Throughout California the widening wealth gap, changing neighborhoods, and a growing unhoused community are daily reminders of ongoing displacement and economic instability for many. With the cost of living considered among the highest in the nation, California’s exorbitant housing and rental costs have reshaped communities, contributing to the permanent displacement of many individuals and families, and have placed serious strains on others who struggle to maintain space throughout the state’s rapidly gentrifying cities. Facing similar threats to their long-term survival, community-based social service and arts organizations are turning to community-centered strategies and using capital campaign fundraising to challenge displacement and create opportunities for long-term, non-extractive place-keeping.
What is a Capital Campaign?
Capital campaigns are massive fundraising efforts utilized by many community-based organizations to fund specific initiatives that increase organizational capacities and advance their missions. Through this type of fundraising, organizations are tasked with raising a specific dollar amount within a defined period of time. Capital campaigns are a great way for organizations to raise money for large scale projects and support the purchase or improvement of physical assets like real estate through land acquisition, building construction and renovation projects, or the large-scale purchase of equipment essential to their operations. At the same time, capital campaigns are a huge undertaking and can be overwhelming for many nonprofits to navigate as they require a great deal of research, planning, and capacity for implementation.
Broken down into stages, there are three main phases of a capital campaign:
- Quiet Phase: During the Quiet Phase, organizations do much of their initial planning and outreach to potential donors, with the aim of securing the majority of their funding needs through major gifts.
- Kickoff Phase: The Kickoff Phase marks the public launch of a capital campaign, where an organization makes a formal announcement of their campaign goals to a larger audience through press releases and formal gatherings. The publicized goal is based on what the organization has already raised during the Quiet Phase, and the amount of funding that is still needed. Once a public announcement has been made, organizations have made it to the Public Phase.
- Public Phase: During the Public Phase, an organization will complete their fundraising goal through community outreach. This often includes a call to action to the larger community for donations in order to raise the remaining funds needed to reach the project’s goals. Community-based organizations need support at each stage to ensure their campaign is successful.
Community Vision works with organizations to broaden their financial knowledge and capacity, and ensure their readiness to take on fundraising initiatives, such as capital campaigns. We connect organizations with key community partners that support the development and rollout of a successful campaign.
Community-led real estate acquisition helps preserve physical community spaces and provides community-based organizations with an opportunity to thrive. It offers a critical pathway towards mitigating the displacement created by an increasingly unaffordable real estate landscape and keeping people rooted in their neighborhoods by ensuring community ownership and long-term affordability.
Below we highlight some of our clients that are leveraging the support of their communities to build long-term community assets. Each of these organization’s stories demonstrates a different phase of the capital campaign process.
Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program
The early stages of developing a capital campaign can be a huge lift for nonprofits and involve a tremendous amount of research, planning, and resources. During this time, organizations lay the groundwork for future success by understanding their needs and establishing campaign goals. This process involves the development of outreach strategies, the solicitation of community feedback, and reaching out to potential donors for initial support.
Nelli Hannon, co-founder and former city council member of Emeryville, founded the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program (ECAP) in her garage in 1985 to meet the basic needs of Emeryville’s residents. Now located on San Pablo Avenue, on the border of Emeryville and Oakland, the volunteer-run nonprofit provides more than 25 tons of food to East Bay residents every week through their free farmers’ market-style distribution, which is open to anyone who shows up. With more than 30 years of experience serving their community, ECAP leverages relationships and creative alternatives to source extra food that would normally go to waste.
ECAP is in the beginning of their capital campaign journey. Their goal is to raise funds to support their temporary relocation while a new facility is built. Next year, their current building will be torn down as part of a redevelopment plan to build a 7-story, 100% affordable apartment complex. When constructed, the new building will feature 90 units and a 3,600 square foot commercial space at the ground floor which will house ECAP’s new and updated operating space.
In 2020, Community Vision provided ECAP with real estate consulting support including space planning, connecting them with pro bono architectural support, lease negotiations, and budgeting. With this new expanded space, ECAP plans to move its operations indoors, operating much like a brand new grocery store where people seeking services, including the building’s tenants, can ‘shop’ for fresh food. For ECAP, this move indoors will be especially helpful for its volunteers as it will provide a more comfortable environment to efficiently process food.
With the expected start date for construction slated for 2022, ECAP will need to temporarily relocate its operations until it’s new home is complete in 2024. To do that they will need to source an interim location in proximity to their current space that is capable of handling a proper refrigeration set up, and is accessible to the public especially via public transportation, which many who rely on ECAP’s services use. They are preparing to launch a capital campaign to support the cost of this relocation, the cost of relocating the organization back to their new space, as well as the purchase of equipment they will need to be operational at the new facility.
For ECAP, this is an important step towards securing the capital they will need to support this transition, while deepening their connection to the community and shaping their long-term future.
West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center
Once the groundwork for a capital campaign has been laid and an organization has raised 50-70% of their campaign goal through major donors, it is time for a formal announcement. The kick-off phase of the capital campaign process is an important milestone where organizations publish set campaign goals and raise awareness through formal events, press releases or direct outreach, and in some cases, a combination of all three. These events are a great opportunity for organizations to honor early donors for their contributions and build momentum around raising the rest of the funds.
