Dr. Adriana Loson-Ceballos: Weaving a New Collective Tapestry for Philanthropy

SVPI 05/15/2024

Growing up on the United States-Mexico border shaped Dr. Adriana Loson-Ceballos‘ worldview from an early age. Raised in a tight-knit community where resources were pooled and shared, she witnessed firsthand how “the collective” took care of itself. This formative experience planted the seeds for Adriana’s lifelong passion: reimagining philanthropy as a collaborative, equitable force for social change.

“When I was young, I didn’t realize we were poor because the community wrapped around us,” Adriana recounts. “The women all pitched in. For birthday parties, one woman brought the cake, another the decorations. I saw the power of giving circles long before I could define the term.”

That spirit of collective giving never left Adriana. After securing scholarships to attend Catholic school, she was drawn to community outreach and completed twice as many service hours as her school required. “I loved going into neighborhoods, being a translator, and connecting what I saw in the news to action on the ground,” she says.

Adriana’s educational path reflected her evolving sense of purpose. She earned degrees in political science, human rights, and leadership studies from the University of San Diego and Columbia University. Yet, despite steadily growing her fundraising skills and positional influence, she felt something was still missing from the traditional philanthropic structures.

“As a fundraiser for 15 years, I was constantly disappointed by the toxic power dynamics between funders and grantees. Funders weren’t sharing power; they were wielding it,” Adriana assesses. “I wanted to build new models that centered equity, trusted communities to lead, and celebrated all forms of giving.”

In 2016, the week after the presidential election upended the nation, Adriana had an epiphany. 

“I had been given the privilege to give money, time, talents, my treasure, and testimony. But I felt paralyzed trying to go it alone. I put out a call to start a giving circle, and the Latino Community Foundation connected me to others who were seeking the same path.”

That giving circle evolved into Adriana’s doctoral research on the Latino Giving Circle Network, exploring how collective giving could democratize and diversify philanthropy. Her insights revealed how giving circles supported members’ ability to affect social change, build community, and inspire impactful philanthropy. These powerful findings catalyzed Adriana’s work at national philanthropic institutions like the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy. In 2021, she launched her own consulting practice, Colmena Consulting, which aims to create a more equitable and sustainable business model that benefits workers, partners, and society. 

Most recently, she acted as a co-author of In Abundance: An Analysis of the Thriving Landscape of Collective Giving in the U.S., a groundbreaking report that underscores collective giving groups’ role in reshaping philanthropic practices, fostering social connections, and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities.

“We have a real opportunity, from funders to fundraisers, to let go of outdated systems that concentrate power and determine how resources flow,” Adriana declares. “Our connection to resources affects how we experience everything. Those of us in philanthropy must reimagine our roles in service of this feminist, pluralist, multiracial movement.”

Now, as the new Co-chair of SVPI, Adriana is perfectly positioned to weave her inclusive vision into the fabric of one of philanthropy’s collective giving networks.

“Collective giving spaces serve as schools of democracy where we learn to bridge divides,” she shares. “I’m excited to bring affiliate voices into SVPI’s leadership as we build a culture of learning from one another. When we share our purpose and stories, we unlock deeper levels of impact and social change.”

For Adriana, SVPI represents the exponential potential of connecting an international community united by the belief that we can create more abundance for all when we work together. From the community to the highest levels of institutional philanthropy, one truth has remained constant: The collective, and only the collective, can unlock philanthropy’s fullest possibilities.

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