DALLAS, TX – Twenty-five percent of families with children in Dallas County live below the poverty line. Dallas has the third highest child poverty rate among large US cities. We often refer to levels of poverty like this as a cycle. As in, we work to “break the cycle of poverty.”
There is, however, a second and often unseen cycle that threatens to silently undermine the success of those aspiring to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty. While North Texas nonprofits are subject to the ensnaring effects of this cycle, it is not a native challenge. It is a long-standing, national challenge.
That silent-killer is the Underdeveloped Cycle. While trapped within this Cycle, community-based organizations operating as frontline service-providers struggle to sustain enough funding to not only keep their staff and operations going, but growing.
As funding at the federal, state, and local levels decline, the basic revenue model for many of these social-service agencies has eroded, further fortifying the Underdeveloped Cycle Consequently, as a nonprofit’s over-dependence on single-source funding mixes with the ever-shifting funding priorities of our government and grantmakers, too many of our local leaders are left feeling frail, and flat-footed.
Too often, our North Texas nonprofit “Chief Everything Officers” lack the sophistication and structures to help them diversify revenue and sustain grant-funded programs. Amidst a rising “Hardship Index” – an increased demand for nonprofit services coupled with a decrease in funding to supply them – organizations who cannot afford to employ large fundraising teams are searching for simple, functional, and economical solutions to raise money, without increasing expenses.
There are now major political, economic, demographic and technological factors working against our local leaders. Too many nonprofits are facing significant financial hardships and uncertain futures. Many don’t know what to do.
In response, and on the heels of an election and legislation that has only increased concerns about how best to nurture philanthropy, the Community Council has embraced a renewed focus on building the fundraising capacity of these frontline service-providers.
As the Council tackles both cycles – the Cycle of Poverty and the Underdeveloped Cycle – through a one-of-a-kind approach, it hopes the outcomes are not limited to North Texas. Rather, it plans to openly share its learnings and outcomes data to serve as a national model, setting a new precedent for capacity-builders working far beyond our county lines.
By serving as the convener for a variety of funding partners – including the State’s Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program, local grantmakers and individual philanthropists – as well as direct service providers and “backbone” agencies – including nonprofit consultants, associations, and membership organizations – the Council has assembled a collaborative and holistic approach to disrupting these cycles.
Underpinning this approach is an emphasis on building the region’s fundraising capacity through ongoing, intensive technical assistance. We know that the causes of poverty cannot be eradicated through a one-year, or even a multi-year, grant. To truly move the needle and create lasting change, we must ensure that the nonprofits providing services to our vulnerable communities become self-sustaining, with the ability to expand their impact without relying on more granted or public dollars.
To that end, the Council has partnered with the social enterprise, Network for Good, and its Nonprofit Capacity Building Fund, to rollout an enhanced version of its “Jumpstart” model for up to 30 nonprofits who are alleviating poverty in Dallas County. The Jumpstart model combines an evidence-based framework, a national network of fundraising consultants, and modern fundraising technology to help participating organizations develop a right-sized fundraising plan, and increase giving from individuals donors.
Recognizing the progress made through existing initiatives with a shared focus, like the Communities Foundation of Texas’ North Texas Giving Day, the Council’s aim is to equip participating organizations with the structure and strategy to capture their share of the “giving pie.”
Now, as the holiday giving season quickly approaches, the first cohort of Jumpstart participants has been selected through a competitive process, and with the input of nearly 20 local grantmakers.
This cohort was created to comprise a true task-force, representing missions and impact strategies that influence the multi-faceted nature of poverty, including education, financial literacy, workforce development, housing, motherhood, domestic violence, and more.
These organizations and their respective leaders are:
• Alley’s House, Brenna Wriston
• Alive at Last, Alisa Evans
• Bryan’s House, Abigail Erickson
• Drug Prevention Resources, Beth Wilson
• Families to Freedom, Sarah Nejdl
• Harmony Community Development Corp., Candy Bradshaw
• In My Shoes, Maria Eichhold
• Irving Cares, Becky Vogel
• LifeLine Shelter for Families, Melinda Rogers
• Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas, Larry Jefferson
Through their work with the Council, and during their time in the Jumpstart Program, this group will be set on a trajectory to reduce their dependence on foundation and public support. Instead, they will embrace a revenue generation model designed by Network for Good that concentrates on individual donors and technology to diversify and expand general operating revenue.
The launch of this cohort will be quickly followed by additional Jumpstart opportunities, the rollout of a next-generation Learning Management System, and similar, wrap-around capacity-building programs.
While this is a big step, it is only the first, and we must work together to disrupt the cycles of poverty in North Texas for good.
To this end, on October 24th, the Council will be hosting a roundtable-style breakfast for all grantmakers interested in the initial learnings of this project, and to begin sharing its preliminary research.
If you are a grantmaker and would like to participate in this roundtable, please RSVP by October 15th to Michelle Metzger, Executive Assistant to Cheryl McCarver, Chief Impact Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.