The Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s Board of Directors plays an essential role in furthering our mission. In this Board profile series, our goal is to share how our Board members’ experiences and perspectives contribute to our work.
We continue our series with Moy Eng, who joined our Board of Directors in 2021. As CEO emeritus at Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST), a Rainin Foundation Arts grantee, Moy adds a unique perspective to the Board. She led CAST through its first decade of growth and groundbreaking impact. Moy reflects on her Board leadership and the influences that have shaped her work in philanthropy and nonprofit arts leadership, as well as her own practice as a writer and singer. Following are highlights from our conversation with her.
Tell us about the evolution of your relationship with the Rainin Foundation.
I met Jen Rainin in 2007, when I was the head of arts grantmaking at the Hewlett Foundation. Jen was preparing to launch her family’s foundation and wanted to understand what was unfolding in the Bay Area’s arts and culture landscape. I vividly remember the conversation and her fantastic, rapid-fire questions.
My evolving relationship with the Rainin Foundation has mirrored the roles I’ve played within the arts and culture community over 42 years. Throughout that time, I’ve been involved in board development, fundraising and leadership development as a funder, consultant and senior staff member. All these roles are not unusual for me. But since joining the Rainin Foundation Board, I’ve navigated the dual roles of being a Board member and grantmaker, as well as CEO of CAST, one of the Foundation’s grantees in the arts. It’s a delicate process.
The Foundation is playing the long game, which requires a commitment to reflection, learning and bold action. What the Rainin Foundation cares about and the values it espouses are in line with how I view the world. Being asked to sit on the Board was and is an honor and a thrill.
What the Rainin Foundation cares about and the values it espouses are in line with how I view the world.
Tell us about navigating your dual roles as grantmaker and grantee.
It comes down to close relationships that are built on trust and integrity and clear parameters.
When I became a Rainin Foundation Board member, this required the Board to acknowledge the complicated power dynamics when a grantee is a Board member, and when a staff member sits on a grantee’s board. With CAST’s renewal request in July 2023, we drew clear lines around my communications with staff and the Board. I recused myself from the discussion about the funding proposal and I will not be a part of the vote when the CAST’s grant will be decided. We are navigating this process with great care, as ethically as possible, and mindful of how it is perceived externally.
How do the Foundation’s values of interdependence, creativity and equity inform your work on the Board?
For me, it starts with equity. I am the granddaughter and daughter of Chinese immigrants and was raised in a mixed status household. I came up in a world where violence and structural racism were much more blatant and we’re unfortunately seeing that resurgence. I know the power of silence for safety, for protection and for the ability to listen. That’s not unimportant to figuring out how to find purpose in one’s life, and how to work together towards making positive change. Equity is really critical for me in terms of access to capital and power.
Beyond the search for beauty, creativity is essential to discover solutions and ways to execute on them beautifully such as finding long-term solutions to affordable housing and workspaces for artists and cultural organizations.
Our interdependence connects all of this. We’re all connected, whether it’s working among different sectors or within communities. We must always be mindful of that and ask who are our closest partners as we work to affect change.
We’re all connected, whether it’s working among different sectors or within communities. We must always be mindful of that and ask who are our closest partners as we work to affect change.
How do you approach your discretionary grantmaking?
My Rainin Foundation Board discretionary grants are deeply personal. One went to a group called Kara Grief Support in Palo Alto. It supports individuals who are navigating the loss of a family member. I came to them when I lost my husband to suicide 12 years ago. To live in a sea of grief and to help others navigate that is pretty extraordinary. They are a wonderful resource to me, my family and so many others. One daughter was so profoundly moved by her Kara experiences that she went on to train and work for three years as a volunteer facilitator for other children in similar circumstances.
Another grant went to SPUR (San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association). I was on the San Francisco board. It’s intended to elevate the critical roles that arts and culture can play in thoughtful urban planning. This is a moment to think broadly and long-term—beyond pop-ups—of the role of arts and culture in our neighborhoods and cities across the Bay Area.
But the majority of my discretionary grants are to small arts and culture groups whose pioneering work is often overlooked for funding. First Voice, co-founded by one of the premier Asian-American storytellers, is marking their 45th anniversary. Brenda Wong Aoki weaves her extraordinary personal history into theatrical experiences with live music by her arts and life partner Mark Izu.
I also made a grant to M3 (Mutual Mentorship for Musicians), in part to help fill a large, unexpected gap when a significant grant did not come through. The co-founders—vocalist-composers Jen Shyu and Sara Serpa—are improvisational jazz musicians and mentors. They came together in 2020 out of their shared experiences of the isolation and inequity endured as women and non-binary musicians of color, in a world shaped by male power. Not many people are doing that work and I think their vision for a new mentorship paradigm is critically important.
What do you think might be least understood about Rainin Foundation board members?
Beyond our varied expertise, what I have found is a sense of deep compassion and spirit of generosity shared by all of the Board members. It’s driven by our own worldview about the question of equity. Each of us have a personal framework for how we look at equity. How it grounds us and manifests in the way we show up to work together. It’s quite extraordinary.
Each of us have a personal framework for how we look at equity. How it grounds us and manifests in the way we show up to work together. It’s quite extraordinary.
What comes next for you?
I am wrapping up my role at CAST and am returning home to the East Coast to join my siblings in caring for our mother, before our final goodbyes.
But I’m also very excited to have more time to write and make music. I’m working on a second album now with my collaborator, the Grammy-nominated composer and arranger Wayne Wallace. Lastly, I imagine and hope that I will have opportunities to consult on new ventures. I’m so grateful for all the years I’ve been able to work in service to artists and the arts community.