Ground Truthing in Philanthropy
ground truth (noun)
1. information provided by direct observation as opposed to information provided by inference
A few years ago, our team learned the term ground truth. It was referenced in forest management work as a way to ensure that data and stories are tested in the truth that is on the ground.
This term has now made it into many aspects of our work. It is aligned with our belief that those closest to the work are the ones closest to the solutions. If we only rely on data, stories and perspectives from one sector of the community (such as social media), we might not be aware of what is actually happening on the ground.
Oftentimes when meeting a community member and potential donor, we encounter perspectives that are different from what we are experiencing on the ground. For example:
“Nothing is happening in housing!”
Ground truth: Since Mountain Housing Council began in 2017, our partners have facilitated nearly 500 new housing units in our community. Additionally, Landing Locals, a social enterprise for which TTCF provided seed funding, reports housing over 500 renters. While it is not nearly enough for what our workforce needs, we have new regional solutions coming online to increase our pace!
“The work in the forest is too big for philanthropy. This is the responsibility of the public agencies.”
Ground truth: Yes and no. Yes, the state has increased funding available for forest management and restoration projects, but there is still a role for philanthropy at the local level. Our experience in facilitating the $2M CAL FIRE grant has taught us that we are more competitive with local philanthropy; and oftentimes public funding needs support from local organizations like TTCF’s Forest Futures to distribute those funds.
“Our mountain community does not have enough mental health resources.”
Ground truth: Over the past several years, our Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee (CCTT) program has brought together various organizations that provide mental health support in order to map the strengths and gaps in the behavioral health system. With funding from a generous private foundation, we now have a road map to prioritize where to put philanthropy and strengthen this important work.
What is common across the above examples is the complexity of the problems and need for system change both locally and at the state and national level. There is no silver bullet or easy answer…just hard work with dedicated leadership, aligned strategy and the need for local resources.
I hope that as you read this edition of our Quarterly Impact Report, you will find new insights that help you to ground truth your own understanding of what is happening in our community. If you believe in this approach for your own philanthropy, I invite you to engage with us and allow TTCF to help inform your own giving strategy.
Building a Strong Foundation
Give Back Tahoe 2022
TTCF 2022 Grantmaking Cycle
The Power of Collective Giving
Many of us mark the beginning of a new calendar year by setting things in the right direction to achieve personal goals for our health and well-being. Here at TTCF, we often find that this is a good time to take stock of our community’s health and vitality.
The grantmaking cycle that culminates in late November is our annual check-in with our local nonprofits. Since it overlaps with Give Back Tahoe‘s giving season, we also see how donors are responding to our nonprofit partners’ needs.
The information we gather during our grantmaking process, tells us that there are still too many unmet needs. While we celebrate the $500,000 (of which $400,000 was unrestricted funding) granted to most of the nonprofits that applied for grants in 2022, it would have required two or three times that amount to meet the total grant requests.
2022 was a difficult year for many members of our community. It was also a hard time for every organization whose mission is to provide support to our neighbors in need.
Because of the worsening housing crisis, there are staffing shortages throughout the nonprofit sector that are affecting every program area. Many organizations are finding it difficult to retain staff members, who know and love the community they serve, because they can’t afford to live here.
This comes at a time when economic pressures on families in general are at record highs. This means that needs have never been greater. Meanwhile, many sources of funding have gone away. Throughout the worst of the Covid pandemic, we were able to respond immediately through our Emergency Response Fund, as well as with pass-through funds from the CARES act. That extra funding has now dried up, yet we have not seen a decrease in the demand for services.
For example, Sierra Community House, the umbrella for many family resources, has had a more than 400% increase in the need for hunger relief. At the same time, the cost of food and the cost of transportation to distribute it has also increased. As TTCF’s grant cycle recognized significant needs and gaps, we took heart when Sierra Community House was able to raise more than $130,000 through Give Back Tahoe with the help of our community and generous donors.
This is why we are determined to do everything we can to channel the generosity of the Tahoe Truckee community, which was demonstrated abundantly during GBT 2022.
We are so grateful that the Tahoe Truckee community stepped up to make GBT 2022 the most successful in its nine-year history by raising more than $730,000. That money will help 70 worthy organizations do the important work of helping those who need it most.
Phyllis McConn TTCF Community Impact Officer
A full Circle of Giving
Of course, we also have a lot of good stories to share.
Last year, when they gave TTCF a gift of $1 million, Richard and Theresa Crocker earmarked $200,000 for scholarships. They requested that we fund students on career paths that would benefit the community. As a result, we awarded scholarships to students attending graduate school, transitioning from 2 to 4 year schools, enhancing their careers with certification programs, or finding a new tech or vocational pathway.
