“Partnering with ESC has been a great opportunity for our board. What a journey it has been to focus our grant dollars and provide a strong network and community for our agency partners!”
Founded in 1958, the J.B. and Emily Van Nuys Charities (VNC) is a small foundation with a long history of providing meaningful grants to organizations impacting the lives of Los Angeles County residents each year. Led by a three-person Board of Directors, VNC prides itself on being nimble and entrepreneurial in its decision-making and responsive to its grantees.
In 2012, while celebrating over fifty years of impact, now-Board Chair Terry Dibble and fellow board members Robert Maloney and Morgan St. John decided to challenge themselves to do even more for their grantees. They educated themselves about gaps in philanthropic giving amongst various causes, to focus VNC’s giving on issues that are typically underfunded. Ultimately, they identified domestic violence prevention as one of those key causes needing focused funding and, within a few years, launched a large grant program to provide six-figure multi-year grants to a selected group of Los Angeles area nonprofits with domestic violence prevention missions. But, even with this new funding approach in place, the VNC board wanted to push its funding impact to yet another level. As Terry recalls, “Our board was determined to connect more to our grantees, but VNC is a small foundation with no staff. We needed to think outside the box to better respond to our grantees’ growing needs.”
Through networking with other foundations, in 2016, Terry was introduced to ESC and was inspired by ESC’s commitment to coaching nonprofit leaders to transform their organizations to better serve their communities. He arranged a meeting of the VNC board with ESC leadership to learn more about ESC’s approach. The board came away invigorated by the conversation. The VNC board recognized the directors of their grantee organizations as prominent leaders for the cause of domestic violence prevention – and determined that they deserved support and empowerment, not just dollars. They wanted to open new avenues of communication with the leaders of the organizations they funded through the large grant program – to learn more about their needs and how VNC could help meet them.
Over the course of a year, the VNC board met with ESC’s leadership staff to explore ways that the two organizations could partner to leverage ESC’s unique coaching and training approach to provide meaningful support to VNC’s domestic violence prevention grantees. Domestic violence prevention is a challenging field that places heavy demands on staff members working in the field, who risk experiencing burnout and secondary trauma. On top of that, Terry observes, the VNC board was surprised to learn that there were limited opportunities for collaboration between staff members of agencies serving different constituencies and communities across the region. VNC and ESC therefore made it a priority to develop an approach that would give the grantee organizations an opportunity to work more closely with one another.
In June 2017, VNC and ESC launched their first-ever Customized Leadership Cohort for Domestic Violence Prevention Agencies, aimed at breaking down silos and providing a supportive peer forum for nonprofit leaders serving this critical cause. Terry says, “This cohort was VNC’s chance to bring our prevention grantees together, and help them share knowledge and resources, and ultimately deepen their collective impact on the community.” The leadership cohort took place over ten months and brought together Executive Directors of nine different domestic violence prevention agencies. The directors attended regular training workshops facilitated by ESC consultants, who thoughtfully steered discussions and provided feedback.
The participants reported that the cohort was an empowering forum where they were able to address their shared challenges and come up with innovative solutions together. Most significantly, towards the end of the program, the agency executive directors resolved to co-author a white paper and submit a joint grant request to Los Angeles County for additional funding in support of domestic violence prevention services. As a result of the cohort, the participants feel more confident in their abilities to work together toward systemic change in this critical field, and VNC’s board feels more in tune with their grantees’ grassroots efforts.
The VNC board recently renewed its partnership with ESC to continue the cohort of nine domestic violence prevention grantees for a second year. And – in a new innovation in VNC and ESC’s partnership – in May 2019 ESC led a one-day learning symposium on “Being an Employer of Choice” which was open to all VNC grantees. Terry and the VNC board are delighted with the progress of the second year of the program so far and with the overall impact of their work with ESC: “Partnering with ESC has been a great opportunity for our board. What a journey it has been to focus our grant dollars and provide a strong network and community for our agency partners!”
To learn more about ESC’s Customized Leadership Cohort Programs, click here.