It’s a new year and the York County Community Foundation (YCCF) is energized to launch a new direction for our grantmaking. Last year was our 60th anniversary. We reflected on what we have accomplished and how we can amplify the impact of our grantmaking to better engage donors to create a vibrant York County with unsurpassed opportunities for all.
For many years now, YCCF has used the best practice of strategic grantmaking to focus our grant dollars on projects that have clear goals, data-driven strategies, heightened accountability, and rigorous evaluation. (Strategic Philanthropy for a Complex World, Kania, Kramer and Russell, 2014) Over time, strategic grantmaking also came to mean focusing resources on systemic solutions to the underlying causes of problems. For example, YCCF sought to improve educational outcomes for vulnerable children by providing grants to Communities in Schools which brings community services into schools, making it easier for families to get the support they need. The aim of this kind of grantmaking is to achieve lasting improvement in people’s lives that strengthens our community as a whole.
YCCF is comprised of over 650 endowed funds that were each created by generous donors who wanted their gifts to generate annual grants to support specific charitable causes. Most of these grants are designated for specific nonprofits and YCCF must adhere to the original purpose of the fund.
YCCF’s Fund for York County is the only fund that can be flexible to adapt to the most pressing issues of the day. For the past 10 years, YCCF focused on three issues: neighborhood and downtown revitalization; education; and workforce development. YCCF has awarded over $4 million to nearly 170 organizations to address these issues. Our grants have improved downtowns in York, Hanover, and Delta, built new, affordable homes in city neighborhoods, and launched a self-sufficiency program to teach people how to move out of poverty and remain self-sufficient.
To evaluate where to focus next, YCCF sought input from community members, nonprofit leaders, and donors. We analyzed industry trends and data from the recently completed York County Economic Action Plan and United Way’s ALICE report. We asked ourselves: What is a pressing community need that affects the overall wellbeing of York County? What will meaningfully improve the lives of our most-challenged neighbors? Where is there momentum that could be leveraged with other organizations and funders to achieve significant impact?
The pandemic made the answers crystal clear. More families are living on the edge than we imagined. A recent analysis by the United Way of York County found that 32% of County households are financially insecure. Financial insecurity means that people are living paycheck to paycheck, and they are one emergency away from financial crisis.
From 2014 to 2016, more than 1 in 3 households with children in the U.S. experienced a major form of hardship — specifically, an inability to afford adequate food, shelter, or utilities — in one or more of the three years. Among Black and Latino households with children, roughly half reported one of these hardships. A mounting body of research suggests that dismantling barriers and connecting financially insecure people to resources and opportunities, can lay the foundation for an economy that works for everyone. (Widespread Economic Insecurity Pre-Pandemic Shows Need for Strong Recovery Package, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
But hardships don’t just impact working families. Over 15 million (or roughly 1 in 3) older adults aged 65+ are financially insecure, with incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2018)
To address this critical need, YCCF will launch the THRIVE grant program. Grants will focus on programs and collaboratives that transform lives and our community by helping low-income children, individuals and families achieve lasting financial security. Ultimately, we want children to have what they need to achieve, that adults overcome barriers to economic mobility and sustain good-paying jobs, and that people live in places that support them and help them build financial security. This is a complex problem that will take many partners working across sectors to address the root causes of financial insecurity. The THRIVE grant program will seek synergies with the United Way and the York County Economic Alliance in their goals to advance economic mobility for York Countians. A portion of the grant dollars will be used specifically to build the capacity of collaboratives who are working across sectors to effect positive systems change.
How YCCF engages with the community is as important as what we do. We know that trusting and respectful relationships are essential to progress. The best solutions will come from the expertise, wisdom, and knowledge of the organizations that provide services as well as from the people they serve. YCCF will live our value of diversity, equity, and inclusion by engaging with new and diverse community voices, address barriers to accessing our grants, and build our own DEI competence and that of our grantees.
Adrian Buckner, Vice President of Grants and Community Engagement will lead the THRIVE grant program and serve as our Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer. More information can be found at www.yccf.org/grants.
We enter the new year hopeful that York will move closer to becoming a growing, prosperous, and united community where everyone has unsurpassed opportunity to thrive.
Jane M. Conover, MSW
President & CEO of York County Community Foundation
Adrian N. Buckner, MBA, MPP
Vice President of Grants and Community Engagement and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer of York County Community Foundation