, we were informed by a series of discussions over almost a year in 2010 during which the board studied specific community needs, evaluated the marketplace of services, and determined where we could find our highest priorities and best philanthropic opportunities. We followed this by community focus groups in North County San Diego and interviews with community leaders across the region, as well as a number of grantee convenings for each of our strategic areas.

Our strongest commitment is to building the next generation of leaders and philanthropists who will be well-equipped to address the unique needs and challenges of their generations. We honor the Leichtag legacy by nurturing and supporting those who will ultimately be our successors, ensuring an indestructible and adaptive link from generation to generation.


Our Approach

In developing our approach and particularly in focusing this first stage of the Foundation’s strategies, we are called to the advice shared in the Jewish text PirkeiAvot or Ethics of the Fathers:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

Our first stage efforts focus primarily on San Diego’s North County and Jerusalem.

But if I am only for myself, what am I?

While the Foundation may use specific regions where we have already made investments to incubate and test  ideas and strategies, we are always on the lookout for ways to leverage opportunities, share knowledge and best practices, and expand successful programs beyond our community.

And if not now, when?

As a foundation that will be spending the majority of our assets over a limited period of time, a constant sense of urgency is imperative. We must remain focused but flexible.

In January 2012 we added the following:

Who is wise? He who learns from every person, as it is said:
“From all my teachers, I grew wise.”

We will deepen our understanding with each of our grantee partners and learn as much as we can from the community and the consumers of the programs we support.

A community is too heavy to carry alone.
We will help make connections and support networks in each of our areas.

Keter Shem Tov—the crown of a good name is superior to all.
We will honor the legacy of Lee, Toni and Joli Ann Leichtag in all of our work. 


About the Leichtags and the Leichtag Foundation

coupleLee Leichtag (1919-2007) was a pharmaceutical industry entrepreneur who transformed his financial success into a second career as a visionary philanthropist. Lee possessed an exuberant life spirit and unquenchable optimism. With little formal education, the combination of his creativity and strong work ethic allowed him to achieve his American Dream. His life was passionately embedded in the rich traditions of an immigrant nation. He saw a level playing field as an essential predicate to freedom. He never forgot his roots.

g-d_good_quoteWhen asked to name his most significant accomplishment in life, Lee Leichtag said “my marriage to Toni.” Throughout their 66-year marriage, Toni and Lee were full partners in life. Over the years, Toni (1913-2009) was generous with both her time and financial resources. She volunteered many hours for scores of organizations with a special interest in health and improving the lives of the very young and the elderly. The difficult lessons she would learn as a child of a young, struggling single mother, a child who knew little of her own father and, as well, as a single mother in her own right when she met Lee, became important pathways for her philanthropy.

joliannboard1Their daughter Joli Ann shared her parents’ commitment to the community. She was passionate about education and children. A deeply spiritual person, Joli Ann started her career as a kindergarten teacher and was keenly aware of the importance of early childhood development and the critical needs of young families and single mothers.

The family established the Leichtag Family Foundation in 1991 to formalize their visionary philanthropy. Caring about and for people in need and improving the community were closely-held values of the Leichtag family. These values were consistently expressed in the Foundation’s philanthropic endeavors.

The Leichtags devoted 98% of their wealth to the community through the Leichtag Family Foundation. They never viewed their resources as theirs but rather viewed these means as held in trust for those less fortunate than they were. At the end of 2007, after the death of Joli Ann Leichtag and Lee Leichtag and the resignation of Toni, the Foundation became independent.


Selection Criteria

In establishing the strategic focus areas set forth in this plan, the Board set the following selection criteria:

  • Direct connection with mission and consistent with founder intent, past granting and prior Board discussion.
  • Potential to have a meaningful and lasting impact within and beyond the lifespan of the Foundation.
  • Ability to take on specific components or phases in order to measure impact over time.
  • Capacity to inspire and leverage other philanthropic support.
  • Potential to use other strategies (the “tools”) in addition to direct funding in order to advance the area.
  • Presence of strong service providers or ability to create and grow strong service providers.
  • Potential to foster synergy between Leichtag Foundation focus areas.


