Context

There are more than 4000 nonprofit agencies in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys—organizations that are providing a range of vital services to meet life-sustaining, educational, and cultural needs.  In a geographic area of 550 square miles, and with “pockets of poverty” scattered throughout the Valleys, these organizations are strategically located in neighborhoods where their clients live, which is critical to the many residents who are transit-challenged. The COVID-19 crisis exacerbated income inequality in our region as thousands of low-income workers were laid off their jobs and struggled to make rent and utility payments, forcing them to turn to local charities to help meet basic needs.  Due to the high cost of housing, it is common in these communities for multiple families to live in one house or apartment – living situations that caused COVID cases to be among the highest in Los Angeles County.

San Fernando and Santa Clarita Nonprofits are Struggling

The Community Foundation of the Valleys commissioned a nonprofit survey in the Spring of 2021, conducted by Valley Nonprofit Resources – results of the survey will be released this July.  Preliminary data has confirmed that, in the pandemic-induced recession, 40% of Valley charities have been struggling and even in the midst of growing demands for services, have had to reduce staff and down-size programs. In fact, 54% of agencies indicated that revenue had decreased significantly or somewhat in the past year.  As government stimulus and recovery benefits dry up and as donor fatigue sets in after the initial crisis surge in charitable giving, there are indications that nonprofit closures will accelerate in 2022 as their reserves have dwindled and pandemic-induced government, philanthropic and individual donor revenues are expended. This will push residents to go great distances to receive vital services — or go without, at risk to their health and well-being.

With this information in hand, the Community Foundation recognizes its critical role in driving greater equity and supporting our vulnerable communities of color through expanded philanthropic and individual giving to SFV and SCV charities.  Historically, the areas of significant charitable giving in Los Angeles County have been on the Westside and Downtown LA where major firms and concentrations of civic, corporate, and philanthropic wealth are located.

SFV and SCV-based charities have long been amazed at the non-government income that County regions to the south of our Valleys are able to generate. Generally, our local SFV/SCV charity campaigns and events raise far less income than their Downtown/Westside counterparts. With few major corporate headquarters in the Valleys, and no major law or CPA firms, local charities do not typically benefit from having CEOs or top executives of these large firms on their boards – people who make generous personal contributions and who use their clout to secure significant donations from their own companies as well as their business networks.

The result has been that, for many years, the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valley issues of inequity as well as critical community needs addressed by our nonprofits have been overlooked and underfunded by philanthropy – which puts a greater onus on our local citizenry to step up to meet local needs.

A New Vision: Transformation in our Valleys

The time has come to cast a new vision that will transform our life together in our beloved Valleys.  As one civic leader and community bank CEO put it: “We need to “own” the problems we have here and solve them.”   This means we need to determine the size and scope of these challenges in our geographic region.  We need to come to terms with the limits of government agencies and foundations and partner with these entities to fully fund the solutions that are needed.   Finally, we need to sound the call to our community residents and employees to collectively invest in our local nonprofits to ensure that they have the resources to end homelessness, significantly reduce poverty, demonstrate success in our education and workforce sectors, and bring greater equity to our region for all the residents who live here.

We believe the Community Foundation of the Valleys is uniquely positioned to give voice to this transformational vision, and to engage SFV/SCV leaders, residents, and employees in making this vision a reality.

VISION TO ACTION

An exciting vision is nothing without a specific action plan that will ensure that transformation in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys will take place.  Our Board of Directors has laid out the following strategies to energize our vision:

