04: Sylia Obagi, Strengthening the Philanthropic Sector

Sylia Obagi.jpeg

Twitter: @sylia_o

Sylia Obagi is a leader in the Los Angeles philanthropic sector. She is the Executive Director of the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Foundation. In her role, she is charged with leading the 16-member board of directors through a strategic planning process to establish the organization's mission, vision, grantmaking priorities, and next generation leadership development program, and to position the organization as a strategic partner to community stakeholders.  

Previously, she worked as Director of Operations for the Annenberg Foundation in Los Angeles. Among many other initiatives, she helped lead Annenberg Alchemy, a leadership development program for grassroots nonprofit organizations.  She is also on the Board of Directors for Southern California Grantmakers, an association of philanthropists and grantmakers working to make a difference in the local communities. She is a certified also a certified governance trainer with BoardSource.

Her experiences in the various organizations and associations have led her to realize that the most effective organizations benefit from strong and visionary leadership, with an active board of directors that is engaged in fundraising and strategic planning. She also believes that the social sector in general could benefit from a shift in mindset and perception, and that we all have a part to play in that transformation. Check it out:


In this interview, we discuss:

  1. Why the nonprofit sector needs to stop referring to itself as nonprofit. A change in branding and perception is needed.  
  2. Organizations need to think about fundraising and strong governance before they worry about implementing programs and projects. 
  3. How to attract and cultivate strong board members and volunteer leadership.
  4. The importance of collaboration and information-sharing amongst funders.
  5. The rapid changes taking place in the sector, and how organizations can thrive in the new landscape. 


True excellence isn't a destination but a journey. We can't stay static. But we are all stronger when we do it together. 


  1. What Nonprofits Need Most (Huffington Post Article)
  2. Vision+ Grantmaking Guidelines
  3. More information on Annenberg Alchemy
  4. Interview with Sylia about governance issues on BoardSource


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