More than Grantmaking: A Set of Tools to Advance Our Goals

We believe strongly in the critical importance of using all the Foundation’s resources, not just direct funding, to advance our strategic focus areas and seek impact. This is one of our most closely-held principles inspired by our spend-down ethos and strengthened and underscored in the impact we have seen from using these strategies. As part of the strategic planning process, a set of tools was created of which direct funding is just one component. These are:

  • Awarding grants to meet short and long term needs.
  • Advocating for systemic change.
  • Convening and facilitating partnerships.
  • Convening knowledge sharing summits and gatherings and commissioning research to deepen and advance the field’s knowledge.
  • Inspiring funding partners and successors.
  • Improving grantee capacity to fundraise.
  • Pursuing mission-related investing.
  • Developing young leaders and philanthropists.
  • Forging connections between strategic areas, particularly between our work in San Diego and our work in Jerusalem.
  • Strengthening grantee infrastructure.
  • Providing a physical platform through Leichtag Commons.

We seek to build fields as well as fund individual programs. To that end, the Foundation:

  • actively provides a neutral space for nonprofit partners to convene in order to build collaboration and advocate for common issues; and
  • pursues systemic change through advocacy, research and education.


Leichtag Commons in Encinitas

Leichtag Commons, purchased by the Foundation in December 2012, is the Foundation’s most prominent tool. Leichtag Commons is a physical platform that amplifies the strategic focus areas of the Foundation and is a nexus to bring them all together. Currently, the Foundation is supporting programs and educational activities at Leichtag Commons inspired by ancient Jewish traditions that connect people to community, food, the land, and social justice:

  • Bal Taschit: Ethical consumption
  • Shmittah: Honoring natural cycles of the earth
  • Peah: Lining the corners of one’s field with food for the stranger and poor
  • Kayamut: Ecological sustainability
  • Ma’aser: Reserving at least one-tenth of one’s agricultural produce for the poor
  • K’vod Briut: The dignity of all creations
  • Hachnasat Orchim: Welcoming guests
  • Haganat Ovdim: Fair treatment of those who work the fields
  • Tsa’ar Ba’alei Chaim: Kind, humane treatment of animals
  • Tikkun Olam: Healing the world

These traditions and values are as meaningful and relevant today as they have been over thousands of years. Indeed, they are reflected in modern agricultural practices. They are also the basis of our deep commitment to the principles of Food Justice including access to fresh, healthy, affordable, and culturally-appropriate food for all; fair treatment of workers; and compassionate treatment of animals.

Since purchasing the Commons in 2012, the Leichtag Foundation has launched Coastal Roots Farm, a nonprofit community farm and education center.  The Leichtag Foundation established Coastal Roots Farm in response to North County residents’ interest in sustainability and social justice, and to the high number of low-income households currently lacking regular access to fresh, healthy food.

In addition, we have developed and are operating two programs that support the strategic areas of the Foundation.

    1. The Jewish Food Justice Fellowship has brought a group of young community activists to North County San Diego to provide human capacity support to organizations within the Leichtag Foundation’s self-sufficiency program area; to ignite and support programming for the North County Jewish community; and to serve as a creative brain trust to help advance projects on the Commons.
    2. The North County Hive is a creative and collaborative co-working space with a community of social entrepreneurs.  Hive members work together to create social, cultural and agricultural programs in North County and throughout San Diego.  Members are offered professional development opportunities to foster innovation, leadership, and encourage collaboration.  Hive members “pay forward” the value of their membership by volunteering on our community educational farm, offering their skills to improve the physical Hive space, and holding “office hours” to share unique skills sets with other Hive members.


Strategic Focus Areas

The Leichtag Foundation defines the North County Coastal Region as the area north of the town of Del Mar and west of Highway 15. This region includes the following communities: Bonsall, Camp Pendleton, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Fallbrook, Oceanside, San Marcos, Solana Beach, and Vista.

Please check back occasionally for updates to our strategies.

Strategic Area 1:

  • Building self-sufficiency in the North San Diego County Coastal Region through giving people the tools and services they need in order to break the cycle of poverty.

Since our work is inspired by the Jewish heritage of the Leichtag family, it is important to note in this Framework that there is no higher level of tzedakah (a concept that embraces important notions of charity and justice according to Jewish tradition) than enabling those in need to become self-sufficient.

