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The Heising-Simons Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area

Our Work

The Heising-Simons Action Fund, established in 2020, is funded by the Heising-Simons family and is governed by a four-person Board. The organization is a separate legal entity from the Heising-Simons Foundation (a 501 (c)(3) private foundation) but focuses on many of the same issues, including the following areas:

Community and Opportunity

The Community and Opportunity program focuses on bolstering civic engagement and community advocacy in the city of San Jose, as well as grassroots mobilization at the federal and state level to strengthen democracy and equitable representation, for example, in support of  democracy and redistricting reform legislation.

2020 awards include:

  • Tides Advocacy | For the Fight Back Table Action Fund | $700,000
  • Sixteen Thirty Fund | For the Civic Action Fund | $450,000
  • Silicon Valley Rising Action | For General Support | $50,000

Climate and Clean Energy

The Climate and Clean Energy program seeks to protect people from the worst impacts of climate change by supporting organizations that help advance policies to spur large-scale progress curbing pollution, and to ensure that a low-carbon future is a prosperous one for the most vulnerable communities.

2020 awards include:

  • Sixteen Thirty Fund | For the Climate Equity Action Fund | $500,000
  • Partnership Project Action Fund | For General Support | $125,000
  • Advanced Energy Works | For General Support | $100,000
  • League of Conservation Voters, Inc. | For General Support | $100,000
  • Energy Action Fund | For General Support | $200,000
  • Environmental Defense Action Fund | For General Support | $500,000
  • NRDC Action Fund | For General Support | $500,000


The Education program focuses on substantially increasing public financing of the early childhood education field at the federal, state, and local levels, with a special emphasis on California.

2020 awards include:

  • Children Now Action Fund | For Planning Phase to Develop a Pro-kid Legislative Scoreboard in California | $25,000
  • National Women’s Law Center Action Fund | For General Support | $200,000
  • United for San Joaquin Kid & Community — Yes on Measure X | For General Support | $50,000
  • Million Voter Project Action Fund | For Voter Engagement in California | $200,000
  • Support our Public Schools | For General Support | $50,000
  • Center for American Progress Action Fund | For General Support | $800,000
  • Center for Community Change Action | For General Support | $500,000
  • Impact Fellow | For General Support | $250,000
  • PLUS Action Fund | For General Support | $100,000
  • Children’s Funding Accelerator, Inc. | For General Support | $250,000

Human Rights

The Human Rights program focuses on building the long-term power of communities of color most impacted by mass criminalization, in both the criminal legal and the immigration systems, so that they have increased collective power to change the structures that impact their lives.

2020 awards include:

  • Tides Advocacy | For Smart Justice California | $25,000
  • Tides Advocacy | For La Defensa | $100,000
  • Drug Policy Action | For Oregon Ballot Measure 110 Work | $150,000
  • No on Prop 25 — Committee Against Pretrial Racism | For General Support | $100,000
  • Re-imagine LA, A Coalition of Nonprofits Orgs and Justice Advocates | For General Support | $200,000
  • Poder NC Action | For General Support | $100,000
  • Free the Vote CA, Yes on Prop 17, Sponsored by Civil and Voting Rights Organizations | For Free the Vote CA, Yes on Prop 17 | $100,000
  • New Georgia Project Action Fund, Inc. | For General Support | $200,000
  • Carolina Federation | For General Support | $100,000
  • Texas Freedom Network | For General Support | $100,000
  • Black Voters Matter Fund | For General Support | $200,000
  • Move Texas Action Fund | For General Support | $100,000
  • Asian American Advocacy Fund, Inc. | For General Support | $100,000
  • | For General Support | $200,000
  • Forward Justice Action Network | For General Support | $100,000
  • Workers Defense Action Fund | For General Support | $100,000
  • Californians Against the Prison Spending Scam | For Defeating the Cooper Prison Measure (Cooper Initiative) | $375,000

The Heising-Simons Action Fund is committed to transparency. We will continue to share descriptions of our work as the Action Fund evolves, and we plan to post a list of the Fund’s grants and contributions on a regular basis.

The Heising-Simons Action Fund does not accept unsolicited proposals in any of its areas of work. If you have been invited to submit a letter of inquiry or a proposal to the Action Fund, please contact your program officer for additional instructions.


Liz Simons

Liz Simons serves as a board member of the Heising-Simons Action Fund. A former teacher, Liz worked in Spanish-bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) classrooms, and subsequently founded Stretch to Kindergarten, a spring-summer early childhood education program. She currently serves on the advisory council for Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, and on the advisory board of the Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, as well as on several boards including the Heising-Simons Foundation, The Marshall Project, The Foundation for a Just Society, Math for America, Smart Justice California and the Learning Policy Institute. She volunteers at The Beat Within (a magazine by and for incarcerated youth) and as a storyteller in a transitional kindergarten class. Liz earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s in education from Stanford University.

Mark Heising

Mark Heising serves as a board member of the Heising-Simons Action Fund. In 2004, he founded Medley Partners, a private market investment firm. Previously he was the Founder of VLSI Cores, which designed and licensed cryptographic integrated circuits. He holds six U.S. Patents in cryptography, compression and data communications. Mark serves on the board of directors for the Heising-Simons Foundation and Sion Power, and as a trustee or board member for the nonprofits Environmental Defense Fund, the Institute for Advanced Study. Mark and his wife, Liz Simons, took the Giving Pledge in 2016, publicly committing the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Mark earned a BS in Physics and a MS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from the University of California at Berkeley.

Caitlin Heising

Caitlin Heising serves as a board member of the Heising‐Simons Action Fund. She received a Master of Public Administration at the London School of Economics (LSE) with a focus on social impact, graduating with distinction in 2020. Previously, she worked with Article 3 Advisors, a human rights and strategic philanthropy consultancy based in San Francisco. In 2014, she joined the board of the Heising‐Simons Foundation, where she has developed a grantmaking program focused on human rights and criminal justice reform in the U.S. She currently serves as vice chair of the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Caitlin serves on the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch and is the vice chair of HRW’s U.S. Program Advisory Committee. She sits on the Advisory Council of the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice based in London. She is also a founding member of Maverick Collective, a global community of strategic philanthropists and advocates working to end extreme poverty by improving the health and rights of women and girls around the world. She was a 2016 Research Fellow at Institute for the Future, where she collaborated on research projects exploring the future of philanthropy and social innovation. Caitlin holds a BA in international relations from Brown University.

Deanna Gomby

Deanna Gomby serves as president and chief executive officer and as a board member of the Heising-Simons Action Fund. She is also the president and chief executive officer of the Heising-Simons Foundation. She has more than 35 years of experience in philanthropy and issues related to young children. Immediately prior to joining the Foundation, Deanna was an independent consultant to foundations, nonprofits, and government agencies, helping to design and evaluate programs for children. She has a Ph.D. in psychology and a master’s in health services research, both from Stanford University.