connect / 2014
Stronger Together: South LA Nonprofits Get Capacity Fit
Please describe yourself.
Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)
In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.
Supporting veteran South LA nonprofits to be local capacity builders, grow revenue and help other South LA orgs achieve their missions.
Does your project impact Los Angeles County?Yes (benefits a region of LA County)
Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?
- South LA
What is your idea/project in more detail?
Resilient South LA nonprofits will become local capacity builders and earn income as community-based consulting firms. Organizations that have shown expertise over decades, increased resources and moved key policy will assist newer nonprofits and leaders to strengthen their organizations and achieve their missions. Local veteran nonprofits could earn millions over time through quality consulting and organizational development services. SoACT will coordinate, train and support these nonprofits to develop their consulting practices and expand indigenous knowledge. With consolidated marketing using social media and effective strategic planning, we will collaborate to keep consulting dollars in South LA and build a robust nonprofit scaffold.
What will you do to implement this idea/project?
1) Train and support 9 South LA partners to provide local capacity building services
SoACT is partnering with South LA nonprofits led by people of color that are committed to cultivating a strong nonprofit infrastructure in South LA and ready to become capacity builders in this project. Our founding partners who have shaped this project with us are Community Coalition, Jenesse Center, and Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE). We are reaching out to additional organizations that have: 1) a track record of providing effective peer learning and consulting; 2) organizational capacity and designated staff to become capacity builders; 3) sound fiscal and organizational health; and 4) board and leadership commitment to develop their capacity building program.
2) Connect 100 South LA nonprofits that want to receive capacity building services from their peers to provide these services
To identify these organizations, we are reaching out to South LA nonprofits that demonstrate: 1) readiness to be an active partner in the consulting process and accountable for implementation; 2) investment in developing staff capacity to meet outcomes; 3) pursuit of consulting topics driven by organizational priorities and strategic plan; and 4) commitment to move beyond a transactional model and build lasting organizational capacity.
3) Provide the infrastructure to sustain and strengthen the project
SoACT will be responsible for fund and resource development, business planning and evaluation of the project. We aim to demonstrate that peer learning and consulting for and by South LA nonprofits is both financially sustainable and organizationally impactful. We will expand use of social media and work to improve network density among organizations focused on earned income, developing expertise and improving capacity.
How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?
Our project will help make LA the best place to connect today with a website that POPS with engaging content on capacity building; a blog on what we are learning and how it is being used to improve our community; “TA Cafes” with technical assistance on thorny topics where folks need face-to-face inspiration; and webinars that reach those who work to engage voters, improve transit and green spaces, find better food and connect with youth and emerging leaders. By 2050, we will have a critical mass of well-trained leaders and managers to move agendas of equity and justice and sustain revitalized and innovative nonprofits. Nonprofits will have easier access to technical assistance to improve systems and make better use of volunteers. With stronger, more collaborative and strategic community organizations, South LA residents will receive better services, play a larger role in the governance of local organizations, and find new pathways to engage in community.
We will help make LA the best place to connect by:
1) Developing the capacity and leadership of people of color-led organizations in South LA, reflecting our population
2) Mining peer networks and peer learning (Sharing expertise, valuing local knowledge and voices, and exercising a deep commitment to collaboration, coordination and leveraging organizational strengths)
3) Strengthening social change and movement building in South LA (Prioritizing work that is rooted in community organizing and the empowerment of South LA residents, and amplifying the collective work of local organizations and individuals)
4) Improving outcomes for organizations and residents in South LA, including quality of life and economic indicators
5) Developing culturally responsive curricula that builds capacity (We define capacity as our partner SCOPE does: the lasting skills, tools and expertise an organization needs to succeed)
6) Supporting the sustainability of capacity building partners with scaffolds of tools and resources to support and sustain innovation at the community level
Whom will your project benefit?
Our project will benefit the leadership, staff, members and clients of the 100 South LA nonprofits who will receive capacity building services – including the 20 who receive individualized consulting – the 9 South LA nonprofits who will provide these services, and the communities that these organizations serve. We are particularly committed to working with nonprofits invested in civic engagement, local community building and grassroots organizing, including social service agencies that seek to understand and engage their clients as a constituency.
