For release on Tuesday, November 8, 2022:


Gilroy Foundation Executive Director announces retirement

Donna Pray has served as ED since 1995

 Gilroy Foundation Executive Director Donna Pray announced her plans for retirement, effective April 28, 2023. She has served in this position at Gilroy Foundation since 1995.

“Donna has been the face of Gilroy Foundation since 1995,” said Karen La Corte, Board President. “Her leadership and dedication in growing the Foundation into what it is today is unprecedented. The Gilroy community has a legacy of giving for generations we can be proud of. It is through Donna’s commitment to excellence that we have this treasure we call Gilroy Foundation. We wish her all the best in retirement.”

Pray’s legacy at Gilroy Foundation includes growing the endowment from its earliest beginnings of $280,000, made up of a General Fund and five small separate family funds to its current value of over $14 million with more than 132 Field of Interest, Donor Advised, Designated, Group and Scholarship Funds. As Fund Donor Paula Goldsmith stated, “Gilroy Foundation’s grant giving process is a fair and efficient means of distributing funds. It gives us confidence that our unrestricted family fund is being used wisely to address the many needs in our community.”

When Pray felt the Foundation needed higher visibility in its early days, she organized a fundraiser “Day in the Country” for guests to enjoy Wine Tasting, Silent Auction, Luncheon, and Live Auction. The event brought in $25,000 for the endowment; the 2022 “Imagine” Day in the Country netted over $110,000 for Gilroy Foundation programs.

The Scholarship Program is one of Pray’s fondest endeavors. She acknowledges that a Gilroy Foundation scholarship can make a difference in a student’s life, and she takes great pride in working with the students to ensure everything goes as planned. Most of the Thank You notes that Donna receives read something like this: “Thank you again for your generosity and support. I will continue to work hard and succeed in my future endeavors. I hope one day I can give back to my community and offer the support you have so fondly given me.”

Most notably in Pray’s long list of accomplishments was the Foundation’s response to the 2019 Garlic Festival shooting. It brought our lives to a halt in Gilroy; however, within hours of the event, Pray had received a phone call from Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) checking on the Foundation workers in the Wine Booth that they knew would be working at the Festival. That same night, SVCF made an initial donation of $10,000 to create the Gilroy Garlic Festival Victims Relief Fund; the next day, Pray fielded calls and ended the day with $250,000 in donations and pledges. All the days moving forward blended together with calls from potential donors, visitors bringing in donations, news agencies requesting information, but still the work of Gilroy Foundation continued in the area of grants and scholarships.

Alongside the Oversight Committee who reviewed victims’ applications for compensation, Gilroy Foundation became the vessel for the $1.9 million collected and distributed to the victims. Long days in the office and weekend workdays were the norm for Pray. As distressing and overwhelming as these nine months were, Pray wrote in her website document, “Stepping to the Plate,” chronicling this time, “Although this was a devastating time for our community, for our staff, and for me, we can reflect on it, knowing that we did our best to help heal and move forward.  Stepping up to the plate to aid the victims of the Garlic Festival shooting will forever be a part of our history.”

The Board of Directors has established a Transition Team that will be discussing the recruitment of a new Executive Director over the coming months. An extensive list of accomplishments during Pray’s tenure is attached. Pray looks forward to becoming involved in her community, spending time with the family, and continuing to support the work of Gilroy Foundation.

During Donna Pray’s tenure as Executive Director of Gilroy Foundation, the following are some of the accomplishments of Gilroy Foundation:

  • In 1998, Gilroy Foundation had an endowment of $280k, made up of a General Fund and five small separate family funds. By 2004, Endowment rose to over $1 million with 29 separate funds. Today, the Endowment is at $14 million with 132 funds.
  • Since 1988, Gilroy Foundation’s premiere fundraiser has been “Day in the Country” with this year’s event netting over $110k, providing operational expenses.
  • 1999: First scholarship was awarded for $250. From 1999 through 2022, Gilroy Foundation has awarded over $6 million in scholarships to high school, junior college, and college students in Gilroy area.
  • 2008: Established Fund Development Committee and developed Strategic Plan to bring endowment up to $10 million.
  • 2008: Established Julio Mata Family $50,000 Scholarship, given to a GUSD High School graduate of Mexican descent. Since its inception, there have been 41 winners!
  • 2010: Created Youth Board to encourage middle/high school students to learn about philanthropy.
  • 2012: Partnered with the Christopher Family and began the four-year process of building the Don Christopher Sports Complex, that provided exceptional athletic fields for the student athletes.
  • Led other Community Projects over the years including Salvation Army Shower Project, Gilroy Center for the Arts, Dog Park Improvements, GHS and CHS Van Donations, and GHS ChromeBook Donation.
  • 2016: Began publication of an Annual Impact Report showing the difference our donors make to the work we do.
  • 2016: Began Sustaining Sponsor program to infuse additional operational funding.
  • 2017: Brought Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) to Gilroy, inviting representatives from local organizations, to determine how SVCF should look at their grant-making strategies.
  • 2018: Created an Operating Reserve to cover any cancelled fundraisers.
  • 2019: Following the Garlic Festival shooting, created the Victims Fund with the guidance of SVCF and disbursed more than $1.9 million to victims who applied. #GilroyStrong
  • Created “Lessons Learned” providing detailed information for future cities or organizations faced with the difficult task of providing compensation and resources to victims.
  • Networked over the years with other community foundations throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties through SVCF Affiliates/Alliance programs.
  • 2019: Applied for, and received, SVCF Latin XCEL grant to fund refresh of Latino Family Fund.
  • 2020: Continued to give grants and scholarships through COVID; began Meals for Heroes—Revenue for Restaurants. Also provided PPE to St. Louise Regional Hospital.
  • Since 1980, Gilroy Foundation has awarded $16.3 million in grants and scholarships.
  • And the work continues….


“Give Where You Live”


We are proud that five local businesses continue to support Gilroy’s community foundation as Sustaining Sponsors.  Thank you to Christopher Ranch, Pinnacle Bank, Recology, RAC Services, LLC, and Blaettler Accountancy for your commitment to our community and the programs of Gilroy Foundation!

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