California and the San Joaquin Valley are in the midst of the worst drought in state history. In January 2015, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency and introduced drastic water cuts, including a 25% reduction of water use by all cities. The drought has caused significant disruption and distress in urban and rural water use, agricultural livelihoods, the larger economy and day-to-day activities of residents across the state.

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.

In spring 2015, the Fresno Regional Foundation (now the Central Valley Community Foundation) in partnership with The California Endowment and Kern Community Foundation began examining the impacts of the drought on non-profit organizations that have been at the forefront of helping struggling individuals, families, and communities.

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.

Key Recommendations:

  1. Invest in the San Joaquin Valley’s future.
  2. Focus on strategic investments in poor rural communities to promote long-term sustainability.
  3. Make grants to organizations for both specific drought-related programs (including water access, economic opportunity, and family health) and general support.
  4. Support organizational capacity and effectiveness
  5. Educate and inform
  6. Explore new approaches

OVER PHOTO: Yolanda Serrate draws water from a tank provided to her after the well failed at her East Porterville home.
PHOTO: Chieko Hara, The Porterville Recorder