MCF's New Strategic Vision

We have just completed a year-long strategic planning process – the first in the foundation’s history. We embarked on this because we knew that it would deliver us ways to have greater impact; tangible actions that we could take to help those struggling most in our community. What we didn’t realize was that it would also deliver something else: our purpose.

Our purpose starts and ends with community.

Community is something both tangible and invisible, but all encompassing. And for us as professionals in the actual field of “community” our charge is not only to help define it, but to understand what it actually needs to thrive and survive.

Community is not one thing. It is everything. It is where pain happens and where healing starts. It’s where advocacy at the most local level changes things on the most tangible level, and where these actions result in the schooling, nurturing and growing of leadership and leaders. It is where the dreams of opportunity get nurtured or crushed. The ability for communities to not just function but flourish, I would argue is critical to the dream of democracy, of opportunity and of freedom.

It was with this backdrop we asked ourselves: how can this organization, uniquely charged with caring for the welfare of the people of Marin County use its privileged position to make us feel more connected as a community? Make us care more about our neighbors?

Our process helped us wrestle with those profound questions. And while we don’t have the answers to everything yet, we’ve made headway. That headway began with the identification of something new for MCF: a vision.

A world where every choice begins with we; where every action sustains all; where every person acts now.

We then completely reimagined our mission to provide a roadmap to this vision:

Mobilizing the power of community and the resources of philanthropy to advance equity for people, places, and the planet.

This statement is an explicit and intentional recognition of the strength, wisdom and potential that lies within our community. And a commitment from us as an institution to do everything we can to activate that potential.

To translate these into action, we turned to our constituents to guide us. Members of Marin’s low-income, older adult, immigrant, African American, youth, and Indigenous communities from across the County brought their priorities, perspectives, and suggestions to us in a series of listening sessions. Dozens of our nonprofit partners shared their insights via in-depth interviews, and hundreds more provided feedback through a grantee survey. Numerous donors also shared their experiences with MCF through interviews and a survey, as did professional advisors and prospective donors. Community foundations across the nation offered their advice on how to better engage communities and helped us understand trends and best practices in community philanthropy.

What emerged was both consistent and urgent. We identified two escalating crises in Marin and the Bay Area that community partners, community members, and donors consistently referenced as acute challenges where a convener like MCF needs to create on-the-ground progress: Climate Justice and Affordable Housing & Homelessness.

A Climate Justice initiative will seek to prepare and strengthen vulnerable communities in the county that will be hardest hit by the effects of climate change – and least equipped to deal with it. (See the one-sheeter below)

An Affordable Housing & Homeless Initiative will attempt to take on the housing crisis that has been decades in the making and consider intervention points along the homelessness to housing continuum and for opportunities of leverage. (See one sheeter below)

Both of these efforts will seek bold, population-level change over a three-to-eight-year period. They are deeply rooted in Marin with a focus on our most impacted communities. They also engage with regional efforts, public policy, and private philanthropy which together represent the opportunity to bring tens of millions of dollars into Marin. Additionally, we will introduce them to MCF donors with an invitation to participate directly in their success.

The Foundation will continue to ensure that funding supports the core social safety needs for the most vulnerable of Marin residents via its Community Power initiative (See one sheeter below). Consistent with the new strategic direction, these core resources will primarily come in the form of multi-year, general operating support grants. We want to give community partners maximum flexibility to put the resources to use in the community.

In addition to deep community-based work, MCF’s more than 550 donors and their families will be invited to engage in their philanthropy in new ways. There will be opportunities to collaborate with each other, via giving circles and pooled funds – which are also great ways to make giving more accessible to anyone who wants to engage. New offerings will provide options for both seasoned and budding philanthropists to explore their interests – and take them on transformational journeys.

Finally, a shift in MCF’s governance structure will create greater efficiencies and opportunities to make impact. The new structure will see the two current boards – the MCF Board of Directors and the Buck Family Fund (BFF) Board of Trustees - consolidated as one, returning the organization to the single board structure it has maintained for most of its history. The new eleven-person board will be named the MCF Board of Directors and have full fiduciary oversight of the foundation. The Board is expanding to diversify the voices it brings to MCF, by welcoming Dr. Ralph Gonzales, Peter Hamilton and Brigitte Moran. In addition, the Board will welcome non-Board members to participate in Board committees to further increase the diversity of voices in MCF decisions. (See one-sheeter below)

There hasn’t been one stone left unturned in this process and we are emerging from it energized and optimistic. We recognize we are in a position of unique privilege and take our responsibility to advance equity in this county very seriously. And we’re committing to do more than ever before to make lasting impact.

All my best,

Rhea Suh
President & CEO

Climate Justice

MCF Strategic Plan

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