Good Ideas, Great Programs
My host site is the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership and I am responsible for coordinating and strengthening off-site workshops with diverse communities. Every morning I drive toMarinCounty, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, situated in the Bay Area. My work is concentrated in three distinguished communities in Marin:San Rafael’s Canal,MarinCityand West Marin.
In close proximity to Downtown San Rafael, the Canal provides a substantial portion of the low-income housing in one of the most affluent counties in theUnited States. The homes are inhabited mainly by Latinos who primarily hold low-income jobs.
In the southern region ofMarinCountyliesMarinCity, a predominately African American community. Presently, it offers subsidized housing to Marin residents. At theSeniorCenter, convened by ISOJI or Grassroots Leadership Network, residents discuss topics about housing, education, transportation and community programs.
West Marin attracts many tourists to the county with its beautiful scenery and sustainable agriculture.Core to the community is the San Geronimo Community Center andDancePalace. These organizations welcome community members to participate in classes, programs and musical events but they also hold meetings to discuss issues such as healthcare and locality.
Now back to my work at CVNL (the Center). I spend most of my time in the office learning about how programs strengthen nonprofits. I find myself asking “what trainings are needed to support nonprofits in the work that they do everyday?” and “what resources doMarinCountynonprofits need?”
Although I simply attend these community meetings, they advise my work and my approach to how we get services to the communities. After several meeting, I began to think that communities have all of these “real” concerns, which can be much more important than capacity building. Ultimately, capacity building activities include any activity that strengthens the performance of a nonprofit such as consulting services, workshops on board training, finance or training on grant writing. Sometimes community members talk about their concerns with housing, parenting, transportation or car impoundments and I try to resolve how community concerns fit in with capacity building.
I have been able to relate community concerns with capacity building by recognizing that if an organization is healthy, so is the community. If there is no organizational support for the community, then we are not working towards the alleviation of many social problems. Nonprofits do the work they do in alignment with their mission for the people that they serve, and management support for the organizations I engage with is crucial so they can keep on doing the type of work that they do in their communities.
HandsOn Corps VISTA: Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership of Marin