Person

Lisa Sobrato Sonsini

Lisa Sobrato Sonsini is a philanthropist who lives in Silicon Valley. She is the founder and board president of the Sobrato Family Foundation. Sonsini is an advocate for children’s issues, even once serving as a court-appointed advocate for a foster child removed from her home. Sonsini was in her 20s when she received the appointment. [1] Sonsini is also an advocate for education issues. She serves on numerous boards of charter and private schools. [2]

Her husband, Matthew Sonsini, is the current CEO of the Sobrato Organization, the real estate development firm that is owned by her family and the source of the family’s fortune. [3]

In 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, under Sonsini’s leadership, the Sobrato Family Foundation joined a coalition of philanthropic organizations in creating aid programs for illegal immigrant workers in Silicon Valley. [4]

Early Life

Sonsini grew up as the daughter of Sue and John Sobrato, a wealthy family involved in real estate development. Her grandmother, Ann Sobrato, created the real estate empire. [5]

Sonsini received a bachelor’s degree in communication studies with an emphasis in business administration from UCLA. She would also receive a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Before going to work for the family’s businesses and philanthropies, she would work for five years as a corporate associate for the law firm Brobeck, Phleger, and Harrison. [6]

Child Advocate

While just beginning her career as a lawyer, Lisa Sobrato Sonsini became a court-appointed child advocate to a then 12-year old known as Rita in 1994. Rita was removed from her home and placed in the foster care system because her mother suffered from mental illness. Sonsini would spend between 10 and 13 hours a month with her both as a stable adult in her life and as her advocate in court. Two years later, the district attorney and Rita’s social worker wanted to institutionalize Rita for bipolar disorder. Sonsini successfully fought to keep her out. [7]

Philanthropy

Career

In 1996, Sonsini would help found the Sobrato Family Foundation as a vehicle for the Sobrato family to unify their philanthropic giving. the Sobrato Family Foundation awarded more than $10 million in grants in its first five years of operation. [8]

Eventually, Sonsini would put her career as a lawyer on hold and work full time as a philanthropist. She was a member and board president of Child Advocates of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties until 2003. [9]

Foundation Giving

Between 1996 and 2012, the foundation has given away over $238 million. Nearly a quarter of that giving has been on education causes. Most of the foundation’s giving has been focused on general support instead of funding specific programs. [10]

In February 2020, under her watch the Sobrato Family Foundation sold two buildings it owned in order to raise $293 million. Most of that money was going to be given away through the foundation. [11]

In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sobrato Family Foundation gave money away to help illegal immigrants. The Sobrato Family Foundation gave $3 million to help illegal immigrants in Santa Clara County. The Sobrato Family Foundation helped coordinate an effort to raise and distribute over $10 million in $1,000 grants to illegal immigrants. Contributors to this effort included Facebook, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Grove Foundation, and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. [12]

Under her leadership, the Sobrato Family Foundation has currently given grants to left-wing groups such as the California Budget and Policy Center, Californians for Justice Education Fund, Grameen America, New Venture Fund, the Public Policy Institute of California, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. [13]

References

  1. Knoerle, Jane. 2003. “Lisa Sobrato Sonsini Believes In Sharing Her Good Fortune With Others”. The Almanac. https://www.almanacnews.com/morgue/2003/2003_12_31.snsni.shtml. ^
  2. Ochs, Alyssa. 2014. “Meet Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, A Driving Force Behind The Sobrato Family Foundation”. Inside Philanthropy. https://web.archive.org/web/20160201051652/https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2014/6/17/meet-lisa-sobrato-sonsini-a-driving-force-behind-the-sobrato.html. ^
  3. Ochs, Alyssa. 2014. “Meet Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, A Driving Force Behind The Sobrato Family Foundation”. Inside Philanthropy. https://web.archive.org/web/20160201051652/https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2014/6/17/meet-lisa-sobrato-sonsini-a-driving-force-behind-the-sobrato.html. ^
  4. “John Sobrato’s Call To Arms: “If Not Now — When?””. 2010. The Nob Hill Gazette. https://nobhillgazette.com/if-not-now-when/. ^
  5. Knoerle, Jane. 2003. “Lisa Sobrato Sonsini Believes In Sharing Her Good Fortune With Others”. The Almanac. https://www.almanacnews.com/morgue/2003/2003_12_31.snsni.shtml. ^
  6. Ochs, Alyssa. 2014. “Meet Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, A Driving Force Behind The Sobrato Family Foundation”. Inside Philanthropy. https://web.archive.org/web/20160201051652/https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2014/6/17/meet-lisa-sobrato-sonsini-a-driving-force-behind-the-sobrato.html. ^
  7. Knoerle, Jane. 2003. “Lisa Sobrato Sonsini Believes In Sharing Her Good Fortune With Others”. The Almanac. https://www.almanacnews.com/morgue/2003/2003_12_31.snsni.shtml. ^
  8. Knoerle, Jane. 2003. “Lisa Sobrato Sonsini Believes In Sharing Her Good Fortune With Others”. The Almanac. https://www.almanacnews.com/morgue/2003/2003_12_31.snsni.shtml. ^
  9. Knoerle, Jane. 2003. “Lisa Sobrato Sonsini Believes In Sharing Her Good Fortune With Others”. The Almanac. https://www.almanacnews.com/morgue/2003/2003_12_31.snsni.shtml. ^
  10. Ochs, Alyssa. 2014. “Meet Lisa Sobrato Sonsini, A Driving Force Behind The Sobrato Family Foundation”. Inside Philanthropy. https://web.archive.org/web/20160201051652/https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2014/6/17/meet-lisa-sobrato-sonsini-a-driving-force-behind-the-sobrato.html. ^
  11. “$293 Million: Sobrato Wheels And Deals With Big Santa Clara Buildings”. 2020. Marin Independent Journal. https://www.marinij.com/2020/02/18/293-million-sobrato-wheels-deals-big-santa-clara-buildings-tech-real-estate-servicenow/. ^
  12. “John Sobrato’s Call To Arms: “If Not Now — When?””. 2010. The Nob Hill Gazette. https://nobhillgazette.com/if-not-now-when/. ^
  13. “Community Grantees”. 2021. Sobrato. Accessed August 16. https://www.sobrato.com/sobrato-philanthropies/our-giving/our-grantees/. ^
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