Marin Community Foundation Announces New Strategic Vision

Sep 12, 2023

Marin Community Foundation Announces New Strategic Vision—Includes two new major strategic initiatives, streamlined governance and grantmaking processes

The Marin Community Foundation (MCF) is announcing a new strategic vision, mission, several new strategic initiatives and streamlined governance and grantmaking processes. The vision sets forth a bold approach for the Foundation to maximize its philanthropic impact on behalf of the communities it serves.

“Over the course of 36 years, MCF has granted more than $1 billion to organizations throughout Marin County. Through those partnerships we have contributed to the county in innumerable ways: we have built hundreds of affordable housing units that allow lower income folks to live in the county where they work; we have supported thousands of youth in their journey into and through college, most being the first in their families to do so; we’ve piloted Marin’s first guaranteed income program to deliver profound outcomes for 125 low-income moms,” said Rhea Suh, CEO and President. “Our history is a genuinely proud one, and yet, the challenges that we confront today are growing more serious and more stark. The vibrancy and sustainability of Marin County is at risk—whether it is from climate change, lack of affordable housing, rising rates of depression and addiction among youth, or the persistence of historical segregation and poverty.”

“We don’t have all the answers. But we believe deeply that communities have and are the answers. That community is not one thing. It is everything. Community is how we create a home for ourselves, and where advocacy at the most local level changes things on the most tangible level. It is where the dreams of opportunity get nurtured. It gives purpose and meaning to our lives. It was with this belief 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?”

MCF’s new vision reflects this ambition – “A world where every choice begins with we; where every action sustains all; where every person acts now.” MCF envisions communities built on common cause and empathy – where people of all backgrounds work together to spark and sustain positive change. Its new mission provides a roadmap to the vision – “Mobilizing the power of community and the resources of philanthropy to advance equity for people, places, and the planet.” This mission recognizes the immense power that every community member has, and can bring, by commanding MCF to mobilize people and resources.

MCF’s year-long strategic planning process included input from across the county and beyond. Members of Marin’s older adult, immigrant, African American, youth, unhoused and Indigenous communities brought their priorities, perspectives, and suggestions in a series of listening sessions. Dozens of nonprofit partners shared their insights in in-depth interviews, and hundreds more provided feedback through a grantee survey. Numerous donors and professional advisors also shared their experiences with MCF through interviews and a survey. Community foundations across the nation offered their advice on how to better engage communities, 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 were 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. “The threats from climate change have never been greater, especially for our most vulnerable communities,” said Patti D’Angelo Juachon, Program Director for the Environment at MCF. “But we see a once-in-a-generation opportunity with the hundreds of billions of dollars that will soon be flowing from recent federal and state legislation into local infrastructure projects, renewables deployment, and other approaches to reduce climate risks and create healthier communities. In collaboration with our community leaders, MCF is well positioned to help ensure equitable access to the benefits that can come from mitigating and adapting to climate change.”

An Affordable Housing and Homelessness initiative will attempt to take on the housing crisis that has been decades in the making. “The building blocks for solving a housing crisis are already well-known: produce more housing, preserve existing affordable units, protect tenants, and prevent and resolve homelessness,” said Alan Burr, Director of Housing & Community Lending. “But beyond solely pursuing these 4P solutions directly, we need to level the political playing field to enable large-scale construction of sufficient affordable housing and fund the permanent housing and supportive services that our unhoused neighbors deserve. We have some time-limited opportunities we are likely to try to take advantage of, such as a BAHFA ballot measure to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for housing in Marin alone, and leveraging state funding to build and service permanent housing solutions that would put us on track to functional zero homelessness.”

In addition, the Foundation will ensure that funding will always support the core social safety needs for the most vulnerable of Marin residents. Consistent with MCF’s new strategic direction, these core resources will primarily come in the form of multi-year, general operating support grants. MCF wants to give community partners maximum flexibility to put the resources to use in the community. As Maureen Sedonaen, Vice Chair of the MCF Board of Directors described, “long term, general support, operating grants are the lifeblood of any nonprofit. With MCF’s shift, we anticipate that countless hours spent on administration of grants, will now be focused upon the critical work itself.”

The strategic planning process also afforded the Foundation an opportunity to reflect upon and improve its internal administration and processes. As a result, the Foundation decided to streamline its governance structure.

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.

“The board is committed to honoring the original intention of the Buck Trust governance structure – to ensure that constituencies in Marin have a meaningful voice and input into the grantmaking of the Buck Trust,” said Mark Buell, Chair of the MCF Board. “We will continue to hold ourselves to that standard – in fact we will seek to expand the diversity of those voices and input.”

Finally, the Foundation has announced several new services for its more than 550 donors. “We’re looking to provide opportunities for more people to participate and contribute in philanthropy,” said Janelle Cavanagh, Chief Philanthropy Officer. “This will come in the form of new fund offerings, exciting educational experiences and learning journeys, and opportunities for donors to connect with each other, and the community, on common interests.”

“There literally hasn’t been one stone left unturned in this process and we are emerging from it energized and optimistic,” said Suh. “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.”

For more information, please visit this section of MCF’s website.


Vikki Garrod

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