Two hours east of Los Angeles, the Victor Valley area of California is located in the High Desert section of the Mojave Desert. While the Valley’s population is similar to that of Oakland, almost 400,000, it does not have the advantages of proximity to other large urban areas. As a result, there is not a strong economic base in the area; approximately half of the employed residents of the Victor Valley make long commutes to jobs outside of the area.
Access to resources, food insecurity, housing affordability, mental health and substance abuse, and crime and safety are significant community issues in the region, where 40% of households live below 200% of the federal poverty level. These factors combine into a substantial need for support services from nonprofits, a majority of which are small and struggling to address the needs of the community.
The Community Partnership Fund’s Sustainability Initiative helps grantees in its service areas become more sustainable and effective. In partnership with the local St. Joseph Hospital and St. Mary Medical Center, SJCPF brought together five High Desert nonprofits, critical to providing safety net services for the region, to focus on their organizational sustainability and capacity.
The program offered monthly learning sessions for both executive and board leadership, an organizational assessment, and extensive one-on-one coaching for grantees to build sustainability plans for each organization. Session topics included:
- Moving from crisis to planning
- Succession planning and leadership development
- Board development
- Risk management
- Making the case for operating support
The initiative provides more than $150,000 in resources for the grantees during the five-month program, including coaching, training, and grants for core operations and capacity building. But the long-term impact is much greater, as the process leads to more effective leaders and stronger organizations which are better able to meet the needs of their communities.
Grantees themselves have listed the key benefits of the sustainability process as being:
- Increased capacity of executive and board leadership
- Stronger relationships between staff and board members, and a clearer understanding of roles
- Executive directors are better able to move from a crisis mindset to a planning orientation
- Executive directors better understand the structural issues inside their own organization
- Executive directors embrace succession planning and leadership development as critical organizational investments
- Stronger relationships between community organizations and local hospital community benefit leads