This project will benefit South LA organizations working on each of LA2050’s goals. We believe that the LA2050 goals can be met in South LA if the nonprofits tasked with meeting them are strong and if the community infrastructure that they are a part of has the tools to support innovation. In a 2013 report on the state of nonprofits in LA County, UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs found an extreme service gap in low-income communities: nonprofits exist in the lowest numbers in poor neighborhoods [http://civilsociety.ucla.edu/sites/default/files/publication-pdf/2013%20Report-web_copy.pdf]. This means that, right now, the people in Los Angeles who have the least support are those who essentially need it the most. Our project’s focus on South LA represents a desire to reverse this service gap and a long-term commitment to communities of color. We believe that our project the first step in designing a model that can be replicated citywide.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
We are thrilled to report that Community Coalition [www.cocosouthla.org], Jenesse Center [www.jenesse.org], and Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education [www.scopela.org] came on in 2013 and have developed the project with SoACT. Each brings 21-34 years of organizing and/or providing services as a people of color-led nonprofit in South LA, a history of positive outcomes in South LA, and experience providing technical assistance and training to other nonprofits. Through Community Coalition’s Prevention Network, clients and staff from local social service agencies get trained in organizational development, sustainability and strategic planning, and connect with funders. In the Peer Learning Collaborative on Cultural Competency, Jenesse Center mentors and provides technical assistance to domestic violence organizations in CA improving how they serve the Black community. At SCOPE, trainings on topics like civic participation, fund development and coalition building build the capacity of campaigns that impact low-income communities of color nationwide.
SoACT intends to add 6 additional South LA nonprofits as capacity building partners in 2015. We are also eager to connect with collaborators through this grant challenge and excited by ideas generated at the #LA2050Collaborates meetings, including “investing in grant readiness for communities that need it to secure more funding, e.g., South LA” (Goal Notes: LIVE) and “create a coalition, or at least some sort of support group, where these different LA orgs can continually share challenges, opportunities, needs” (Goal Notes: LEARN).
CompassPoint Nonprofit Services [http://www.compasspoint.org/] is an additional committed partner, assisting in training, coaching and curriculum development. While based in the Bay Area, they literally have written the textbooks on consulting, coaching, facilitation and other tools and techniques. With their commitment and expertise, CompassPoint will benefit us by expediting the facilitator process and by providing coaching to the SoACT capacity building team.
Three factors critical to the success of our project include: maintaining credible and responsive relationships with SLA nonprofits; maximizing the use of social network tools to engage and make more readily available capacity building knowledge; and cultural competence and responsiveness to the unique needs of diverse organizations.
How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?
- Rates of volunteerism
- Voting rates by race
- Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
- Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)
Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.
Success in this project will result in positive organizational changes to include: improved effectiveness of local boards to stem revenue lost from poor organizational performance; mergers and strategic partnerships to cover areas where nonprofits do not exist or have gone out of business; building a base of individual donors focused on South LA; and crafting viable strategic plans and better evaluation of programs.
RATES OF VOLUNTEERISM – Collaboration across nonprofits in South LA is fundamental to our project. We anticipate that our project will help increase volunteer rates in South LA. Some organizations will expand their volunteer programs as they strengthen their organizational functioning. Others will partner with their peers for volunteer events, particularly as organizations become more deeply connected to each other in peer learning sessions and individualized consulting.
VOTING RATES BY RACE – One of the project’s core principles is strengthening social change and movement building in South LA. Our founding partners Community Coalition and SCOPE have done great voter engagement work in South LA, from local school board elections to national elections. We are excited to see how their leadership will help organizations that want to deepen their voter and civic engagement work.
ADULTS GETTING SUFFICIENT SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL SUPPORT – Many of the organizations that we have reached out to about participating in the project work with adults in social service provision and others engage adults in leadership development. Improving the effectiveness of these organizations will mean better social and emotional support for adults. Our founding partner Jenesse Center does exceptional work in this area with adults and families experiencing domestic violence, and we know that their leadership will have an impact on this metric.
GOVERNMENT RESPONSIVENESS TO RESIDENTS’ NEEDS (DREAM METRIC) – We recognize that government seeks sturdy and well organized nonprofits to channel federal, state and county dollars to areas of need. South LA has to increase our visibility and capacity with government (and foundations) and demonstrate capacity to increase federal, state and local resources that flow to our communities. The proposed work will result in us becoming more competitive and innovative.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project.
- Expanded availability of local nonprofit capacity building services in South Los Angeles:
- 18 total South LA peer learning sessions attended by 100 South LA nonprofits
- 120 total hours of individualized consulting provided to 20 South LA nonprofits
- Comparison of before and after data on availability of local capacity building services
- Increased consulting and peer engagement skills among South LA nonprofits that provide capacity building services:
- 80% of South LA nonprofits providing capacity building services demonstrated improved capacity building skills, via before and after evaluations using a “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” scale (Likert scale)
- 80% of South LA nonprofits receiving capacity building services gauge the consulting and peer engagement sessions they participate in to be effective, via evaluation of peer learning sessions and consulting engagements
- Increased income to South LA nonprofits that provide capacity building services:
- Amount of income South LA nonprofits generate by providing capacity building services
- Interest demonstrated by current or new donors in capacity building services, via interviews with South LA nonprofits providing capacity building services
- Improved capacity among South LA nonprofits that receive local capacity building services:
- Changes in capacity building measurements, via before and after evaluations through CCAT [http://www.tccccat.com/], My Healthy Organization [http://www.myhealthyorganization.org/] or comparable assessment
- 70% of South LA nonprofits receiving capacity building services demonstrate capacity improvements, via before and after evaluations using the Likert scale
What two lessons have informed your solution or project?
