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Annual Survey: A close look at Community Initiatives in 2019

In 2019, Community Initiatives continued our commitment to self-evaluation and again contracted with Research Evaluation Consulting (REC) for our annual Project Impact and Customer Satisfaction Survey. Thanks to the participation of 84% of project partners, we were able to take a comprehensive look at our collective activities and experiences. 

We are thrilled to share highlights with you from the 2019 annual survey.

Who makes up Community Initiatives? 
Community Initiatives Projects are incredibly varied in budget size and fall into these three categories:

25% of projects have budgets of $500,000-1,000,000+

36% of projects have budgets between $100,000-499,999

39% of projects have budgets up to $99,999

This year, projects identified both the primary and secondary foci of their mission. Education, social justice, and youth development are the largest categories in our network. Beyond these categories, our project partners are varied in purpose. As projects could select multiple secondary foci, these percentages exceed 100%:

48%  Education
25%  Social Justice
20%  Youth Development
19%  Human Services
17%  Health
15%  Environment
15%  Networks and Alliances
9%   Journalism and Media
9%   Arts and Culture
7%   Animal Welfare
7%   Philanthropy

How do we measure impact?

Measuring impact is critical to any project’s ability to demonstrate their impact and ultimately raise funds for future work. Metrics may be self-selected or dictated by the terms of a grant agreement. Projects, on average, measured three metrics of impact. While metrics were often project-specific, a number of key themes emerged, listed in order of frequency: 

  1. Populations Served
  2. Financial Stability and Funding
  3. Awareness
  4. Participant or Member Feedback
  5. Events Provided
  6. Collaborations
  7. Distribution of Resources

What went right?

Projects celebrated many successes in the past year, most often cited in the categories below. Note that these do not add up to 100% because some successes bridged categories or did not fall into a common category.

44% of projects reported organizational improvements and/or improvements in their fundraising and finances.
These accomplishments range from streamlining internal processes, increased membership, capacity building, identifying performance indicators, hiring key staff, identifying resources for future years, securing funding for new programs, and diversifying funding streams. 33% of projects reported community engagement, outreach, and/or facilitated events.
These accomplishments included information about working with other organizations in their communities, serving specific groups in their area, and sharing knowledge with others, community events, conferences, workshops, and organization meetings. 20% of projects engaged in educational advocacy.
Projects may have advocated for educational opportunities or provided those opportunities themselves.

15% of projects reported successes in advocating for animal welfare or the environment. 

What are projects’ shared challenges?

Many challenges may feel incredibly unique to an organization, but peers are often struggling with similar hurdles–even if they work in a different subject area. In this year’s survey, the following two challenges emerged as the most common to projects:

One-third of projects listed capacity limitations, including staffing, funding, and even difficulty in meeting the demand for their services or programs.

One-fifth of projects expressed challenges in Human Resources and staffing. A number of projects recently went through the process of recruiting and onboarding new leadership, which is widely regarded as a significant challenge across the sector.

What brought projects to Community Initiatives and how does it benefit them? 

Understanding why projects partnered with Community Initiatives helps us serve projects with those intentions in mind.

73% joined Community Initiatives to stay focused on mission activities

66% joined Community Initiatives to save time, money, and/or resources

We asked projects how Community Initiatives made a positive difference in their work. Many listed a number of benefits and three core themes were identified:

81% cited Easing the Administrative Burden

37% cited General Benefits

23% cited Quality Client Service Providers

We are in this together!

Each of our projects sought out fiscal sponsorship to make their own work possible; that decision has an impact beyond the administration of an organization’s efforts alone. By joining the Community Initiatives network, our clients are making the work of other incredible projects possible, too.

“Community Initiatives helped us through the process of acquiring our new TukTuk, which will be our major new development in our experiential science curriculum.”
Mission Science Workshop “[We are] working to develop a new HIV prevention educational workshop for young Black Gay and Bisexual men.”
Global Network of Black People working in HIV “We sent the greatest number of students ever on our educational spring break trip when we sent 17 students and 3 chaperones to New York City, and we helped fund that expansion by getting our first-ever grant from a foundation.”
Growth Circles “We developed new educational resources to advise the public on how to recognize a true sanctuary from one that may exploit, and one on how a sub-par facility can start making changes to become a more reputable sanctuary.”
North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance “We have…launched our first YEP (Youth Expression Project) program which focuses on youth expression through different forms of art. This year participants had the choice between writing class and an art class. We hope to expand and create different types of self expression classes.”
One Day At a Time “We have saved hundreds of birds’ lives who would otherwise have suffered & died. We helped thousands of people who find, rescue & adopt domestic, unreleasable pigeons & doves. We have inspired the creation of new rescues based on our model.”
Palomacy Pigeon & Dove Adoptions “This year, The FruitGuys Community Fund awarded 15 farms and agricultural nonprofits from 12 different states, making 2019 our largest and most diverse class so far.”
The FruitGuys Community Fund  “This past year 100% of Breakthrough Students graduated from High School. Nearly 90% were accepted to college. And 96% were first in their family to attend college.”
Breakthrough Sacramento

A more networked network in 2020

We are proud and honored that Community Initiatives is a chosen partner to more than 90 projects. We are thankful to them for taking the time to participate in our annual survey. Their feedback has been and will continue to be critical to our ability to effectively serve communities near and far. This year, we intend to do more to bring the Community Initiatives network together. Our client service team is ready to make warm introductions within our network. For this reason, on Thursday, February 27th, we will host our annual open house, joined by projects and partners for an evening of networking. If you would like to attend, please send an RSVP to our communications director, We look forward to a prosperous 2020, in service to all of our partner projects’ great ideas. Ruth WilliamsThank you for reading,
– Ruth Williams, President & CEO