Our target population is individuals and families who fall below the Self-Sufficiency Standard for San Diego County, as defined by the Center on Policy Initiatives and Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Informed by the Leichtag family’s philanthropic interests and personal experiences as well as the demographics of the North Coastal Region, we prioritize support of programs working with the single mothers, transitional aged youth, families of active military and veterans.

Our sub-strategies in the area of self-sufficiency are:

  • HEALTHY FOOD ACCESS:  Improving dignified access to fresh produce for low-income households. 
    • PROCUREMENT & DISTRIBUTION: Increase the quantity of fresh, healthy and locally-grown food available through traditional & non-traditional food access points.

Leichtag Foundation does not fund community gardens or CalFresh outreach, nutrition counseling and/or cooking classes that are not part of a larger effort to meet one of the objectives above.

  • PATHWAYS TO ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY:  Eliminating barriers and creating pathways to economic opportunity through projects that contribute to a healthy, sustainable, and equitable local food system.
    • WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT:  Work readiness and advanced skills training programs for job placement, retention and career advancement. Priority will be given to programs connected to food system / local food economy.
    • FARM AND FOOD RELATED BUSINESSES DEVELOPMENT: Programs that provide resources and training for disadvantaged small business owners, including farmers. Opportunities to increase local food production and the procurement of locally grown and produced foods are also considered.

Leichtag Foundation cannot make grants to individuals or for-profit businesses.

  • ADVOCACY & POLICY REFORM: Advancing the goal of self-sufficiency, with an orientation to food systems and food access, through systemic change.
    • Nonpartisan Research and Communications
    • Networks and Collaboratives
    • Systems, data and performance management capabilities


Strategic Area 2:

  • Promoting and building a vibrant Jewish life and infrastructure in San Diego’s North County Coastal Region.

Over the last decade, North San Diego County has seen a dramatic increase in Jewish population. This growth has been demonstrated by mostly anecdotal—but still valid—evidence. At the same time, there has been expanded interest by Jewish institutions to build on their most successful programs and serve this growth as well as by secular organizations to reach out in a targeted way to the Jewish community. In our conversations and community engagement, we know that many North County Jews feel very connected to issues of social justice, the outdoors, the environment, and seek opportunities to engage in inclusive, pluralistic welcoming environments that are open to all backgrounds.

Responding to their needs, we seek to create and foster diverse and inclusive access points for North County Coastal Jews to explore and engage with Jewish life and identity. We want North County to be a national hub of Jewish ideas, experimental initiatives and dynamic and sustained engagement. We believe North County can be a model for the Jewish community about what and how a community can grow, instigate, embolden and sustain Jewish life.

Our support of this area focuses on the following sub-strategies:

  • Diverse Jewish Access Points: The Leichtag Foundation advances diverse Jewish access points in the North County Coastal region including in the areas of culture, education, gathering, relationship development, the environment, relationship with Israel and identity development and exploration. We are particularly focused on helping people live Jewish values of justice and integrating multiple interests and identities through a Jewish lens. The Leichtag Foundation supports program for individuals across the age spectrum with a focus on college students, young adults, young families, empty nesters, and seniors.
  • Talent Incubation and Development: The Leichtag Foundation recognizes the importance of investing in talent, with a focus on leadership and professional development, in order to form a durable and sustainable community.
  • Community Engagement: The Leichtag Foundation will continue its direct engagement and conversation with members of the North County Jewish community in order to identify and respond to needs and changing demographics.


Strategic Area 3:

  • Supporting renewal and bridging social and economic gaps in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s population is a microcosm of Israeli society. The city is also a portender of issues that will face the country in the future. By encouraging grassroots, entrepreneurial solutions in Jerusalem, we believe that the seeds are being sown for solutions to many of the challenges that Israeli society as a whole faces. We see Jerusalem as a critically important demonstration ground, a laboratory for social entrepreneurship and vibrant social change, an ancient muse where old problems can be re-constructed to pilot new solutions.

