What’s the PropelNext California Partnership and Who’s Involved?

We’re always interested to learn about collaborations among major funders and keep up with who’s involved and to what extent. One such funder collaboration is PropelNext California Partnership, which just launched in December and aims to "help youth-serving organizations in the state boost their impact on young peoples' lives."

PropelNext is an initiative developed by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, and it's coming to California thanks to support from Hewlett, Packard, Weingart, and the Sobrato foundations. 

Bay Area nonprofits should get familiar with PropelNext because this five-funder collaboration plans to provide support to 12 to 16 California nonprofits that are passionate about helping disadvantaged youth.

PropelNext grants will give nonprofits up to $400,000 of unrestricted funding and, maybe as important, lots of hands-on help in the form of "expert coaching, group learning sessions, and a peer learning community over three years so they can enhance their program models, implement strong performance management systems, and develop organizational cultures that practice ongoing learning and evaluation."

(By the way, we're seeing more of that these days: Funder collaboratives fostering peer-to-peer learning and the exchange of best practices.)

Right now, the partnership is focusing on nonprofits that operate in 15 counties in the Bay Area and Southern California: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, and Ventura. For the San Francisco Bay Area, the counties are: San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma.

PropelNext differs from other youth-focused initiatives because it collects data and seeks data-driven insights to improve the organizations that serve troubled and disadvantaged youth groups. The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation is based in New York, and it previously funded PropelNext at the national level, giving money to groups in ten states. But this phase of PropelNext is California-specific. Instead of being one of the large, long-term investments that the Clark Foundation usually initiates, this program is all about small, short-term grants that can improve the capacities of organizations and the quality of their programs.  

“A lot of nonprofits are doing innovative and inspiring work with kids who desperately need help,” said Lissette Rodriguez, Managing Director of PropelNext, who developed and oversees the initiative. “But many of these organizations lack the resources to make sure their programs are effective and can weather tough economic times. We want to help them ensure, increase and broaden the impact of their work.”

Back in November 2014, the foundations solicited referrals for potential grantees through their networks and they plan to invite about 100 nonprofits to apply within the month. So basically, all participation in this competition is by invitation only. Grant selections will be made in July 2015.

Questions about the PropelNext grant selection process should be directed to Danielle Scaturro at dscaturro@emcf.org