By Joanne Lee, Community Vision’s Director of Consulting Services 

This past December, we made the final grant awards for the San Francisco Nonprofit Displacement Mitigation Program (NPDM). More than $1 million was allocated to support 31 social service, childcare, and community arts nonprofits in San Francisco. These critical funds help stabilize community-based organizations who are at risk of displacement due to the escalating real estate market, as well as those who have secured new leases or need funding for relocation costs, rent stipends, and tenant improvements to their new space.

Launched in 2014, the NPDM Program demonstrated a strong commitment from the City and County of San Francisco towards the nonprofit sector.  In response to cries from nonprofit organizations that were losing leases or renewing at substantially increased rates, the City selected Community Vision to develop and administer a technical assistance and grant program to address and stabilize organizations who were most at risk of displacement.

The program received $4.5 million in funding from the San Francisco’s Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development and the San Francisco Arts Commission. We joined forces with two great partners – the Community Arts Stabilization Trust and Urban Solutions.  Community Vision’s consulting team developed technical assistance and workshop trainings to help nonprofits understand their organizational and financial capacities for a real estate project, calculate and prioritize their space needs, identify and evaluate potential sites, negotiate leases and purchase agreements, and assemble financing and development team members.  We worked with a wide range of organizations such as, the Mission Childcare Consortium, Roxie Theatre, At the Crossroads, SF Conservation Corps, and Cartoon Art Museum (among many others). To date, 52 organizations were provided technical assistance services and 74 have received financial assistance awards. So far, 66 organizations have secured leases of three or more years that occupy 400,000 sq. ft. in San Francisco. The median lease terms are 7 years and over 2,700 jobs have been created or preserved in the stabilization process.

We’ve been deeply impressed by the perseverance and resiliency of the organizations we’ve worked with. While some of the larger regionally-focused nonprofits have moved out of San Francisco in search of less expensive space, most of the community organizations, which are deeply rooted in the neighborhoods they serve, have fought to find affordable space to continue serving their clients. For others, relocation actually resulted in greater mission-fit. Tandem, Partners in Early Learning ended up relocating to a facility that is closer to the population the nonprofit serves, has three-times more space, and allows the organization to add a community room, which provides a space for local families to participate in workshops and trainings.

Last year we expanded our efforts to thwart displacement of nonprofits from the East Bay.  With funding from the Walter & Elise Haas, Sr. Fund and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, we brought our Real Estate Readiness workshops and began providing one-on-one technical assistance to organizations at risk of displacement.  The NPDM program in San Francisco and our initial work in Oakland provided the basis for the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation to make a $1.7 million investment for CAST to implement Keeping Space – Oakland, a technical assistance and grant program for arts and culture nonprofit organizations.  Community Vision is delighted to partner with CAST and administer the program’s technical assistance and Real Estate Readiness workshops.

Back on the west-side of the Bay, the success of the San Francisco NPDM initiative has inspired the City to commit an additional $5.7 million to help nonprofits start, stay, and grow in the city by providing real estate assistance, including new resources to acquire permanent space and explore shared spaces. The investment will be allocated towards two programs, the Nonprofit Space Stabilization Program and the Nonprofit Space Investment Fund, which will both be administered by Community Vision.  I’m excited to announce that these programs will be launched in February 2017, so please sign up for Community Vision’s e-newsletter at to receive updates.

The innovative NPDM program raised the awareness and concerns of the philanthropic community.  The Northern California Grantmakers commissioned a study of Bay Area nonprofits last year. In total the report was based off of responses from nearly 500 nonprofits working out of 846 unique locations throughout the Bay Area. The First Regional Nonprofit Displacement Report reported that 82% of respondents were concerned about sustaining their work in the face of rising facility costs in the region. Nearly 2/3 of respondents reported that they will have to make a decision about moving in the next five years. Organizations based in and serving communities of color reported that they more likely to anticipate making a decision about relocation. These data have reaffirmed what we’re seeing on the ground – community-based organizations need the necessary support to find creative and affordable solutions to their space challenges so they can continue serving residents throughout our region. Community Vision is committed to supporting just that – we welcome you to join us!

Joanne Lee About the Author 

Joanne Lee is Community Vision’s Director of Consulting Services. She has been with Community Vision for 6 years.