Jerusalem of biblical times was the center of the world, not only in terms of purely religious beliefs, but also in today’s nomenclature of social entrepreneurship. We envision Jerusalem rising again as a center of social activism and entrepreneurship. The city has become a hub for young people fighting to reclaim and renew the ancient Jerusalem. We believe the intensity and diversity that many point to negatively for Jerusalem is actually the city’s foremost advantage.

Jerusalem is also one of Israel’s poorest cities. A focus on workforce development in two key communities reflects the values of our founders.

Our work in Jerusalem is focused on the following sub-strategies:

  • Improving the quality of life for young people in the city: A negative migration of young people from Jerusalem over the past decade has sapped the city of much-needed human capital. We focus on intervening at key decision points–including after graduation from university and when families have young children—in order to provide a spectrum of opportunities for young people in Jerusalem specifically focusing on:
    • Social entrepreneurship and activism.
    • Economic entrepreneurship.
    • Arts and culture where arts bridges social activism significantly.
    • Infrastructure and capacity building for artists working in the city.
    • Young communities.
  • Workforce development and career advancement in the Ultra-Orthodox community, with a focus on men.
  • Workforce development and economic advancement for the Palestinian community in East Jerusalem, with a focus on women.


Strategic Area 4:

  • Building connections between San Diego and Israel through engagement, relationship building, and interest alignment.

Through the eyes of entrepreneurs like the Leichtags, Israel was the ultimate start-up. Sixty-five years since the State was founded, Israel is a living example of democratic society in constant evolution, responding to new challenges and opportunities at every turn and seeking to live up to the ideals upon which it was founded.

The Leichtag Foundation focuses its efforts on engagement with Israel, providing a spectrum of opportunities to connect to the State and its people from a variety of perspectives, build relationships based on mutual interest and learn more about Israel’s culture, diversity, history, competencies and struggles. While we recognize the importance of advocacy which provides tools and resources that champion for and defend Israel on a political level, the Foundation does not support Israel advocacy activities.

Our support focuses on the following sub-strategies:

  • Cultural Exchange and Engagement: The Foundation supports programs that inspire people to create and cultivate a personal connection to Israel. Our support of this area is focused on immersive educational travel opportunities that bring San Diegans to Israel and Israelis to San Diego and educational programs that promote the various dimensions of Israel and align common interests between San Diego and Israel. We have particular interest in sophisticated programs that wrestle with the complexities, opportunities and challenges that Israel faces and often which San Diego and Israel share.
  • Professional Partnerships: The Foundation helps stimulate, support and catalyze content-based professional partnerships between grantees in Jerusalem and grantees in San Diego, focused on areas of professional development and exploration that such grantees share.
  • Israel Studies: The Foundation focuses on the range of opportunities for the academic study of Israel on the university campus and surrounding communities and seeks to broaden and deepen the quality of formal Israel education at San Diego’s major universities. In order to stimulate other support of this area, in general, our funding is directed through the Israel Studies Field of Interest Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego.


Expedited Grants Program

The Foundation will continue a robust expedited grants program for grants $50,000 and under to programs in the four strategic focus areas. The expedited grants program has the following overall goals:

  • Respond quickly to emerging opportunities.
  • Get to know prospective grantees.
  • Invest in talent and innovation.
  • Support strong nonprofit infrastructure.
  • Demonstrate community leadership.
  • Provide place-based support.



Jewish tradition teaches us to pursue the perfection of the world with relentless optimism and an enduring sense of hope and possibility. Inherent in this instructive, we understand that the world is indeed perfectable, and our mandate is to participate in its repair. The great Jewish teacher and sage Rabbi Tarphon said “It is not up to you to complete the work, but neither may you refrain from it.” We embrace this directive and devote ourselves positively and optimistically to the task.

In Judaism, action is mandatory. The day to day decisions, the disciplined work, the small and large everyday successes and challenges—these are what will make the goals and vision of this plan a reality. Ours has never been a strategic framework that sits on the shelf. We continue our commitment to being adaptive and flexible. We understand with a great deal of humility and a sense of sacred responsibility that the resources of the Foundation belong ultimately to the community. We are accountable to the community, to our nonprofit partners, and to the people we serve.

We are grateful for the opportunity and ripe for the challenge.