1) A market exists for capacity building services that several South LA nonprofits are poised to enter
Foundations will double the impact of funds they spend on capacity building when they invest in the SoACT model: cost-effective consulting and earned income for entrepreneurial organizations to funnel back into programs. Estimates indicate that consulting and technical assistance to nonprofits is a multimillion dollar market, perhaps as high as $2 billion across the US. Experienced nonprofits need to capture a market share of these dollars spent in South LA. Based on their knowledge of the landscape, success in sustaining their own organizations over decades and experience providing practical peer support, our peer providers are the best investment for help that is readily available and less costly than alternatives.
While no exact data is available to pinpoint the market, we know that there is demand in South LA. In our survey of 23 South LA nonprofits last fall, 74% said they would value receiving one-on-one consulting from another South LA organization, and 57% said that they would find it useful to participate in peer exchange sessions led by trainers from another South LA organization. The main area for support needed is fund development, followed by evaluation/data analysis, communications/marketing, governance/board development, strategic planning and volunteer management.
2) Community-based consulting will get South LA nonprofits to scale
In a 2010 report on the ecosystem of LA’s nonprofit capacity building, social impact experts the TCC Group recognized that LA’s nonprofit sector needs “a robust set of nonprofit capacity builders that provide a diverse range of high-quality, in-depth, place-based, culturally-competent, and comprehensive services and coordinate their activities well.” [http://www.weingartfnd.org/files/Capacity-Report-Final.pdf] They noted a particular shortage of high quality peer exchanges, culturally-competent services, and services in communities outside of central Los Angeles.
We know through experience that consulting and peer exchange are effective. The TCC Group found consulting engagements and peer exchanges to be the most effective types of technical assistance. Consulting engagements change organization-wide behavior. Peer exchanges done about individual behavioral changes by creating a motivational coaching group and a space where peers share key knowledge. This can happen in South LA!
Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.
We’ve already begun! Our work with organizations that will provide capacity building and our work with organizations that will receive it is well underway.
This year, SoACT piloted the project and began working with our partners to hone their skills in fund development. This past February, we hosted Building Power, an event that brought 80 people from 55 mostly-South LA-based nonprofits together for peer-led fund development workshops, panels and networking with specialists. Community Coalition led a workshop on developing an individual donor base, Jenesse Center on crafting and communicating your organization’s story to funders, and SCOPE on building and maintaining relationships with funders. In evaluations, 100% of respondents agreed/strongly agreed that “the workshop I attended was well-structured and facilitated,” 94% that “presenters demonstrated understanding of my community and my organization’s needs,” and 99% that “I have confidence that peer-led capacity building will work in my community.”
A total of 20 South LA organizations have expressed interest in receiving capacity building and fund development support, including those who responded to last year’s survey and those who signed up at Building Power. We identified a total of 21 organizations with potential to become capacity builders, reached out to 12 thus far, and received applications from 4, 2 of which are especially promising. We are off to a great start!
Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?
Two of the major barriers we anticipate in this project include: 1) issues of scheduling and deployment of capacity builders given the ordinary demands of their current assignments; and 2) earning the trust and support of funders that have high expectations and standards for the consultants they hire.
Social Action Partners has received consulting requests from 3 organizations and 1 collaborative with the potential of earning $20,000 in revenue. The demand is quickly mounting before we have capacity for implementation by peer providers. There is also some urgency to schedule these capacity building sessions with organizations that have funds to pay and need immediate help. As we anticipate the need to train capacity builders and match their skill set to the requests for technical assistance, we expect to encounter conflicts with existing organizational priorities and difficulty matching the needs of organizations requesting help with the current expertise of providers. Our strategy to overcome this problem is to plan as far ahead as possible; over-recruit among the capacity builders assuring we have one ready to go and another on standby; and finally to use SoACT staff in cases where we do not have any of the peer capacity builders available. We expect this will be a short-term barrier. As we train and are able to deploy more capacity builders, the project’s reputation will be that we deliver as promised, on time and on budget.
In gaining the trust of funders, SoACT’s model has been vetted by the CA Community Foundation and is currently under review at The Weingart Foundation, funders with significant desire and investment in improving the technical assistance landscape in Los Angeles. Fortunately, many funders are aware of and utilize the capacity of Jemmott Rollins Group (JRG) for effective TA delivery. JRG actively supports the growth and development of SoACT and has agreed to refer organizations seeking services; assist SoACT in planning and delivering services; and use SoACT trained providers, where possible, as contractors. As SoACT builds its practice model and reputation, JRG will refer all of its capacity building work (at no cost or profit) and thus assist SoACT to develop strong relationships with foundations and other institutions invested in quality TA. We hope that LA2050 will assist us in promoting the work with funders invested in technical assistance improvement.
What resources does your project need?
- Network/relationship support
- Money (financial capital)
- Volunteers/staff (human capital)
- Publicity/awareness (social capital)
- Community outreach