As we consider ways to promote effective philanthropy and increase impact, we are exploring alternative approaches to support organizations in the Central Valley. Our goal is to identify strategic investments that leverage our philanthropy and promote long-term sustainability. One method of doing this includes providing both grantmaking support and capacity building assistance to the community benefit organizations / nonprofits who are working in this region. This year, the focus of our efforts will be on the follow-up to the recommendations listed in the drought report we produced in 2015. “Beyond Almonds and Blond Lawns” was created in partnership with the California Endowment and the Kern Community Foundation. The report examines the impacts of the ongoing drought on nonprofit organizations that have been at the forefront of helping struggling individuals, families and communities.

The San Joaquin Valley has been particularly hard-hit, and rural and low-income communities have been especially hurt by the drought. Long-term changes in the agricultural economy, historically low economic development, poor infrastructure and a frayed social safety net are real issues in much of our region. Since nonprofits have not been the focus of previous studies, and because these organizations provide the critical link between philanthropic strategy and lasting social impact, our report is illuminating.

The recommendations provide guidance on how foundations and other funders can assist CBOs. With the drought report recommendations in mind we will be working in these areas:

  • Three cohorts of twenty leaders from the Central Valley whose work intersects with the drought will participate in a series of convenings to build collaboration, increase leadership skills and continue to take the pulse of the impacts of the drought.
  • Two cohorts of eight organizations will participate in a series of capacity building workshops based on areas of need indicated in the Beyond Almonds report.
  • We will work with artists from the Central Valley to commission 2-3 art projects that help “take the story of the drought outside of the Central Valley”.
  • We will provide grant dollars to support the leaders and organizations participating in this work via an “emergent” model of grantmaking, driven by collaboration and partnership with the leaders and organizations in the cohorts described above.

CVCF has been selected by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, through the Community Foundation Water Cohort, to receive funding for our efforts. Stephen D. Bechtel Jr., the former Chairman and CEO of the Bechtel Corporation, a major global engineering and construction company. In 1957 he created the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation as a personal commitment to the prosperity he envisioned and desired for California. Mr. Bechtel directed the Foundation’s primary investments toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and the environment. Because we are in the unique position to offer a local perspective, backed by the drought report, we are able to play an important role in directing the Bechtel philanthropic investments. The drought continues to cause significant disruption and distress for rural and low-income communities and the nonprofits serving them. We are proud to partner with the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation in finding short and long-term solutions.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me:

The drought report can be found on our publications page