One of the scholarships was awarded to Yulisa Mendez, who received a previous scholarship in 2016 that helped her become the first member of her family to earn a four-year degree. Thanks to her 2022 scholarship, Yulisa is studying to receive a masters degree and become a bilingual therapist.
This fulfills the Crockers’ request that their gift serve a local need as bilingual therapists are limited in Tahoe Truckee, and the demand for Spanish-language therapy has increased. This is the power of community giving.
Yulisa Mendez, scholarship recipient
The main theme I see in my current work is giving back to the community. They helped me go to college, and helped me at the high school level. I’m able to stay in my community to give back as much as I can, because of the help they’ve given me.
Yulisa Mendez scholarship recipient
TTCF is thrilled to add Alpenglow Expeditions as the newest partner in the Tahoe50 Giving Club (T50) creating an opportunity for T50 members, friends and family, colleagues and clients to experience mountain adventure all year long.
Since 2004, Alpenglow Expeditions has been leading mountaineering and rock climbing adventures across the world, including in its home base of Olympic Valley. Founded by Tahoe resident and acclaimed international mountain guide, climber and skier Adrian Ballinger, Alpenglow fosters a community of climbers prepared to achieve their dreams in the world’s greatest mountain ranges.
“We are excited to extend our philanthropy by partnering with the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation’s Tahoe50 Giving Club. We appreciate all that TTCF does to support our community and feel good knowing that our experiences can help make a difference to our local community,” said Sara Sheltz, California Programs Manager of Alpenglow Expeditions.
Alpenglow’s generous philanthropic support allows T50 members discounted access to its Intro to Backcountry Series and Palisades Tahoe Backcountry tours, as well as the unique opportunity to experience a guided climb up the TramFace at Palisades Tahoe on the Via Ferrata, as recently featured in The New York Times.
*Proceeds from Tahoe50 memberships support TTCF’s solution-focused efforts in areas such as workforce housing, family strengthening, forest health, scholarships and more. To learn more about becoming a Tahoe50 Giving Club member contact Kate Frankfurt, Chief Philanthropy Officer at email@example.com
Meeting participants from 44 agencies (July 1, 2022-Dec 31, 2022)
Raised for family strengthening / social services
In December, the Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust and Foundation awarded the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation a $247,500 grant to support our region’s behavioral health work. This grant was part of a larger set of awards distributed to community-based organizations in mountain communities to help increase overall access to mental health care, reduce behavioral health stigma, and improve community-developed services for communities of color and indigenous populations. In Tahoe Truckee, these funds will support Community Collaborative partner agency programs laid out in our Behavioral Health Roadmap, such as youth programs, bilingual and bicultural mental health, peer support, suicide prevention, and substance-use disorder prevention and treatment. Sub-grantees include Sierra Community House, Gateway Mountain Center, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and Granite Wellness Center.
We are thankful for the Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust’s continued support of local efforts to improve the health and well-being of Tahoe Truckee residents. As youth mental health needs skyrocket across the country, we now have the opportunity to address this crisis at a local level. The funds granted by Katz Amsterdam will be used to increase youth access to counseling, nature-based therapeutic mentoring, and substance use treatment services. Funds will also address one of our region’s most significant gaps in mental health services by supporting bilingual, bicultural, certified peer counseling and suicide prevention services.
Alison Schwedner Community Collaborative Program Director
Alison Schwedner, Courtney Hollway, Cindy Maciel, Beatriz Schaffert, Paul Bancroft
CCTT has partnered with the Sierra Native Alliance to raise awareness of missing and murdered indigenous women, and participated in a quilt unveiling ceremony at the Truckee Community Recreation Center. The three figures in the center of the quilt represent the heartbreaking statistic that more than 1 in 3 Native girls and women have been sexually assaulted. While the realities of the violence against Native women (which has been ongoing since the Gold Rush in California) is well known within tribal communities—this epidemic has been invisible within the mainstream media. The quilt was hand made by the Sierra Native Alliance’s Youth Leadership group and will be on display at the Truckee Community Recreation Center through February 2023.
*CCTT monthly meetings are limited to partners only. However, portions of the agenda are recorded so that the public can access important information.
Alison Schwedner firstname.lastname@example.org and Kristina Kind email@example.com
Raised to date
With our Forest Futures grant, we were able to provide housing stipends to our workers, which was essential for completing seasonal fuel reduction projects. We have no shortage of work that needs to be done, and knowing that positions can go unfilled due to the housing challenges we face in our area, these stipends were monumental in recruiting workers by offsetting the high costs they needed to pay in rent.
