We can learn a great deal from Cradle to Career Fresno County’s approach to securing $10 million to support their local response to COVID-19. This is was the first time Fresno C2C leveraged federal funding, tapping into the more than $2 trillion set aside by Congress as part of the CARES Act that provides direct economic assistance to workers, families and small businesses. Frenso C2C shows what’s possible, and other members of the Cradle to Career Network should consider this tactic.
Frenso C2C Director Linda Gleason emphasized the role existing relationships played in securing funding. Her partnership table includes diverse leaders from education, local government, business, health, justice, philanthropy and community organizations. Fresno C2C built these relationships over a decade, creating a solid civic infrastructure of cross-sector leaders with a shared vision.
The pandemic tested the strength of these relationships and infrastructure as Fresno C2C quickly convened partners in the early days to respond to immediate community needs. By June, StriveTogether and Funding the Next Generation introduced Fresno C2C to the Children’s Funding Project and its report, “Navigating New and Flexible Funding Streams for Kids During COVID-19.” Fresno C2C convened local partners to share innovative ways the CARES Act funding was being used in other communities.
Fresno C2C surveyed funding priorities in response to COVID-19. Linda’s team at Fresno C2C gathered the data and determined child care to be the top priority. Together with Fresno C2C partners who are experts in early childhood education, a proposal was developed to provide child care vouchers for essential workers and personal protective equipment for child care providers. Nearly $2.5 million was secured.
Next, they worked with community benefit organizations to create the Fresno COVID-19 Equity Project that provides equal access for COVID-10 testing, social support and other health services to underserved community members, particularly people of color. The Equity Project supports free testing, contact tracing, community education and outreach as part of the city and county response to support community members disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
So far nearly $7.5 million has been secured for the Equity Project, and more funding is being considered for organizations serving disabled and vulnerable populations.
Like communities across the country, the early weeks and months of the pandemic placed unimaginable financial stress on Fresno-based nonprofits struggling to meet increased demands from vulnerable residents. Fresno C2C stands apart in how it quickly mobilized partners to secure significant CARES funding to address the crisis.
Linda and her team were instrumental in bringing their community together to respond to COVID-19 and advocated to ensure Fresno responded in an equitable way. By being a part of the Cradle to Career Network, Fresno C2C had the tools to convene and facilitate this work. StriveTogether will continue to support Fresno C2C in developing its capacity for policy, advocacy and mobilization along with other network members in response and recovery efforts.
Fresno Cradle to Career received the 2020 Nancy Zimpher Courage in Leadership Award at the Cradle to Career Convening for the team’s collaborative leadership at the local and state level in delivering results.
- Use a crisis as an opportunity. Think bigger than immediate needs. Find ways to address long-term goals even as you meet immediate needs.
- Existing community-based relationships built on trust can fast track solutions and deliver meaningful systems change.
- When the initial solution design comes from the grassroots, using lived experience as a guide, equity is clearly embedded.