California Community Foundations Strengthen Nonprofit Capacity
Community foundations look beyond traditional grantmaking to find new ways to support the next generation of nonprofit leaders and improve organizational sustainability
Since 1994, the League of California Community Foundations has brought together foundations throughout the state, enabling them to learn from each other’s efforts to meet their communities’ needs. In recent years, the League’s 30 community foundation members and their donors have granted more than $2 billion a year to address health, human services, education, youth development, environmental stability, economic development, arts, culture, leadership development, and disaster resilience efforts throughout California.
Even as the number of donors and grants increases, capacity-building programs help make their local nonprofit partners more impactful and sustainable.
Stanislaus Community Foundation
Located in the heart of California’s Central Valley, the Stanislaus Community Foundation runs several nonprofit strengthening programs aimed at improving education and workforce readiness, supporting economic mobility, and increasing civic engagement.
As part of its capacity-building efforts, SCF partnered with the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) to launch NextGen On Board, a leadership program that trains the next generation of nonprofit leaders while also addressing the lack of diversity on nonprofit boards of directors.
Nonprofits like food banks, domestic violence shelters, disability serving organizations, environmental organizations, and arts organizations in Stanislaus County serve a population of over half a million people, nearly half of whom are Latino and a third are under 18. Yet these organizations are overwhelmingly led by older, white directors.
According to BoardSource, only 17 percent of nonprofit board members are under 40, and a recent report by the Center for Effective Philanthropy revealed that out of more than 200 foundations surveyed in 2020, nearly 60 percent reported that less than a quarter of their board members were people of color.
Marian Kaanon, President and CEO of SCF, stressed the urgency for nonprofit boards to better represent the communities they serve in order to more effectively understand and address community needs.
Over a period of three years, NextGen on Board will recruit approximately 40 fellows under the age of 26 who represent these communities. Fellows with a track record of leadership and community service will be matched with a nonprofit organization where they will serve on the board of directors and be mentored by a current director on nonprofit governance topics like nonprofit fiscal management, fundraising, and compliance. Among participating nonprofits are Friends of Modesto Library; Boys and Girls Clubs of Stanislaus County; United Way; Second Harvest; Modesto Children’s Museum; Cricket’s Hope; Society for disAbilities; Carnegie Arts Center;’ Parent Resource Center; and Stanislaus Cradle to Career Partnership.
The fellows’ unique perspectives will deepen their paired nonprofit’s understanding of issues that impact young people, allowing the organization to better innovate solutions to real-world needs.
Marian Kaanon, President and CEO of SCF, is “especially excited about NextGen on Board because it is a youth power building program and a nonprofit capacity building program at the same time.”
Kern Community Foundation
Kern Community Foundation matches the charitable interests of Kern County donors with organizations that address community needs, through one-on-one advising and a local giving guide available to all community members. The Foundation also runs a number of capacity-building programs that aim for greater sustainability in the local nonprofit ecosystem.
Philanthropy on Tap is a monthly speaker series that showcases Kern County nonprofits to local business leaders. Agencies apply for a “visibility grant” offered in partnership with the Greater Bakersfield Chamber and organize informal Q&A sessions at local venues with potential donors, volunteers, and advocates, significantly increasing visibility among potential donors and connecting nonprofits with donors with specific interests.
Jumpstart is a partnership between Kern County Foundation and fundraising software giant Network for Good (NFG), with additional support from the County of Kern. A small cohort of nonprofits receive a year of fundraising technical assistance and the use of NFG donor development software at a deeply subsidized cost. The nonprofits build on important fundraising work they have already done while the increased efficiency builds capacity and sustainability.
Give Big Kern is a month-long online crowdfunding effort that culminates in a 24-hour “giving frenzy” that generated $835K in unrestricted dollars for local nonprofits in 2021. In preparation for Give Big Kern, participating nonprofits receive training in online fundraising, marketing, social media, board engagement, and donor cultivation.
The COVID pandemic pushed the Foundation to think about how building capacity goes hand in hand with resiliency. To ensure that Kern nonprofits emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever, the Foundation created a virtual “nonprofit empowerment center” with links to the Foundation Directory Online, community calendar, a toolkit for nonprofit strengthening (workshops, resources, funding opportunities), COVID resources, nonprofit leadership tools, and resources about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Foundation is also exploring ways to improve its internal systems and bringing an agile organizational mindset to improve the way internal operations occur at nonprofits. In partnership with Agile Slopes, the Foundation developed a curriculum that coaches nonprofits on how to bring fast-paced innovations into their organizations.
Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation offers a scholarship program, grant-making to nonprofits, and an emergency response fund for the Tahoe Truckee region, where overlapping factors challenge the resilience of local communities. Bifurcated by the California/Nevada border, the rural area has a tourism-based economy and a high cost of living. Meanwhile, nonprofit leadership positions are sparse and low-paying, with few local professional developments and capacity-building opportunities.
On the Verge is a year-long program designed to develop and retain emerging nonprofit leaders working toward strengthening local families. During a recent cohort, local nonprofit leaders worked within six different cities to develop solutions to community problems.
“We know that working in family strengthening can be stressful and the pay is modest,” said Alison Schwedner, the Community Collaborative Program Director. “In order to retain talent in this work, we must help emerging leaders develop essential hard skills, fortify their networks of trusted colleagues, and help them grow personally. The year format enables the participants to experience first hand what it means to be part of a high functioning team.”
The most recent OTV cohort supported the merger of four family support organizations. Two family resources centers, a hunger relief center, and a crisis support center that were all serving the same communities were consolidated, significantly improving all of their efficiency and impact as they could now share resources and stop duplicate efforts that drained resources.
OTV is run by the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee (CCTT), a program of TTCF since 2008. The collective comprises nearly 50 health, education, and social service organizations in California and Nevada who work in health, education, and social services, and works on the development, fundraising, evaluation reporting, and publishes data-based issue briefs. They go into local communities to gather, measure, and track data that leads to a better understanding of what local communities most need from nonprofit organizations.
More Nonprofit Strengthening Initiatives
The Executive Director Leadership Institute offers is the opportunity to not only learn new skills in leadership, but to engage with the network of Mendocino County organizations, developing deep relationships between participants, and exploring ways we can grow together as a community.
The Lab Capacity Building Program is a seven-month cohort model for nonprofit professionals that provides participants critical time and resources to become more effective, efficient, and cooperative leaders.
Coffee & Connections is a pilot networking program for non-profit professionals designed to cultivate community-based, mutually beneficial relationships with one another around shared goals and shared missions. It is a collaboration between the Ventura County Community Foundation and the Center for Nonprofit Leadership.
The Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNE) works with nonprofits of all types and sizes to be stronger, more resilient and equitable. CNE helps staff, boards and volunteers make meaningful connections to resources and one another.
The Northern California Association of Nonprofits (NorCAN) lives at the Humboldt Area Foundation. It was established in 1999 to serve the rural nonprofit sector in Humboldt, Del Norte and Trinity Counties and today connects organizations to share information, expertise, and resources. NorCAN helps nonprofits make deeper impacts through trainings, professional development, networking opportunities and a biennial conference.
The Technical Assistance Program (TAP) began in 2006 as a collection of training workshops and technical assistance grants to help local nonprofits grow and thrive. It has since grown to include an annual Nonprofit Leadership Summit.
In a partnership with Network for Good, CFNS hosts Jumpstart, an immersive, 12-month fundraising capacity building program for local nonprofits. Nonprofits receive integrated tools, planning guidance, and one-on-one coaching to build their fundraising capacity, diversify revenue, and sustain and grow their programs.
The Community Foundation partners with the University of the Pacific, Benerd College to host a four-month Nonprofit Leadership Certificate Program to support the professional development needs of middle to upper-level management of nonprofits in San Joaquin County.
The Collaboration for Social Impact (CSI) brings together nonprofit leaders for workshops, seminars, coaching and mentoring, along with public and social sector advocacy. It supports capacity building in the areas of leadership development, technical assistance, financial management, technology, cross organizational collaboration, and personnel health and wellness.
The ASCEND:BLO initiative seeks to enhance the growth, sustainability, impact and sense of community among Black-led nonprofits in the Bay Area to ensure the long-term vitality of those organizations and the communities of color they serve; and apply a fresh, dynamic and replicable approach to collaborative capacity building that further develops the nonprofit sector with a lens towards race and equity.
Driven by data and feedback collected throughout the foundation's COVID grantmaking phase and Community Advisory Council, SVCF developed the Capacity-Building and Leadership Investment Program (CBLI) to strengthen organizations serving San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.