Marin Community Foundation Launches $30 Million, Three-Year Funding Initiative

May 31, 2024

Novato, California: Marin Community Foundation (MCF) today announced that more than 80 organizations serving the residents of Marin County will be receiving grants through its new Community Power Initiative (CPI). Approximately $10 million will be distributed annually over the next three years.

These multi-year, general operating grants are designed to reduce the administrative burden that is placed on nonprofits, in order to increase both the level of flexibility and the degree of stability. They are also designed to support smaller, and in some cases newer, organizations serving a multitude of need and opportunities. The goal is ultimately to empower a wide range of organizations throughout Marin County to flourish so they can focus on the critical needs of some of the most vulnerable and overlooked residents.

“This is an historic moment at MCF,” said Rhea Suh, President & CEO. “Never before has MCF engaged in a truly open call for submissions, inviting any nonprofit serving Marin residents to participate. And never before have we offered general operating support over several years. It’s an explicit way for MCF to relinquish some of its power to those doing the hard work in community. And to communicate the trust we have in our partnerships.”

“These organizations represent a 24/7, boots-on-the-ground presence in the county — the people that day in and day out provide skilled, critical services and support to the most marginalized populations. They build social capital and grassroots leadership through their longstanding and deep commitments to their neighborhoods. They drive both proven and innovative solutions to our community’s most vexing and troubling challenges. These are the groups that embody and represent the power of community and the ability of community itself to care for, uplift, and transform.”

The overwhelming response to the Foundation’s Request for Proposals resulted in 209 applications with requests totaling over $47 million for the first-year $10 million allocation. Submissions came from every corner of the county, representing nonprofits with operating budgets of less than $200,000 to over $75 million. Accordingly, the resulting grantees span every geography and organization size.

“The demand was even greater than we anticipated,” said Suh. “The reality is that the high level of need points to the on-going challenges related to ensuring that all in our community are able

to thrive and flourish,” said Suh. “But the positive reflection is that there is a huge amount of work and innovation happening throughout the non-profit sector in Marin and beyond. Not only are we looking forward to engaging in this new work with new partners; we’re excited to introduce our donors to participate as well.”

Moving away from the theme-based grantmaking approach of its past has also enabled MCF to support a greater variety of issues and populations than ever before. For example, in addition to continuing to provide support for education, child care, older adult-care, and food security, CPI will support individual organizations addressing the growing crisis with youth mental health, a broad array of new arts and culture organizations, youth-focused physical fitness, and legal assistance for low-income and immigrant populations (full list of grantees appears at end of press release).

This approach will also support nine collaboratives, two of which are newly formed due to this initiative. One of those, a partnership between County of Marin’s Department of Cultural Services, San Rafael-based Youth in Arts, and the Marin County of Office of Education, seeks to expand equitable access in arts education for Marin's TK-5th grade students.

“This grant has the power to be utterly transformational, said Gabriella Calicchio, Director of Cultural Services at Marin County. “It means that a comprehensive arts education program can actually be a part of the curriculum for K-5th grade students in 15 school districts. No longer will arts be seen as only an enrichment program, but it will be elevated to the position it deserves. You want to see equity in action-this is it.

The Community Power Initiative is the largest grantmaking program to be developed through MCF’s newly created strategic plan. “This initiative,” said acting Vice President of Community Engagement, Michelle DePass, “enables the Foundation to continue its critical support to an even broader array of organizations serving the county.” In addition, the Foundation has begun grantmaking in two other initiatives focused on homelessness and affordable housing and climate justice. Research conducted with donors and community members during the strategic planning process highlighted the importance of those two issues in particular. “We are delivering upon and responding to the highest concerns that were uplifted during the strategic planning process,” said Suh. “And we are doing it in a way that is responsive to the evolving needs and dynamics of each organization.”

“This move by the Marin Community Foundation to focus on general operating support through the Community Power Initiative demonstrates their leadership and forward thinking approach to philanthropy”, said Alexa Davidson, Executive Director of San Geronimo Valley Community Center. “When foundations have meaningful partnerships and real trust with community-based organizations it creates space and flexibility for nonprofits and their leaders to be innovative, collaborative, and fully aligned with the actual and changing needs in Marin County communities. This funding will be a game changer for the San Geronimo Valley Community Center and will allow us to increase our impact, broaden our reach, and expand our organization effectiveness in a holistic and meaningful way.”

Many of the recipients of CPI grants represent organizations new to Buck Family Fund grantmaking. “Part of the ambition of this initiative was to allow MCF to discover newer or smaller organizations that may not have been on our radar,” said Suh. “And we certainly did. It’s

critical that we support organizations that are being created in community and by community, with leaders who are proximate, or even experiencing, the issues they seek to address. We hope this type of funding can help mobilize the power that already exists in communities and strength can be built from the inside out.”

