Last fall, after a lengthy period of gathering input from a wide range of Community Partners stakeholders, the Board of Directors and senior staff initiated a series of in-house workshops to chart the course ahead for the organization. The planning process assumed more urgency with my announcement in December that I would conclude my leadership tenure as President & CEO in mid to late 2021. Community Partners had achieved remarkable growth, steadily expanding professional staff and services over nearly 30 years of accelerating ideas into action that advance the public good. Of course, none of us had any idea of the biological catastrophe, economic meltdown and social reckoning that 2020 would deliver.
Overcoming the obstacles to gathering in person, the board and staff continued their work online and a few weeks ago the board adopted our FY21-FY23 strategic plan framework driven by three key priorities, including:
- Ensuring organizational sustainability;
- Extending the civic reach, visibility and impact of our staff and project leaders; and,
- Enriching our organizational culture by deepening in practice our long-held values of diversity, equity, inclusion, fairness and access.
Enacting the first stages of our strategic plan at this time should place us well into exercising and accumulating gains in each of these three priority areas by the time the board recruits and hires a new CEO next year who, in time, will put their own leadership stamp on the organization.
Ensuring Organizational Sustainability
Starting with organizational viability means we assure that Community Partners will be around for the long term. Budgeting for the coming few years includes making some difficult, though necessary staffing adjustments to weather what we believe could be an arduous year or two ahead for new-venture development and funding opportunities in the nonprofit sector. About 30 percent of our work involves various projects with public agencies, and due to the recession (that officially began in February), public funding could diminish as the imposition of new taxes may restrain households from charitable giving, and governments from making new program expenditures. While many large private foundations have increased their dollars devoted to grantmaking, it would be imprudent to assume consistent practice across a diverse, highly independent philanthropic community.
That said, the board intends to place professional stewardship of an overall healthy Community Partners into a successor’s hands with adequate operating reserves and a positive cash flow. After all, every project we sponsor represents a profound promise to serve their constituencies, causes and communities with our support. We can have all the best intentions in the world, but to honor these commitments, the board and senior staff must budget wisely.
Extending the Civic Reach, Visibility and Impact of Our Staff and Project Leaders
We recognize both the wisdom of and our obligation to play a facilitative role in helping extend the reach and civic knowledge of our project leaders into the opportunity niches inherent to the civic sphere of Southern California. The more we maintain and grow trusted relationships across the region’s spectrum of philanthropies, public agencies, social service providers, businesses and cultural institutions, the stronger becomes the branding – “a project of Community Partners” – that our project leaders highlight in their public and fundraising communications.
Deepening Practice of Our Values of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Fairness and Access
Generations of policymakers and civil society activists have sought to steer Americans toward coming to terms with racist legacies originating in the abomination of slavery, racial hatred, ignorance and intolerance. The killing of unarmed George Floyd is the latest Black life taken by police and excused by a system that, collectively, stands for a centuries-old moral rot at the heart of America’s vaunted claim as the world’s exemplar of a just democracy. Reckoning in our day to day attitudes, understandings, behaviors, policies and practices with this fundamental societal contradiction underlies the key to expanding our efforts to center diversity, equity, inclusion and access in Community Partners’ work and workplace. We know this means we must reflect individually – staff, board and project partners alike – and look unflinchingly at the places where we can and must learn, lead and join ranks with others in transforming civil society. This means assessing where we presently stand, appreciating what we have accomplished so far and going further than we’ve ever challenged ourselves to go in fully realizing what Community Partners can and must do to bend the arc of racial, social and economic history toward fairness, equality and justice.
We have a role as an organization in countering the present chaos and corruption that emanates from the egregious behavior and destructive influence of several authoritarian leaders currently holding high office. Our strategic plan demands that we humbly lean in and listen with compassion to the cries of rage and anguish from those fed up and courageous enough to step into the street and put empathy into action for those suffering, injured, diminished and left for dead because of deeply flawed American institutions long resistant to repair.