California Community Foundations Foster Civic Engagement

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Community foundations across California are connecting neighbors to local civic education and engagement opportunities

“Civic engagement is the process of helping people be active participants in building and strengthening their communities”

– Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE)
Community foundations across California are working across the civic engagement spectrum to create opportunities for neighbors to build and strengthen their own communities – from voting and Census outreach to policy advocacy and grassroots organizing. Here is a roundup of recent civic engagement initiatives at California community foundations.

Inland Empire Community Foundation

The Inland Empire Community Foundation is host to the 2022 Civic Engagement Series, a set of virtual workshops covering the do’s and don’ts of how nonprofits can engage in civic advocacy.

Led by expert trainers, session topics include redistricting, mobilizing voters, and election engagement guidelines for nonprofits.

In 2021 the 80-year-old community foundation launched the Office of Policy & Engagement to address inequities in the Inland Empire by building policy capacity through collaboration, uplifting community-based organizations and their ideas, and amplifying community voice to the region’s policymakers and institutions.

California Community Foundation

The California Community Foundation, founded in 1915, envisions “a future where all Angelenos have the opportunity to contribute to the productivity, health and well-being” of the region. Its mission is to lead positive systemic change that strengthens Los Angeles communities.

CCF’s approach to civic engagement is focused on building and increasing the capacity of underrepresented communities to affect lasting change by:

  • Investing in training and building the capacity of nonprofits to deepen civic engagement within the communities they serve.
  • Partnering, leading and supporting collaborations and convenings in civic deserts, bringing community, policymakers and key stakeholders together to address complex problems, assess opportunities and develop and implement systems level remedies.
  • Building a regional advocacy and community organizing effort in the Southeast cities to strengthen their nonprofit sector, support the development of a strong regional identity, encourage multisector collaboration around critical issues, and generate greater public and private investment in the region.
The civic engagement team at CCF has created the Community Empowerment and Voter Participation Resource Toolkit for local nonprofits and community groups. In 2022 the foundation is hosting a series of virtual sessions for nonprofits

Stanislaus Community Foundation

The Stanislaus Community Foundation headquartered in Modesto, California describes ‘Civic Engagement and Community Capacity Building’ as one of its three core pillars of community leadership work, alongside Educational Excellence and Economic Opportunity.

To help develop the next generation of local community leaders, in 2021 the foundation launched the NextGen on Board program to recruit, train and place 40 youth (ages 18 to 26) on local nonprofit boards over the next two years.

Recognizing that strong local journalism encourages civic participation and improves local decision-making, the foundation launched the McClatchy Media Lab Fund to bolster community journalism in Stanislaus County. Through a partnership with the nonprofit Report for America, grants from this fund will expand the team of reporters at The Modesto Bee and support new models for journalism at the local level.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s public policy portfolio focuses on four key areas: housing, early childhood development and education, immigration, and civic engagement.

The foundation’s Philanthropy Now podcasts covers local civic issues like redistricting, voter turnout and policy initiatives.

To engage donors in supporting civic engagement, the foundation publishes the Civic Participation Giving Guide to highlight local nonprofits ‘working within and on behalf of underrepresented communities to ensure that all voices have a role in shaping our future.’

Recently the foundation has teamed up with a coalition of local nonprofits and advocacy groups to host a series of candidate forums and legislative “meet and greets” to connect community members with their city, county and state government officials. These live virtual sessions help community members learn about their local candidates or representatives and ask questions about their policy plans and priorities.

Ventura County Community Foundation

To maximize federal funding and Congressional representation, the Ventura County Community Foundation encouraged all residents to participate in the 2020 Census.

The foundation’s CEO co-chaired the Ventura County 2020 Complete Count Committee, a regional coalition of 150 community leaders that worked together to ensure a full, fair and accurate count across the county.

The coalition produced a fact sheet, an open-source Complete Count Toolkit, and a series of local outreach events with a focus on hard-to-count communities.

The foundation also made grants to strengthen the capacity of local nonprofit organizations supporting Census outreach and supported the “Somos Vecinos” neighbor-to-neighbor Spanish language outreach campaign.

Originally projected to be in the lowest 2% of counties for Census self-response rates, ultimately Ventura County reached one of the highest rates in the country, ending up in the top 5% of over 3,000 counties.

That means many more federal dollars flowing to Ventura County over the next ten years – an accomplishment that  coalition partners celebrated with the community foundation in December 2020.

Central Valley Community Foundation

Fresno DRIVE (Developing the Region’s Inclusive and Vibrant Economy) is a 10-year investment plan to develop an inclusive, vibrant, and sustainable economy for residents in the greater Fresno region. Sponsored by the Central Valley Community Foundation, DRIVE is supported by the James Irvine Foundation.

DRIVE’s Civic Infrastructure initiative is a strategy of community engagement that advances authentic place-based, resident centered strategies to transform power relationships in our under-resourced, extreme poverty neighborhoods that will lead to thriving communities.

DRIVE is investing in 9 community-based organizations, serving as Neighborhood Hubs. Each of these Neighborhood Hubs, are focusing on the development of the residents that live in their respective neighborhoods. Using an asset-based approach, their engagement will enable residents to connect with each other, develop trust, address shared concerns, build community voice and power, and solve problems through increased civic capacity and participation.

More Civic Engagement Initiatives

San Francisco Foundation

The Daniel E. Koshland Civic Unity Program, established in 1982 by the San Francisco Foundation, recognizes Bay Area grassroots risk-takers and makes a five-year $300,000 investment in their community. To date, the program has cultivated more than 500 fellows in nearly 30 neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area.

Napa Valley Community Foundation

In 2013 the North Valley Community Foundation launched the One Napa Valley Initiative (ONVI), a campaign to create new citizens and a stronger community. Since 2013, 9,706 people have received legal services, 860 people have enrolled in English and civics classes, 5,495 have submitted applications for citizenship or other immigration benefits, and 1,869 have been sworn in as U.S. citizens, representing 46 countries.

This was originally published by the League of California Community Foundations.

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