“This multi-year grant from MCF is a game-changer for Play Marin”, said Paul Austin, Founder & CEO of Play Marin. “It's fantastic to see them invest in growing organizations like ours, dedicated to bridging the gap for all Marin County youth. While we have deep roots in Marin City, this grant allows us to continue expanding our reach and empower even more children across the county to develop essential skills, build friendships across all backgrounds, and gain confidence that will forever be imbedded within. MCF's support ensures long-term stability for our programs, fostering a more inclusive and equitable future for all of Marin's youth."

“We have learned a tremendous amount through this process,” said Suh. “We have arrived at a new clarity about the role that we, as a community foundation, should be playing in the county: to sustain and serve a vibrant network of nonprofits working throughout the county to make Marin a place where we can all truly flourish and thrive. That task spans the gamut from providing multi-year, general operating support to established organizations that have proven their criticality over the years; to building capacity in emerging or smaller nonprofits to grow and deepen their impact; and to explicitly encouraging greater community collaboration through strategic collaboratives. We know we cannot solve this county’s problems alone—we must do it together and with the collective spirit of possibility.”

“Many people have asked me whether this type of approach is a risk for MCF. Because we’re moving away from an issue-centric approach that funds specific programs with shorter-term funding horizons. Frankly, I see more risk with staying static in a rapidly changing world. The status quo wasn’t moving the needle as much as we need to—issues of inequity have only become more pronounced. We have so many of the challenges ubiquitous throughout the country right now, but the difference is that we have the ability here in Marin to solve these problems. We have the ingenuity of our non-profit sector, great and productive partnerships with the County of Marin, and a deep and unyielding tradition of donor support. We want our collective work with all of our grantmaking initiatives and the work we do with Marin donors to be a powerful force in driving the solutions to inequity forward.”

Full List of Grantees

Individual organizations

10,000 Degrees

Adopt a Family

Agricultural Institute of Marin

Aliados Health

Asian American Alliance of Marin

Bay Area Community Resources

Bay Area Organizing Committee

Bridge the Gap College Prep

Canal Alliance

Center for Domestic Peace

Ceres Community Project

Community Action Marin

Community Media Center of Marin

Community Partners

Conservation Corps North Bay

E3: Education, Excellence & Equity

Early Vibes Inc.

Enriching Lives Through Music

Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California

Family and Children's Law Center

First Missionary Baptist Church

Griot Theater Company

Hannah Project Partnership

Homeward Bound of Marin

Huckleberry Youth Programs, Inc.

Legal Aid of Marin

Marin Aging and Disability Institute

Marin Asian Advocacy Project c/o Multicultural Center of Marin

Marin Center for Independent Living

Marin Child Care Council

Marin City Community Development Corporation

Marin City Health and Wellness Center

Marin Community Clinics

Marin County Cooperation Team

Marin Court Appointed Special Advocates

Marin Foster Care Association

Marin Horizon School

Marin Interfaith Council

MC Arts and Culture MC Arts Gallery

Multicultural Center of Marin

Mundos de Colores c/o MarinLink

Museum of the American Indian

Next Generation Scholars

North Marin Community Services

Novato Boxing Club

On the Margins, Inc.

Operation Access

Our Sisters Keeper

Papermill Creek Children's Corner

Parent Institute for Quality Education

Parent Services Project, Inc.

Petaluma Health Center

Phoenix Project c/o Performing Stars

Play Marin

Postpartum Support Center

Raíces Del Canal c/o Marin Link

Ritter Center

San Geronimo Valley Community Center

SF-Marin Food Bank

Side By Side

Social Justice Collaborative

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin County

Surviving The Odds Project


West Marin Community Services

West Marin Senior Services

Wise Choices for Girls

Youth in Arts, Inc.

Youth Leadership Institute

Youth Transforming Justice

YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley

Collaboratives (lead applicant in bold)

ACCESS U Foundation: Supports a collaborative that provides low income Black and Latinx scholar-athletes with mentors, academic supports and access to club sports.

Hannah Project Partnership: Supports the SAGE Collaborative, a multi-sector, multi-issue community change coalition designed to give Marin City an infrastructure with the capacity to address the issues that matter to its residents.

Innovative Health Solutions: Supports the West Marin Food Systems Collaborative.

Marin Advocates Network: Brings together service providers across Marin to minimize duplication of services, maximize efficacy of the services.

Marin Community College District: A collaborative among College of Marin, Novato Unified School District and 10,000 Degrees to provide the COMPASS program to all three high

schools in Novato, providing low income and students of color and their families with targeted supports.

Marin Promise Partnership: A county-wide collaborative focused on education equity.

San Geronimo Valley Community Center: Expansion of the infrastructure between local CRT (Community Resilience Team) zones (Canal, Marin City, Novato & West Marin) to create a unified brand and operations.

Sausalito Marin City School District: A collaborative to build shared power and voice for African American families, through engagements and trainings.

Youth in Arts Inc.: A collaborative to expand equitable access in arts education for Marin's TK-5th grade students.

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