- Grantmaking for Systems Change
“In systems change, everything we do is tied to a coalition in which government, private sector, philanthropy and nonprofits all come together to build trust, come to an agreement on what the issue is, discuss it and come up with a strategy to address it.”
– Antonia Hernández, President & CEO, the California Community Foundation
At the heart of our work is a belief that all people deserve the opportunity to fulfill their potential, contribute to society and have their voices heard. Our work tackles the systems that keep those opportunities out of reach for many communities.
Our futures are interwoven, so the impact of poverty reverberates through every segment of society. The problems we face – issues like homelessness, lack of access to healthcare and quality education and the threatened civil rights of immigrant communities are deep-seated and complex. The solutions will not come from treating symptoms; we must use our grantmaking to address root causes.
Over more than a century of making grants, we have learned many hard lessons in our pursuit of impact. As our capacity has grown, we learned that we must also measure our progress over the longer term. For example, we have 10-year strategic planning horizons, make multi-year grant commitments to our partners and have expanded our work to include civic engagement and public policy. All of this is to focus on lasting changes that can alter the outcomes and symptoms of human suffering, especially amongst the poor and vulnerable.
We pursue systemic changes in four inter-related areas: education, health, housing and immigration.
Of course, there will be emerging challenges that we cannot plan for, but, as the community foundation for Los Angeles, the California Community Foundation (CCF) will always be ready to respond to unexpected crises when the community needs us most.
- Community Driven Approach to Systems Change
We collaborate on solutions that are driven by the leaders, organizations and residents who are closest to the realities and needs within our communities.
Working Across Sectors With Vision and Strategy
We start with a clear vision and shared goals that come from engagement with our partners and the most vulnerable members of our communities. CCF forms and manages advisory boards who have been selected to counsel us and co-design our work. Our vision, goals, strategies and tactics are shaped by their input.
We bring together community members, leaders and organizations across sectors ─ public, private, philanthropic and nonprofit ─ to build movements that can make an impact.
Together, our community driven systems change approach includes:
Mapping the System Finding Convergence Identifying Opportunities Measuring Progress Identify the problem and its the root causes CCF Program Offices identify possible areas of overlap among health, housing, education and immigration Stakeholders within the system explore possible solutions, leverage points and barriers Clear metrics are identified Identify what systems impact this problem Stakeholders within the system get together to identify solutions Goals and objectives are identified Progress is measured along the way, and strategies are adjusted as needed
- Supporting and Harnessing the Strength of Grantees
Key to our strategy and success are the diverse grantees that partner with us on education, health, housing and immigration. Over the course of a century, we have honed our grantmaking to consist of four key components:
A. Community Engagement
Our grantees are partners on a journey. But before we try to go anywhere, CCF works within our communities and listens deeply. We get close and listen carefully, because CCF is made up of passionate people who know Los Angeles and are experts in their fields. They have deep ties to the communities in which they work and value collaborating with diverse community groups. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners to continuously assess and respond to the needs in Los Angeles County.
B. Comprehensive Evaluation
Review of a potential partner organization’s financial and legal compliance is a given, but we also search for insight into critical attributes like the role of the organization’s board, the position the nonprofit holds in its field and community and the level of alignment between our own mission and the goals of the grant seeker.
Our staff seeks a solid understanding of the various strengths and challenges a proposal presents. Here are some of the qualities we evaluate:
- Alignment with program or initiative strategy
- Demonstrated impact of programs and services
- Ability to advance systems change
- Sound strategic plan
- Experienced and effective leadership and management
- Engaged, transparent, independent and committed board
- Established financial position
- Deep and durable collaboration with other partners
- Commitment to continuous improvement
C. Long-term Investment in a Mission
We invest in the long-term success of an organization’s ability to contribute to positive systems change. These grants often take the form of multi-year commitments. They are intended not only to enable day-to-day operations, but to help an organization build a sturdy foundation for their work that makes it possible for them to thrive over the long term.
Our investments are generally:
- 3-year engagements
- Tied to common goals designed in collaboration with our partners
- Focused on general operating support
- Designed to allow our nonprofit partners to both respond to the current challenges and prepare for the future challenges
We look beyond individual nonprofits to the fields they operate in. This means we use the power of convening to help grantees create networks, and we fund collaborative work and support high quality research.
We bring extensive subject matter and regional knowledge to the table, along with wide-ranging networks of influencers and change-makers. We leverage our assets on behalf of our nonprofit partners and bring them together to facilitate a process of constant learning and continual collaboration.
Each nonprofit is chosen specifically for its ability work together within a portfolio to advance shared goals. The grantees coordinate to learn from one another and build movements that engage their constituents, networks, political capital and expertise. They test the theories of the advisory groups and program officers and inform the strategy going forward.
CCF has intentionally evolved into much more than a grantmaker by leveraging our grants with lending, sustainability and civic engagement resources. By offering workshops and training in leadership development, fundraising, financial management and communications, nonprofits can achieve their missions with greater efficiency and impact.
With a community-driven approach to systems change we can fulfill the promise of a greater Los Angeles for all its residents. Through partnerships with donors, nonprofits and community members, we will continue working to create a strong, healthy and prosperous future for all Angelenos.
Join us in building Los Angeles together.
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