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Maximizing Impact by Investing in Sustainability

By Diana Peacock

Many of our nation’s communities struggle with problems of mounting crime, economic stagnation, deteriorating housing, and community disunity.  Sometimes the strongest and most sustainable solutions for combating these problems arise not from outside intervention, but instead from within the communities themselves.

For nearly a decade, Wells Fargo Regional Foundation has supported neighborhood revitalization initiatives that seek to transform their communities through deep resident engagement, direct service, and economic development.  These initiatives catalyze local economic rejuvenation, build strong relationships across sectors, turn residents into change makers, and develop solutions to local issues ranging from crime to lack of job skills.

In 2011, Wells Fargo Regional Foundation engaged Community Wealth Partners to help its neighborhood revitalization grantees address their short and long-term sustainability challenges.  In partnership with NeighborWorks’ Success Measures we developed the “Sustainability Initiative,” a 9-month program that helps leaders (1) evaluate the impact and sustainability of their neighborhood revitalization efforts, and (2) build a case for investment that can fuel their ability to sustain and grow impact independent of the Foundation’s support.

The program consists of in-person group working sessions each followed by individual consulting support, balancing the benefits of collaborative peer learning and personalized support from experienced consultants with deep knowledge of social transformation.  The end of the program features a “fast-pitch” session in which grantees practice pitching to a diverse group of real funders, giving them the rare opportunity to receive candid, constructive feedback on their stories and business cases.

Through the initiative, Wells Fargo Regional Foundation ensures that its investments will serve as launching pads rather than lifelines and that its grantees achieve stronger financial independence. The Initiative helps leaders:

  • Make difficult decisions by gathering and analyzing data about the current costs and outcomes of their efforts,
  • Build financial plans connected to their desired future outcomes, and
  • Create an investment prospectus that (1) communicates a succinct and compelling business case for financial support and (2) is structured to appeal to a variety of funders.

Wells Fargo Regional Foundation, the Sustainability Initiative participants, and Community Wealth Partners together set an ambitious goal to evaluate the success of the Initiative: Within two years, participants raise at least $100,000 in new funding to sustain their neighborhood revitalization efforts. Empowered by the Initiative, participants have subsequently launched fundraisers in their neighborhood, raised capital for social enterprise start-ups, and secured grants from major national foundations. The 2011 Sustainability Initiative participants met the ambitious goal, securing new funding ranging from $228,000 to $15 million.

In addition to financial metrics, the Sustainability Initiative’s success is illustrated by participant testimony:

As a result of the Sustainability Initiative, we have reviewed and prioritized each of our programs based on impact and outcomes. We have developed a clear focus for the future. As a result, we feel we can better allocate resources. – 2011 Participant

The prospectus very clearly outlines a compelling case for integrated strategies that [the organization] is using to address needs in [their community]. These services address both root causes of the community’s challenges as well as support services and community engagement… The prospectus would effectively open the door for that more in depth conversation, and hopefully move toward funding. – Funder’s review of a 2012 prospectus

Community Wealth Partners is partnering with Wells Fargo Regional Foundation and NeighborWorks Success Measures again in 2013 to help our third cohort of grantees evaluate, align, and sustain their critical neighborhood revitalization efforts.  We look forward to sharing more updates!

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Diana Peacock

About Diana Peacock

As a director, Diana Peacock engages in strategic partnerships with leadership teams, provides client engagement oversight and supports the overall growth and development of the firm. Diana has worked with a broad range of nonprofits and foundations, with particular focus on youth-serving, family services, and community development organizations. She has deep experience leading non-profit executives and Boards through strategy design and business planning, helping them pivot their organizations’ focus to meet growing needs and solve bigger social problems. Diana excels at assisting organizations with defining their impact, especially in highly complex environments, and has facilitated a successful merger of two national nonprofits. See Diana's full bio

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