  • Plan, executive and host in partnership with The Valley Economic Alliance “Homelessness and Housing: A Multi-Sector Conference Addressing Solutions and Innovations.”  This conference will bring together 250 SFV/SCV leaders from business, academia, the nonprofit sector, government, and the faith community.  The plan is to include at the conference a short presentation on the Community Foundation of the Valleys services, why financial support for local charities is transformative, and will allow us to announce upcoming CFV events related to charitable giving and estate planning. We also plan to have a pre-conference intimate convening of prominent Valley stakeholders, hosted by a well-known civic leader, to encourage them to financially support a new fund the Community Foundation will create to support nonprofits involved in conference-related projects.
  • Hire a part-time executive director who has the skills and experience to implement the strategies noted in this “Vision to Action.”
  • Launch a “GIVE LOCAL” Campaign 
    • Develop related communication pieces and marketing strategies
    • Arrange each month to make a minimum of two to three presentations to local chambers, neighborhood councils, professional groups, churches and other organizations to ignite engagement with the CFV vision; 
    • Include in marketing and in group presentations stories/video/slides of local people whose lives have been transformed by the charities that offered services to them 
  • Create new ways to bring nonprofits together with other sectors of the community
    • Form a nonprofit agency advisory committee that would meet regularly to inform the CFV of trends and challenges that impact their work.  These meetings will provide “messaging” and stories that can be given in CFV presentations (groups as well as one-to-one) on needs in the Valley.  Also, these gatherings can provide practical ways for the CFV to build trust among nonprofits by helping them connect with each other, as well as with leaders in the Valleys who can be helpful
    • Offer an annual “bus tour” of low-income neighborhoods in the SFV/SCV and visits to key nonprofits in those areas; invite representatives from Valley business organizations, elected officials, academic leaders and partners, etc.
    • Engage local university faculty in research that is beneficial to the nonprofit sector in the Valleys and which can prompt greater charitable giving
    • Arrange for town hall-type meetings of groups of nonprofits with local elected and government officials to discuss areas of concern and interest
  • Employ a paid undergraduate or graduate marketing student to work 10 hours per week creating social media posts about the various Valley nonprofits and the clients they serve, articles and information on charitable giving, and short profiles about CFV donors.  The student can also update the CFV website as needed. 
  • Follow up to CFV conference and afore-noted group presentations to be done by the Executive Director to discuss charitable/planned giving; follow up with businesses interested in starting a formal charitable giving program that could be housed at the CFV.

The Potential

A California Community Foundation Transfer of Wealth study found that the residents of the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys possess the highest current net worth of any region in Los Angeles County: $365.96 billion.  This same study noted that these households have the highest potential for the transfer of wealth (est. $32.78 – $398.23 billion)[3].

A 2014 UCLA study showed that the average charitable gift in Los Angeles County was about $1400 a year[4]. But the same report indicated that many San Fernando and Santa Clarita zip codes and neighborhoods gave significantly less.  This represents the challenge for the Community Foundation of the Valleys:  to create a broad awareness that increased local charitable giving will create greater equity, alleviate a multitude of social problems, and also create a healthier and more vibrant community for all of us. And as noted above, even though these Valleys face the same major infrastructure and social challenges as LA County, our needs are often overlooked and underfunded.

Imagine if over the next 10-50 years, 5% or $1.64 – $19 billion could be given to local nonprofits from just the transfer of wealth, through a new effective and efficient channel?

The Community Foundation of the Valleys (CFV) is dedicated to making this a reality.  By serving as a vital, resourceful conduit between donors and community needs, we can affect exponential and meaningful impact on our local communities.  The Foundation provides leadership, funds initiatives and cultivates philanthropic infrastructure by promoting participation in community organizations and philanthropic causes that benefit both Valleys.  

About Community Foundation of the Valleys 

The Community Foundation of the Valleys was originally incorporated in 2003 under the name “The San Fernando Valley Community Foundation.” Formed by a group of community leaders, it was envisioned as an organization that could solicit funding to be invested and then dispersed via grants to San Fernando Valley and Santa Clarita Valley nonprofits. For many years, the Foundation was simply utilized to fund community events. However, in recent years, a board of directors has formally organized and refocused the mission of the Foundation to be similar to other Community Foundations (i.e. Liberty Hill, Jewish Community Foundation, etc.).  An executive director was employed for a short time, and she focused her efforts on developing a “Memo of Understanding” with the California Community Foundation to manage the funds that are invested in the Community Foundation of the Valleys, and as well as developing legal documents to facilitate donor investment and engagement.  She also worked with a pro bono team of marketing experts to design and launch an engaging and comprehensive website as well as a new logo, print and promotional materials, and other collateral materials. (Note that starting in Summer 2021, the CFV website will be refreshed and will give more prominence to CFV initiatives as well as our partner nonprofits.)  The Executive Director has since moved out of state, but coordinated the CFV’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Campaign on a pro bono basis.

Data Sources: [1] Los Angeles Times “San Fernando Valley’s Latino neighborhoods staggered by L.A. County outbreak” Dec 1`, 2020. [2] “Pathways for Economic Resiliency”, County of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp, Executive Summary, February, 2021; [3] The Future of Philanthropy in Los Angeles: a Wealth of Opportunity, a report by the California Community Foundation, 2011; [4]The State of Individual Charitable Giving in Los Angeles, a report by UCLA, 2014