“I have led an incredibly fortunate life. I have learned a lot and have much more learning to do. By coming to the conversation curious, I have had the benefit of continuous movement towards living a mindful and joyful life.”

– Emily Scott


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Life and career

From early on, I was taught to care about the world through volunteerism and philanthropy. I was raised in a family that experienced challenges with my father escaping Europe during WWII and my mother being a first generation American. Learning about how they overcame numerous obstacles proved to be very valuable, imprinting on me the importance of hard work, integrity, compassion for others, and financial stability. My parents divorced in a very public way when I was young and I was surrounded by new family structures, which gave me the early opportunity to experience change and understand different perspectives.   Surprisingly, at 60 years old, I learned that my father was not my biological father which made chapter one of my life a bit more mysterious.

At 17, I became a freshman at Simmons College in Boston, where I enjoyed the diversity of the population and a robust student-centered city. It was an amazing time to be in Boston: the busing riots of 1975-76, the Red Sox in the World Series, the re-opening of the Boston waterfront and the snowstorm of 1978. I continued my volunteerism with curiosity about the world, which led to more engagement in advocacy and activism.  After graduating with a BA in Management, I moved to Atlanta to work for a division of Macy's in their executive training program. Inspired by the possibilities of career potentials and recognizing the need to learn more skills, I went back to get my MBA at Cornell University Business School. My Cornell experience taught me the life lesson of redefining oneself and keeping options open.

Wall Street beckoned, and I spent the next eight years applying my financial and marketing skills at The American Stock Exchange, Merrill Lynch and Shearson Lehman. In a no-holds-barred move, I left my home, friends and career for San Francisco. I worked at several companies, including Charles Schwab & Co. Leaving corporate life, I created ESP & Associates, a marketing consulting business that focused on financial services marketing.

Philanthropy

In 1995, I decided that it was important for me to focus on the family foundation that my former husband and I created, our blended family, and our complex financial life. We recognized our roles as members of the San Francisco community, our loyalty to our schools, and our desire to support organizations and causes we were passionate about. As president of The Pottruck Family Foundation for 15 years, whose mission was to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth and to support volunteer-driven organizations in the Bay Area, I led the movement of our focus to foster youth and former foster youth transitioning to independence and college. 

When I turned 40, I started doing what I call the "Decade Dare," an audacious (for me!) goal of doing something completely out of my comfort zone, that would incorporate my time, treasure, and talent, to raise money for a specific cause or organization.  I chose to do the SF - LA AIDS Ride (587 miles) to raise money for the SF AIDS Foundation and in memory of the many friends I lost to the AIDS pandemic.  It is worthy to note that prior to this, I had last rode a bike in my early teens - as I say, it was a Lady Schwinn with a bell and a basket!  The venture was successful in many ways; I raised over $150K, I brought attention to the fundraiser and issue, and I learned more during that journey about the crisis, the people affected, and (of course) myself.

For my 50th Decade Dare, I authored "Tails of Devotion, A Look at the Bond Between People and Their Pets" to raise money for animal welfare.  All 10,000 copies sold, and over $270,000 was raised for over 70 animal nonprofits in 22 states and 3 countries.

I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain for my 60th Decade Dare.  The issue in focus is racial injustice, specifically in the United States.  Close to $100,000 was raised and I was able to journal throughout the 700 kilometers journey about the issue as well as my own unconscious bias.   

It was a pivotal event for me to present “The Evolution of a Passionholic,”  a talk on philanthropy, at TEDx Sonoma in 2012. That launched an increased level of influence in many areas for me. 

My philanthropic pursuits have included tremendously gratifying work in other countries, including Burundi, India, China, Cuba, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and Greece. Throughout my four visits to the Democratic Republic of Congo, I worked with war victims through V-Day, Panzi Foundation, and Human Rights Watch. Also an avid animal lover, I authored the award-winning book, Tails of Devotion, A Look at the Bond between People and Their Pets, which raised over $250,000 for more than 70 animal welfare non-profits in the United States and Canada. 

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 I have served on the board of several organizations and have learned from the best on how to be an effective board member. I have advised on and taught grant making, development, and board governance. As a founding board director of the Park City Community Foundation, I had the honor to serve as Vice Chair and Grants Chair. Other non-profit boards that I have served on include the Simmons College Board of Trustees (holding numerous Chair/Executive Committee positions during my 15 year tenure), V-Day, SF AIDS Foundation, KQED, and Fostering Media Connections.   

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I believe in the power of collaboration.  Having spent time with nonprofits serving survivors of domestic violence, I learned that almost 50% of the survivors who left their abusive situations said they would have left earlier but the safe houses couldn't take their pets. While part of the Park City community, I broached the idea and provided an initial grant of a collaboration between the safe house and the animal shelter.  Their partnership has been successful as the Purple Paws Program has now been in operation for over 6 years and has saved hundreds of humans and animals from more abuse.  My theory of change for The Philanthropy Workshop year of study focused on foster youth and their path to college.  From that theory, The California College Pathways Initiative, a 5-year collaboration with other funders, was formed to improve the college retention and graduation rate of former foster youths. 

Photo Credit: Emily Scott

Currently, I serve on the advisory committees of Target Zero, Cynthia’s Sisters, and AGLN: Truth and Reconciliation. 

Moving Forward

My philanthropy, my philanthropic studies, my financial dexterity, and my constant journey toward awareness and self-discovery has led me to where I am today. It is these experiences and strategies that I bring to my clients.  My education, life, and professional experiences serve as a foundation that I use to guide clients who are exploring the “how-to’s” of making strategic moves to align intent with legacy giving and philanthropic choices, and then advance that vision with action. 

I live in San Francisco with my two beloved adopted senior dogs. I am an obsessed golfer, a constantly evolving photographer, and a frequent solver of crossword puzzles, sudoku, and cryptograms. 

Always on the move and keeping an eye out for my next passion, I take my dedication to a life of deep purpose very seriously and never miss an opportunity for personal growth.  As E.B. White wrote, "Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder."

Photo by Nancy Farese

Photo by Nancy Farese