Partnering with local community leaders, the East Bay Community Foundation is leading an effort to address the critical issues affecting the future of Bay Area Black-led nonprofit organizations.

Oakland, CA – On Friday, February 23rd, the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) hosted more than 130 leaders from Black-led nonprofit organizations, local businesses, and municipal and civic communities to celebrate the launch of the ASCEND:BLO Initiative – Accelerating and Stabilizing Communities through Equitable Nonprofit Development of Black-Led Organizations.

The launch event offered an opportunity to recognize, network and feel the collective power of Black-led organizations (BLOs) across Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties.  Speakers at the event included James W. Head, President & CEO, East Bay Community Foundation and Seitu Jemel Hart, Vice President of Membership and External Affairs, Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE).

Nationally, since 2010 over 400,000 registered nonprofits have either closed their doors or lost their 501 (c)(3) status. Bay Area Black-led organizations, which are lifelines to local communities and critical vehicles for community empowerment and civic participation, have been especially impacted. Although vital to their communities, these nonprofit organizations are shrinking in number and often lack the resources and connections to weather sudden shifts in the economy, including unprecedented increases in rents, or changes in philanthropic funders’ priorities. Many are still recovering from a period of fiscal belt tightening, restructuring, and closures. In addition, many are operating without strategic plans or long-term strategies to attract emerging leaders to replace long-tenured ones. These challenges have resulted in compromised services to low and moderate income communities, as well as communities of color.

To address the needs of local Black-led organizations, the East Bay Community Foundation is partnering with leaders from Akonadi Foundation, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, the County of Alameda, Kapor Center for Social Impact, The San Francisco Foundation, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, and The Y & H Soda Foundation, to invest in a collaborative, capacity-building initiative designed to support the growth, sustainability, and impact of these organizations in four core Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and San Mateo. The inspiration for this effort springs from a collective passion to strive for justice, fairness, and equity for all Bay Area residents in the fabric of civic life.

“This is a critical time for local anchor organizations and the communities that depend on their programs and services,” said James W. Head, President & CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation. “ASCEND:BLO is designed to enhance the growth and sustainability of participating organizations to more effectively address the needs of the communities they serve,” he continued. “Our primary objective is to develop a replicable approach to collaborative capacity-building that further advances the nonprofit sector with a lens toward race and equity.”

“The San Francisco Foundation is committed to advancing racial and economic equity throughout the Bay Area,” said Fred Blackwell, CEO of The San Francisco Foundation. “With our focus on equity, we are pleased to collaborate with other funders to ensure that Black-led organizations, which have been historically isolated and have dealt with insufficient resources, benefit from the Bay Area’s accelerating economy.”

ASCEND:BLO has three key components for effective nonprofit development – an accelerator, stabilizer, and peer network. Adapted from successful accelerator programs traditionally targeted for technology start-ups, the ASCEND:BLO Accelerator is an intensive, six-month program designed to bolster the growth and sustainability of emerging, innovative community anchors that have a vision for growth, promising ideas, and a willingness to work in new ways to catalyze personal, organizational, and community change. Participants will receive a three-year investment with ongoing technical support and training.

The ASCEND:BLO Stabilizer is a three-year program for more mature community organizations designed to minimize risk and guide organizations through transition by providing leadership development, board recruitment, and succession planning.

The ASCEND:BLO Network is an opportunity for peer networking and learning with access to relevant workshops and speakers for BLOs in the four core counties as well as in Marin and Santa Clara Counties. Currently, over 200 BLOs across the Bay Area are a part of this network.

Information about ASCEND:BLO, as well as a list of BLOs in the network can be found at here.

About East Bay Community Foundation

Founded in 1928, East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) connects donors with community-led movements to eliminate structural barriers, advance racial equity, and create an inclusive, fair, and just East Bay. Recognized as 2019’s “Boldest Community Foundation” by Inside Philanthropy, EBCF is committed to ensuring that all members of our community are treated fairly, with equitable opportunity and outcomes. EBCF is supported by 600 local donors and has charitable assets under management of over $600 million.