This post is part of the #CF100 Series of blog posts. The Council on Foundations is marking the 100th anniversary of the nation’s first community foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, by highlighting the roles of community foundations with this series.
See where it all began at our
Fall Conference for Community Foundations in Cleveland this October!
The Community Foundation, since 2011, has allocated resources for grants we call “strategic grants.” Our strategic grant journey began in 2009, when one of the Board of Trustees three-year strategic planning initiatives was to become more focused in its efforts to improve lives in Frederick County.
The first step was to conduct a community-wide human needs assessment, with this information to be used to create measurable, positive community impact through its grantsmaking program. The fall of 2010 and spring and summer of 2011 saw the implementation of the human needs assessment project, with the help of the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance – Jacob France Institute of the University of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies as our partners.
The research focused on all areas of human services within Frederick County, and paid special attention to the areas of health, youth, and basic human needs. The human needs assessment results were released in August 2011, with the Board of Trustees identifying three strategic areas of focus within the health, youth, and basic human needs: affordable and accessible health care, ensuring children are “ready-for-school” at age 5, and housing, with emphasis on the newly homeless and precariously housed. The Human Needs Assessment Executive Summary and full report can be obtained at www.FrederickCountyGives.org/impact/needsreport.
In year one (FY2012), $185,617 was allocated for these three areas. The year two allocation (FY13) was 18 percent higher, at $219,000, thanks to generous donors and funding partners. Year one provided a learning curve for all involved, and as a result, the grant period for year two was extended through December 31, 2013, giving grantees a longer time frame to expend their money and measure results. The reporting system was also revised, both in content and timing. The year three allocation (FY14) increased again by 9.3 percent, to $239,308.
Funding is only one way that the Community Foundation is creating impact in these three areas. The Community Foundation has taken a leadership role in identifying needs, encouraging collaboration among services providers, and planning for future service provision. For example, the Community Foundation has taken a leadership role in developing the 10 year strategic plan to reduce homelessness as a part of its work with the Frederick County Coalition for the Homeless (FCCH), a consortium of local nonprofits and government entities that promotes sharing of ideas, developing new resources, and preventing duplication of effort between organizations. This plan now provides a framework for service provision and expansion and will be valuable in the Community Foundation’s strategic funding decisions. Additionally, the Community Foundation created a committee of early childhood education specialists to conduct asset mapping in the area of school readiness to review service provision for preschool children, their families and others who are integral in supporting social, physical, and cognitive development. Soon, we expect to be working with another local group of experts for asset mapping in the health care area.
As we approach year four (FY15), more generous donors and funding partners are committing their financial support to one or more of the three strategic areas, and the investment of hard work and commitment by all the strategic grantees is chipping away, one grant at a time, at some of the most pressing needs in Frederick County.
I am excited to see where this next year takes us and how we can build on what has already been accomplished. Strategic grant impact is For Good. Forever. For Frederick County.
Elizabeth Y. Day is President and CEO of The Community Foundation of Frederick County.