Rachel Durben Development Manager, Great Basin Institute
We are honored to be one of 13 California organizations partnering with Sierra Health Foundation on resiliency efforts, with a focus on climate change and health equity. The foundation’s $70,000 grant will help us weave together the work of Forest Futures with that of the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee (CCTT) and our recently established Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD). The grant will also allow us to focus on elevating the role of our local Promotora Network as we build capacity around an equitable readiness for disaster, as well as communications and leadership that is inclusive of all members of our community.
Impacts to Report
With Forest Futures grant funding, the National Forest Foundation completed 204 acres of fuel reduction work as part of a project to protect Glenshire and the communities surrounding Highway 267. In November, early winter conditions allowed the US Forest Service to safely burn the piles of wood created during this project.
Upcoming CAL Fire Grant
In June 2022 TTCF received a $1.9M block grant from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) that will help create greater collective wildfire resilience by improving forest health in the Truckee and North Tahoe regions. This three-year program will open its first funding round application in March 2023 coupled with a “How to Apply” workshop on February 28th. Given the importance of private landowner-specific work, TTCF hopes to leverage the results and learning to inform future efforts.
- Explore the Truckee North Tahoe Forest Management Program website and frequently asked questions at https://www.ttcf.net/tntfmp/
- Check out the October 2022 Forest Futures Salon on community resources for forest resilience, including some preliminary information about this block grant program. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvrvMT3kAFI
Join us for our monthly Forest Futures Salons to learn about different aspects of regenerative forest management and wildfire resilience. We continue to meet virtually which allows us to engage a broader group of our community and also capture and record the content. Please join us!
Kate Frankfurt, Chief Philanthropy Officer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Anne Graham, Program Coordinator – email@example.com
Median home price
Truckee and E. Placer County renters housed through Landing Locals
As a small mountain community, we face housing issues like the rest of the country. Yet our realities and solutions are different from our urban and suburban neighbors. After many years of hard work, collaborating across a region with 3 jurisdictions and more than 17 special districts, the Mountain Housing Council (MHC), a partnership of nearly 30 local organizations, businesses and public agencies, celebrated emerging strategies for implementation at its January Council Meeting. View the full meeting recording here to learn more!
Some highlights of our regional progress include:
- In 2021, the Mountain Housing Council released the Regional Housing Implementation Plan, which included new, updated housing data, addressed gaps and challenges in the system, and provided a blueprint for facilitating more housing in the region.
- The businesses of North Tahoe and the voters of the Town of Truckee worked to secure new sources of funding to address our housing crisis.
- The Housing Hub will launch in 2023 and is focused on streamlining and advocating for small-mid size developers focused on missing middle housing. Watch this clip to learn more.
- The Truckee Tahoe Workforce Housing Agency announced a new strategic plan that expands its mission to serve the broader workforce and creates a new housing fund. Watch this clip to learn more.
- The Supportive Housing and Homelessness Working Group has advanced discussion around the needs of our most vulnerable community members and is supporting the launch of an advisory council to focus on a community strategic plan moving forward. Watch this clip to learn more.
- Nearly 500 housing units have been built, or are in progress to be built, while more than 100 of our existing units have welcomed new workforce tenants.
As you can see, a lot has happened since we launched the MHC. Our region has built leadership, strategy and aligned resources to face this crisis that is complex with solutions that are slow. This work could not happen without our partners.
Learn about the MHC Speaker Series
Welcome Dana Crary, Community Impact Manager
Dana joined TTCF in 2022 after doing some professional soul-searching with a career coach and discovering that working locally, in Truckee, and contributing directly to our community were must-haves for the next opportunity she would pursue; this naturally led Dana to TTCF.
Dana has a diverse, robust background in educational technology and advocating for “food justice” which means helping to assure nourishing, fresh food is accessible for everyone. She especially enjoys working with youth to educate them on where food comes from and share information on simple things like what it takes to grow a tomato.
Right now Dana is knee-deep in TTCF’s scholarship season and truly blown away by the generosity of the community, and what these 120 scholarships mean to high school students – many of whom would be unable to attend college otherwise.
Dana has a passion for baking and has worked as a cheesemonger and at a chocolate factory, where she admits to coming home smelling like roasted cacao every day. A regular at the Truckee Roundhouse, Dana also enjoys making ceramic bowls, pots and mugs for friends. She and her husband have been enjoying exploring the winter wonderland of Truckee by snowshoe, too.
I’m thrilled to be at TTCF and have a huge level of pride and excitement about what I do. I’m happiest and most fulfilled doing something that has a positive impact on others.
To learn more about our community impact and how you can partner with us to make a difference contact: Stacy Caldwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kate Frankfurt at email@example.com.