Since 1968, West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center has served San Francisco’s Filipino immigrant and Asian Pacific Islander communities in the South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood. Their programs provide youth with academic support, address the needs of families through workforce development assistance, and care for the welfare of their seniors with food distribution and mental health advocacy. West Bay responded quickly to the increased burden placed on many families as a result of the pandemic. For many families, working from home is not an option and living arrangements make virtual learning impossible. To support them, West Bay is providing full day, in-person programming to 150 youth in collaboration with United Playaz, a major expansion of the programming they were able to offer just last year.
Despite being an anchor in the community as the oldest Filipino-led organization in San Francisco, West Bay has never had a permanent space of its own. The organization had been displaced six times and had to borrow space from other nonprofits and recreational centers due to rising rents brought on by the Bay Area’s growing wealth disparities. With support from private and in-kind donations, and grant awards from the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development through the SOMA Stabilization Fund and Community Vision through the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development’s Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative, West Bay secured the necessary funding to acquire a permanent building for their programs for the first time. The two-story building, located at 150-154 7th Street increases West Bay’s square footage from 1,500 to 6,215 square feet. This additional space is critical to accommodate the growth of their programs while allowing them to serve more people. In addition to awarding West Bay with a $647,395 acquisition grant, Community Vision provided a range of Technical Assistance support to help them understand the costs of acquisition, renovation, and operations and secure the necessary funding to move the project forward.
With the acquisition of their first building under way- a huge first step! -West Bay is launching a capital campaign in September 2021 to raise $1 million to support the renovation of their new space. Although they were able to purchase a permanent home, there is still a lot of work to do to ensure the space is safe and ready for the community when it opens in the Summer of 2022. This launch marks the beginning of the kickoff phase where, after months of research and planning, West Bay is finally ready to make their capital campaign goals public and call on the community to help them bring their new space to life.
For a long standing organization like West Bay, finding their long-term home in the heart of their community means preserving their organizational legacy, and is an opportunity to deepen their roots. For local residents, the building helps create a sense of permanent belonging and stability in their lives amidst an environment of continued displacement.
By the Summer of 2022, West Bay hopes to open the doors of its brand new building to the community. If you’d like to support the buildout of West Bay’s forever home visit: www.westbaycenter.org/home/west-bays-new-home/.
Youth Speaks and First Exposures
During the final phase of a capital campaign, the organization publicly announces their goals and engages the community’s support to help them reach the finish line. For the organization, this is also an opportunity for direct community investment, where long-time supporters and newer partners alike can play a role in building long term community spaces.
Youth Speaks and First Exposures are two San Francisco-based arts organizations with a long history of building youth-centered spaces to cultivate creativity, amplify youth voices and incubate leadership and resilience. Founded in 1996, Youth Speaks was born in the Mission District and has international reach as a center for amplifying youth voices to ignite positive social change through the literary arts, spoken word and performance. First Exposures was established in 1993, and is a nationally recognized youth photography-based mentoring program that provides opportunities for San Francisco’s young people to express themselves creatively through their art.
With deep roots in the Mission, Youth Speaks and First Exposures have come together to build a cultural meeting space for creative expression and connection for San Francisco’s young people. Like many nonprofits in the Bay Area, dramatic increases in commercial real estate costs left both organizations vulnerable to steep rent increases, placing significant burdens on their long-term survival and underscoring the reality of the challenges both residents and nonprofits are experiencing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Located at 265 Shotwell, their new home is designed to embody the collaborative spirit of the partnership, featuring a darkroom and flexible meeting and performance spaces to accommodate both programs. This innovative partnership was formed when Community Vision suggested that the two arts organizations co-share and apply for the new below market rate space located on the bottom floor of a new 127-unit affordable development in the heart of the Mission.
This opportunity fulfills both Youth Speaks’ and First Exposures’ immediate need to remain in proximity to the communities they serve, while also serving as a model for how nonprofit organizations can leverage shared space as a means towards greater organizational sustainability and deeper programmatic collaboration. The organizations envision programming that will challenge the ongoing displacement that has reshaped the neighborhood, while helping to preserve the community’s identity and foster a sense of belonging.
The new building, which connects to the In Chan Kaajal Park, meaning “My Little Village” in the Yucatec Mayan language, provides a critical platform to re-engage the community as they work to rebuild from the extended period of isolation, increased displacement, and overwhelming uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. With a commitment to address these needs, the two organizations are designing an inclusive space (and programming) that allows them to inspire the community’s resilience and rebuild confidence in shared spaces and connection.
Through a joint capital campaign effort launched in 2020, Youth Speaks and First Exposures have raised 75% of their $2M goal towards the buildout of their new 4,700 square foot arts center. To learn more about their collaboration and to support the buildout of their new space, visit: www.fxys.org/.
Strengthening opportunities through local ownership
Community-based organizations are adopting creative and sustainable solutions to challenge ongoing gentrification and displacement in their communities. By securing community-owned real estate within an inequitable real estate market, they are stabilizing communities and mitigating the stresses that many individuals and small businesses alike face. Capital campaigns are a great way for community-based organizations to partner with the local community and broader public to raise the financing needed to preserve social and cultural spaces.
While capital campaigns require a range of sustained collective support from beginning to end, they create tangible opportunities for long-term community investment and community-controlled assets. These stories help demonstrate how local organizations leverage community resources to take up space, shifting narratives of displacement to ones that lift up community power and self determination, and modeling the power of collective support, creative partnerships, and the role community-centered arts and social service organizations play in placekeeping.