In 2018 we met a long-held customer service goal, and for the first time, our Annual Project Survey was conducted by an external evaluator. Thanks to Research Evaluation Consulting (REC) and your participation, we took an independent and comprehensive look at our projects’ activities and experiences. In total, 75 projects (85%) participated in the survey.
Who are you?
Community Initiatives projects fall into a number of categories. While education was the largest group at 51%, the community focus varies widely, from capacity building to serving the transgender community, America’s veterans, and animal welfare.
Our projects are just as varied in other ways:
- 36% are small (up to $99,999)
- 41% are medium ($100,000-$499,999)
- 23% are large ($500,000-greater than one million)
- 73% rely most frequently on foundation grants
- Other fundraising strategies are as varied as garage sales, fee for service contracts, and email solicitations.
- 37% work with vulnerable populations
- More than half (61%) have staff who telecommute at least part time
- While most of our projects are based in California, their reach and presence expands nationwide and worldwide. One project operates on seven continents, including hosting workshops in Antarctica!
How do you measure impact?
We also asked how you measure impact. The number of people served, customer satisfaction, and events are the top ways that our community measures outcomes. We also saw that tracking awareness levels, publications, membership, and funding are important too. These types of metrics are often asked for by from funders, advisory board members, and others. We hope to help you to track these more comprehensively in the future.
As we began to explore metrics for our community, we learned that 60% of our projects already track the number of people they serve. Individually, our projects reach from as few as four to as many as 11,150,000 people, with a median of 700 people impacted per project per year. We have three organizations that measure the numbers of animals saved, with an annual average of 375 animals per organization.
What went right?
2018 was filled with growth and success in our network. We were thrilled to see that many projects reported increases in their fundraising and multiple projects reported budget surpluses. 42% reported expansion in their capacity and 20% launched new programs. Community Initiatives projects held dozens of events, including several annual conferences. We supported projects as they weathered leadership transitions, implemented strategic plans, completed mergers, and relocated project facilities. Projects found encouragement in online communities where networks of volunteers and supporters bolstered their missions. What are your shared challenges?
You are not alone in navigating the complexities of the nonprofit world. Fundraising, staff capacity, and communications and marketing were the challenges most often cited. Projects also mentioned difficulties maintaining a stable board, staff turnover, growing pains, space and real estate issues, and navigating the changing political landscape. Why Community Initiatives?
Projects had many of the same reasons for choosing fiscal sponsorship: 1) Save time (61%), 2) Save resources (60%), and 3) Receive support from experts (49%). When asked how Community Initiatives made a difference in your work, 69% reported a decrease in administrative burden. Projects reported working with Community Initiatives allows them to focus on service delivery rather than becoming overwhelmed with administrative tasks. Projects are largely satisfied or very satisfied with Community Initiatives, though we also appreciate the feedback we received. Your feedback provides us with additional items to focus on as we continue to improve and strive to meet projects’ needs. In your own words
“Our insurance through Community Initiatives has been a life saver for us.” -Mission Science Workshop
“Client services specialists have been excellent, responsive, helpful … couldn’t do our nonprofit work without them.” -Nursing Education Heritage Project
“[Community Initiatives] allows me to feel like there is a … layer of support between me and our funders. I can rest assured that there are compliance mechanisms & checks and balances that allow us to operate with not just a sense of well being but also one of integrity. We aim to deliver services to our community with the highest sense of integrity and feel that with Community Initiatives, we can do the same to our funders.” -El/La Para Translatinas
“I am very pleased with Community Initiatives and recommend them to everyone. They are great partners and make life much easier for all.” -Get Screened Oakland
“Community Initiatives is a huge time saver for us and helps us feel secure, fiscally and legally, so that we are better able to focus on our mission.” -Renaissance Journalism
“Community Initiatives is great. I am also surprised by the speed, patience, and flexibility the staff has with us. We are small, move fast, and things are often on fire. Community Initiatives is a stabilizing force.” -Startup Policy Lab
“I sincerely thank the Community Initiatives Board for their selfless service to the community that allows organizations like ours to grow and thrive.” – Bay Area Disc Association
Growth, gratitude, and a look ahead at 2019
Our new website received high marks, but we also heard requests for more educational and fundraising resources, and ways to learn more about other projects. We plan to develop additional content to help meet these needs in the coming year.
When we delved into your suggestions for improvement, we found that legal and human resources appeared to be underutilized services. However, those that have taken advantage of these services have offered high praise for the HR team. We encourage our projects to reach out to your client services manager with the full diversity of questions and obstacles you tackle–we may be able to help with more than you think!
The most consistent lesson we learn from working with you every day is the vital importance of regularly assessing the needs of the community we serve and responding to those needs.
When we asked projects what they would like to share directly with the board, the overwhelming response was gratitude. We would like to return that gratitude to you and thank you for choosing to be a part of Community Initiatives.
We deeply appreciate you taking the time to help us improve and to meet our own mission to serve great ideas – and the people who make those ideas a reality.