Community Before Self


Malin and Roberta Burnham Give $20M to Improve Region

Malin and Roberta Burnham announced a landmark $20 million donation to the Burnham Center for Community Advancement (BCCA) to ensure the nonprofit they helped found just two years ago continues for years to come. The gift represents the couple’s largest charitable donation ever given to a single organization.

The Burnhams previously made a substantial commitment in 2020 to help establish BCCA, founded on Malin’s vision of building an organization that could spur civic engagement and collaboration to make our region a better place.

After seeing BCCA’s highly impactful start and hearing resounding positive community feedback for having such an institution in our region, the Burnhams say this flagship gift was made to ensure BCCA is here to stay, to advance community aspirations and make the most of our opportunities.

In just two short years, BCCA has been instrumental in pushing initiatives and sparking action, as seen with the designation of San Diego-Tijuana as World Design Capital 2024 and renewed conversations on the fiscal and governance sustainability of Balboa Park.

“My work with BCCA is some of the most important I have ever done,” Burnham shared with GB Magazine. “Community Before Self is more than just a motto or the title of a book I wrote, it is the ethos I live by. BCCA will carry that banner going forward.”

BCCA is a think-and-do tank based on the premise that through community engagement, vigorous dialogue, research, data, and best practices, it can be a platform for our community leaders, businesses, educators, workers, researchers, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, residents, and government to collaborate and move the region forward, together.
“Nobody can do it alone,” Burnham added. “We have to work together if we want to get the hard things done.”

“With our mission to help make the San Diego binational region a better place to live, work, and play for all and to create a platform that enhances the work of others in the region, Malin and Roberta’s investment in BCCA is truly a gift to the entire community,” said Tad Parzen, President and CEO of BCCA. “With this investment, BCCA will continue to enhance the binational community and have the sustainability to get meaningful things done.”

Beyond the World Design Capital 2024 effort and Balboa Park, BCCA has focus areas that include housing affordability, rebuilding the binational community fabric, and spreading economic prosperity to more communities in the region. Initiatives and focus areas will evolve as the priorities of community members and partners change over time. With a diverse and wide-ranging community advisory board and organizational partners, BCCA has a broad view of issues important to the community.

Burnham was chairman of John Burnham & Company and Burnham Real Estate, which was acquired by Cushman & Wakefield in 2008. A native San Diegan, his name is synonymous with numerous philanthropic efforts, including the Sanford Burnham Prebys, Rady School of Business, Smart Border Coalition, USS Midway Museum, Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, and US Olympic Training Center, among many others.

Last year Malin and Roberta celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary surrounded by their family. Their passion and long history of supporting education, health, and civic engagement-centered organizations continue to be hallmarks of their relationship.

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Esteban Villanueva