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Register of the Liberty Hill Foundation Collection, 1976-1991
MSS 022  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • History
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Liberty Hill Foundation Collection,
    Date (inclusive): 1976-1991
    Collection number: MSS 022
    Creator: Liberty Hill Foundation
    Extent: 13 cartons
    Repository: Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research.
    Los Angeles, California
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    The collection is available for research only at the Library's facility in Los Angeles.  The Library is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Researchers are encouraged to call or email the Library indicating the nature of their research query prior to making a visit.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research. Researchers may make single copies of any portion of the collection, but publication from the collection will be allowed only with the express written permission of the Library's director. It is not necessary to obtain written permission to quote from a collection. When the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research gives permission for publication, it is as the owner of the physical item and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Liberty Hill Foundation Collection, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles.


    The Liberty Hill Foundation was established in 1976 to to further the goals of economic justice, democratic participation, and social equality through grants to grassroots groups in Los Angeles. It was founded by Sarah Pillsbury, who has remained on its board of trustees throughout its existence. Born into the Pillsbury family (Pillsbury Baking Co.), she and her brother George are among the children from wealthy American families who in the 1970s set up community foundations in several U.S.cities to fund grassroots organizing for social change. They are part of a network of community foundations known as the Funding Exchange.
    Conceived of as alternative funding source to mainstream foundations, Liberty Hill has provided support to almost 1,000 groups, to meet critical needs not addressed by government or traditional charities. Emerging organizations representing women, people of color, gays and lesbians, immigrants, the poor, and the disabled have often been able to get off the ground because of Liberty Hill's support. Rather than fund organizations who provide direct social services, Liberty Hill has traditionally funded groups who organize their constituencies to confront existing inequalities and create strategies for self-empowerment.
    Liberty Hill has provided funding primarily to organizations in the greater Los Angeles area, but it also developed a program to support grassroots groups in San Diego. Its Board of Trustees has over-all policy and fundraising responsibility. A Community Funding Board composed of local activists with a wide range of organizing experience interviews all grant applicants and recommends which organizations should be funded. Mary Jo Von Mach was the executive director of Liberty Hill from its inception until the late 1980s. Since then, Michele Prichard has been executive director.

    Scope and Content

    The Liberty Hill records donated to SCL are arranged in three series Grant Files, Donor-Advised Files, and San Diego Grants. Grant Files are Cartons 1-10; Donor-Advised Files, Cartons 11-12; and San Diego Grants, Carton 13. The Grant Files series proceed chronological ly (e.g. Grant Files, 1976-1977; Grant Files, 1977-1979). Within each series in the collection, the files are alphabetically arranged by the name of the organization receiving funding. Each folder contains a completed grant application and materials from the group applying for funding. Donor-Advised Files document organizations funded by a specific donor to Liberty Hill, rather than by the foundation's general fund.
    As the container list indicates, Liberty Hill has funded organizations representing a diversity of constitutents and causes, like labor/community organizing, solidarity with various Central American and Asian groups, fair housing, women's rights, and the homeless. Many of the organizations Liberty Hill funded were short-lived, some because they were organized around a very specific goal which they accomplished, others because the intense focus on a particular issue became less crucial over time (e.g. solidarity with El Salvador), and others because of difficulty sustaining the organization financially for more than a few years.