Marin Community Foundation Commits $60 Million to Four Key Initiatives

After a year of deliberation, the Marin Community Foundation in Novato, California, has committed more than $60 million over the next five years in support of four strategic initiatives, the Marin Independent Journal reports.

Beginning July 1, the foundation will allocate half of its annual, discretionary funds from the $1 billion Buck Trust to address four issues: the education gap between low- and high-income students, the county's dearth of affordable housing, the lack of economic security and upward mobility among the poor, and the county's contribution to global warming. Previously, the foundation had set aside at least 70 percent of the Buck Trust grants to help cover the operating costs of existing Marin nonprofits.

Despite the state's enormous budget deficit, some nonprofits are looking to the county to pick up where the foundation has left off, particularly in regard to health care. But Larry Meredith, director of the county's department of health and human services, offered little hope of that. "The county has made very clear that it's not backfilling the philosophical and strategic shifts of the foundation," he said.

The foundation will allocate the other half of its annual Buck Trust funds to support organizations working in nine areas of "community need and opportunity," including bolstering services for the county's rapidly growing senior population, increasing access to arts education in public schools, reducing health disparities, and integrating new immigrants into the Marin community.

Many organizations have seen their funding dwindle already as the foundation recalibrated its grant mix. But nonprofit leaders have been impressed with the level of planning that went into the shift. While Gail Theller, director of Community Action Marin, was disappointed that mental health was not among the funding areas, she was pleased at the initiative aimed at addressing poverty. "It's a new strategy for working with the poor," she said. "Rather than providing a lot of assistance around training for jobs and expecting that jobs themselves are going to make low-income people self-sufficient, there is a recognition we need to work with the low-income around financial literacy."

Richard Halstead. "Marin Community Foundation to Spend $60 Million on Four Key Initiatives." Marin Independent Journal 01/31/2008.