Partnering with CCF
Through our competitive grantmaking, we focus on positive systemic change that leads to a better quality of life for all residents in Los Angeles County, particularly the most vulnerable.
We seek to partner with strong organizations and use the criteria below to evaluate potential nonprofit partners:
- The organization’s strategic plan aligns with the strategies of a CCF priority area or initiative.
- The organization has demonstrated impact in its programs and services. By consistently tracking its progress, a healthy nonprofit will have a good base of evidence of its impact. It also blends its impact data with a compelling story. It has the ability to communicate its impact clearly and succinctly to a potential donor whether verbally, in print, or through visual means.
- The organization has the ability and capacity to advance the strategies of a CCF program or initiative.
- The organization is engaged in systemic change through civic engagement and public policy and/or collective impact. It is making a lasting impact by addressing the root causes of the issues facing the people that it serves. Collective impact is an intentional way of working together and sharing information in order to solve a complex problem.
- The organization serves Los Angeles County. We pay particular attention to organizations serving Antelope Valley, eastern San Gabriel Valley and southeast L.A. County, helping us to fulfill our mandate as a county-wide funder. Our goal is to build capacity and impact in these regions, where there are few nonprofits serving local needs.
We also look for these components of a sustainable organization:
- Strategic plan/framework. The organization has a robust strategic plan that outlines where it wants to be and describes how it is going to get there. A nonprofit with a view toward sustainability has a plan in place. That plan is informed by board, staff and key stakeholder input, lays out a clear vision and mission of the organization, and serves as a guiding tool against which the organization monitors its progress and impact.
- Strong leadership. The organization has experienced and effective leadership and management to achieve the goals in the strategic plan. Its leadership is stable and the organizational structure is strong. A sustainable organization has an adaptive leadership style. Visionary, yet pragmatic. Focused, yet flexible when appropriate. It also plans for the future so that it remains healthy and sustainable, even during times of leadership transition. Strong leadership includes a succession plan.
- Engaged board. The board, which is diverse in its composition, is committed and engaged. It leads and supports the nonprofit through good governance practices and full and active participation in fundraising monitored through a board give or get policy that is appropriate for the organization. In general, a give or get policy is where your board members agree to either donate (give) an amount meaningful to them every year, paid for out of their own personal resources, or they agree to raise an equivalent amount from others (get).
- Independence and Transparency. The organization has a conflict of interest policy. Conflicts of interest in a board of directors can include related parties on the board, board members related to employees, certain transactions and dual-capacity individuals. While it might not be possible to avoid a conflict of interest in every situation, it is best practice to avoid or minimize them, and to communicate them proactively. Even an appearance of a conflict raises questions.
- Established financial position. A sustainable organization shows a positive trend of break-even or surplus budgets over the past five years. In the case of deficits, they should be episodic rather than structural. Also key are a strong fundraising plan, the ability of the nonprofit to understand its business lines and overall business model and to be able to clearly and logically convey its own “financial story.” A strong nonprofit also has operating reserves. The National Center for Charitable Statistics, in its 2010 Operating Reserve Policy Toolkit, recommends that nonprofits build an operating reserve equal to 25 percent of annual operating expenses (i.e., an amount equal to three months of operating expenses).
- Continuous improvement. A sustainable nonprofit tracks its progress through data, using the information to continuously adjust and improve its programs and operations.
- Collaboration. Nonprofits are part of an ecosystem, in the communities in which they operate and the issues they work on. In a healthy ecosystem, no one organization can sustain itself through its own existence. A sustainable nonprofit enjoys deep and durable partnerships with others, especially across sectors, and knows how to effectively contribute to collaborative efforts to address complex community challenges and develop solutions. We especially admire organizations willing to strategically restructure to be able to scale their impact, reduce duplication and share services with other agencies.