From Linda Beech Cutler, Chief Executive Officer
This time each year, we typically hold our annual Celebration of Generosity. This is a special gathering to all of us at the Foundation because it’s a celebration of all we’ve accomplished together. It’s our chance to see you – our fundholders, community partners, and friends – and an opportunity to express our sincere gratitude for your generosity and commitment to working alongside us to make our region stronger.
Because we are not able to gather in person this year, I am writing this message to thank you for joining us to overcome the challenges facing our region and to update you on the Foundation’s activities this year.
In March and April, as the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic became apparent, we launched the Sacramento Region Disaster Relief Fund and rapidly deployed $840,000 to 118 nonprofits hard hit by its onslaught. The innovation and ingenuity of our nonprofit sector has been remarkable, and this support has made it possible for those organizations that received funding to continue providing their important programs and services to the community.
In May, the region’s generosity was again demonstrated when Big Day of Giving saw its greatest success ever, generating $12 million for 615 participating nonprofits. This represents 40% more funds, donors, and donations than the previous year, with over half of those donations being $50 or less. Since its inception in 2013, Big Day of Giving has raised $52 million of unrestricted funding for more than 600 nonprofits. Even more important from a long-term perspective, our Big Day of Giving capacity-building trainings have helped nonprofit staff and volunteers develop critical skills they need to sustain their work year-round. In fact, these are the skills that many have relied to make it through this difficult year.
Recently, we wrapped up our successful leadership work on the 2020 Census as the Administrative Community Based Organization for Region One, a 17-county swath of California, to help assure that hard-to-count populations were enumerated, and maximum resources will be available to our communities throughout the next decade. I’m happy to report that through our efforts and those of our 80 partners, 14 out of the 17 counties exceeded their 2010 Census self-response rates.
At the Foundation, we know that an accurate Census is a crucial prerequisite to meeting the needs of communities throughout our region; we all rely on fair and accurate counts to determine federal funding available for health care, education, transportation, housing, civil rights enforcement, job training, law enforcement, food, legal services, and more. We’re proud to have been a part of this important effort.
At the core of the harsh realities of today are complex social and economic factors that continue to limit equal opportunities for people of color, for low-income individuals and families, and for so many in our community who encounter barriers when they should encounter pathways.
That’s why the Foundation is shifting its Community Impact Fund to focus on equity more explicitly, and as a result, we've renamed the fund to Building Equitable Communities Fund. Our goal is to support efforts that ensure all in our community have equitable opportunities, efforts aligned with our long-term Strategic Initiatives to strengthen the four-county region.
The root issues of inequity aren’t new, nor is the Foundation’s commitment to addressing them. Equity has been embedded in our support of grantees and Strategic Initiatives for years.
Take the Capital Area Promise (CAP) Scholars program, a key component of the Foundation’s education initiative, for example. The focus of this effort is to provide needs-based scholarships to students from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in higher education, complemented with wraparound services like mentoring, tutoring, and student success programs. Since 2016 when the program launched, we have awarded over 725 scholarships of up to $2,500 each to Scholars. These scholarships are renewable for two years, and 100% of recipients have been from low-income households, over 80% of these scholarships have gone to students of color, and more than 50% have gone to young men of color.
If not for the intervention of this program, and the supports and resources it makes available, many of these students would have faced greater struggles to reach their educational goals. We’ve heard from many of our Scholars who have told us how the scholarship funds, in conjunction with the support programs, have not only helped them in getting to college, but in persisting through, too.
The CAP Scholars program has served as a model for how the marrying of scholarship funds with support services has made going to college, staying in college, and getting a degree a reality for so many students who otherwise may not have had the opportunity.
I am happy to report that the Foundation remains on solid financial footing, despite a volatile market this spring. Assets continue to grow, as do our funds and number of fundholders. Please view the latest Investment Overview to learn more about how we compare to other community foundations in the nation and how we’ve fared over the past several months.
Although some argue that Donor Advised Funds are vehicles for the wealthy to warehouse tax advantaged funds, that is simply not true in this region. Grantmaking from Donor Advised Funds held at the Foundation is on the rise, up 20% over last year. To date, we have nearly exceeded 2019 grant totals and we are just entering the “busy season of giving.” We are also well ahead of five-year averages. The growth in grants is one of our most important success metrics, and we are committed to working with all of our fundholders to maximize the impact of their charitable funds. Together with our fundholders, the Foundation is one of the largest grantmakers in the Sacramento region!
So, while we have a lot to be proud of, we must be vigilant. We must consider how we are cultivating our area’s next generation of philanthropists and what are we doing to strengthen the local nonprofit sector so that these organizations are operating at maximum capacity now and into the future.
Some of our current efforts to address these future challenges include our Grants Advisory Board for Youth (GABY) program. GABY supports youth by developing their knowledge of philanthropy, skills for improving their community through service learning, and resources for implementing youth-led projects. The program sparks young people's interests in giving and taking action on issues that are important to them and encourages local youth to join with us to help make our community a better place.
Another role that we love is meeting with families of current or potential fundholders as they model philanthropy to their children and grandchildren. Generational philanthropic planning is so important, so if you are not already working with us on this, please let us know how we can help. We would be privileged to work with you.
As we look to the future of philanthropy, another key effort of ours is nonprofit capacity building. Donors now and into the future need to have confidence that the organizations to which they are donating are strong and sustainable. Big Day of Giving is really a year-round capacity building program offering to all participant organizations trainings on topics that they can use as part of their overall development and operations.
In 2019, we piloted a more in-depth capacity building program, called The Lab Capacity Building Program that is a competitive nine-month program for nonprofit Executive Directors and emerging leaders, supporting a focus on the future. The early results of this pilot are extremely encouraging. The second cohort of The Lab is about to wrap up its year, and we’ll report on the successes that have come from this program in the coming months.
Speaking of the months ahead, please mark Thursday, May 6, on your 2021 calendars for next year’s Big Day of Giving. And while our other events will be virtual or postponed for the foreseeable future, we hope you will stay in touch with us and give us feedback along the way.
With your continued support and feedback, we will come out of these times an even stronger community.
Linda Beech Cutler
Chief Executive Officer