Beyond Our Gates Brings a Grant Writer to SJ CountyResource will help bring money to area agencies
Hundreds of millions of dollars in grants are available to help non-profit organizations across the United States, yet San Joaquin County's many charitable organizations receive only a fraction of that money, while nearby more affluent communities receive significantly more, despite having fewer needs.
The members of the Beyond Our Gates Community Council, a collaborative effort between University of the Pacific and several community organizations, announced a solution to the problem: They will pay for a freelance grant writer to help San Joaquin County's many non-profit organizations secure funding for services and projects.
"The continued economic uncertainty that hovers over this region has created a paradox that is making the situation worse," Lani Schiff-Ross, executive director, First 5 San Joaquin, a member of the Community Council and a partner in the grant writer project. "On one hand, there is now an increased demand for the services of San Joaquin County's non-profits, but on the other hand, the local grants those non-profits were receiving have been reduced or eliminated entirely because of the economic recession. This project will help identify and secure new sources of funding for our agencies."
The grant writing project will be initially funded for two years by Pacific and several partner agencies: First 5 San Joaquin, Health Plan of San Joaquin, San Joaquin County Behavioral Health Services and Community Foundation of San Joaquin. The person hired would work as a consultant and prepare grant applications, craft general proposals and case statements, identify opportunities for greater collaboration, and to provide workshops on grant-writing, program development and assessment strategies. The grant writer would start work this year.
The project came about because of the high poverty rates and low high school graduation rates in the community, which tends to create more low-income earners in the area. Despite the great needs of its growing population, the San Joaquin Valley has historically received less in federal funding than national, or even statewide, per-capita averages.
In 2011, according to foundation records, San Joaquin County (population: 688,000) received about $876,100 in foundation grants. Sacramento County (population: 1.4 million) received $3.6 million, and San Francisco County (population: 805,000) received about $53.9 million.
This "giving gap" owes, at least in part, to lack of infrastructure to support non-profits in San Joaquin County. In informal surveys, executive directors of San Joaquin County nonprofits have reported that their agencies cannot afford to employ dedicated grant writers, nor can they pay for workshops or other professional development opportunities, yet they have seen the demands for their services increase by nearly 30 percent in the past few years.
Under the grant writing program, the funding partners will hire a grant writer to work on a consulting basis for 1,000 hours a year for two years. Nine hundred hours per year will be reserved for direct grant-writing assistance. The remaining 100 hours of the consultant's time would be dedicated to indirect and technical assistance, such as hosting workshops, forums or clinics, especially on program implementation and assessment strategies. Community Foundation of San Joaquin will make available space and office equipment in Stockton and Tracy for the community grant writer to work, while Pacific will provide space and food for workshops and clinics.
Agencies that wish to use the grant writer first must apply for assistance with the community grant writer who will then make recommendations to the funding committee on which agencies should be approved. If an agency is approved for service, its executive director, or another appropriate staff member, will then work closely with the community grant writer to design an effective proposal.
It's estimated that the program will cost about $40,000 per year.