30 nonprofits created visions for true rebuilding!
The Consortium Leverages Hurricane Recovery into a Vision for St. Croix
In the first 100 days after Hurricane Maria struck the U.S. Virgin Islands in September 2017, so much of the community’s focus on the island of St. Croix was acutely focused on survival and front-line relief. Because of you, however, at the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, we were concurrently coordinating relief efforts while also looking to the future, knowing that immediate needs would be met but that our community would soon need to move into the long-term community rebuilding and recovery phase.
As a nimble and innovative, place-based community foundation committed to equity, resilience, and collaboration, St. Croix Foundation is approaching disaster recovery differently with your help! By supporting and convening St. Croix nonprofit organizations through our Nonprofit Consortium, we are developing comprehensive and progressive sector-wide cases for the recovery and transformation of our island community. Working diligently and intimately with local nonprofits who span every sector of a healthy society (from Health and Human Welfare to Arts and Culture), we are clarifying and holding a vision of sustainable, holistic rebuilding. Having launched our Nonprofit Consortium in September of 2016, St. Croix Foundation was able to begin convening Consortium partners immediately after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in order to leverage our collective resources and meet the needs of the most vulnerable and underserved residents impacted by the storms.
With many critical government services on the verge of collapse before the storms, and completely broken afterwards, our Consortium of nonprofits has had to work collaboratively to restore their operations while also filling essential service gaps. In the six months since Hurricane Maria, our Consortium has begun to build a strategic framework and a collective vision for developing new approaches to strengthening and stabilizing St. Croix’s nonprofit sector as well as mitigating the devastation of natural disasters. As we chart a radical new course to recovery for our territory, we have drawn the conclusion that in small, isolated communities, directing investments to the Civic Sector is the most viable pathway to social justice, to equity, and to healthy economies.
Since our last report in December of 2017, St. Croix Foundation’s Nonprofit Consortium has been incredibly busy. Thanks to generous partners like you and Global Giving, the work of the Nonprofit Consortium is presenting a profound case for the critical importance of our grounding recovery strategies in our Civic Sector. Here are just a few major accomplishments of the Consortium in just the past 3 months:
On the Map at the Southeastern Council of Foundations
As one of the primary goals of the Consortium, St. Croix Foundation sought to expand opportunities to get the territory and U.S. Caribbean ‘on the map’ and recognized as a relevant funding priority for national and global funders. As is so often the case, many national funders or membership organizations have not recognized the Virgin Islands. In fact, before the work of the Consortium, St. Croix Foundation was notified by many of the largest national funders that the territory was simply not on their radar and that we shouldn’t expect that to change any time soon. Hurricane Maria changed that! And, today, after countless hours of advocacy, networking, and partnership building, on March 6, 2018, it was officially announced that St. Croix Foundation had successfully made the case for inclusion and membership at the Southeastern Council of Foundation (SECF), which boasts a network of over 300 foundations serving the southeast of the U.S., affording us and the 30-plus civic organizations that make up our Nonprofit Consortium access to a new national network of funders for support.
Hosted the 2nd Annual Nonprofit Consortium Funders Forum
In support of our NPC partners and to relieve local donors from the burden of supporting an overburdened sector, in February of 2017, we hosted 7 Senior Executives and CEOs from national philanthropic organizations on the mainland including the Southeastern Council of Foundations, Association of Black Foundation Executives, Minnesota Council of Foundations, Southern Education Fund and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation along with local thought leaders. Our goal? To introduce more philanthropic leaders to the Territory in order to open currently inaccessible funding streams for our entire civic community. As a result of that convening immediately after the hurricane St. Croix had 7 fierce champions who knew St. Croix Foundation, knew our nonprofit landscape, and who knew the passion and potential of our civic leaders who were working tirelessly to meet the immediate needs of the most vulnerable residents in our often forgotten American territory.
From March 9th -11th, the Foundation recently hosted our 2nd Annual Nonprofit Consortium Funders Forum, with 6 national philanthropic leaders. At the conference, 30 nonprofit leaders presented ‘sector-specific’ positioning and vision statements for the future of St. Croix. With Education, the Environs, Health & Human Services, and Arts & Culture organizations represented, nonprofits made progressive ‘cases’ to senior philanthropic executives from the Council on Foundations, the Southeastern Council of Foundations, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the philanthropic arm of FEMA and the Association for Black Foundation Executives.
The outcomes? Sonia Dow, Executive Director of the St. Croix Landmarks Society, provided historical and cultural context for the unique resiliency and vital importance of civic organizations on St. Croix. Ms. Dow was invited to speak at the next annual conference of the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) and the Southeastern Council of Foundations to highlight how a deep and shared understanding of cultural heritage and history among diverse groups leads to collaboration and resiliency even during the most challenging of times. As a model of how to achieve real resiliency, the Consoritum's work at the conference will further increase our exposure to the network of support for all of our nonprofits in the territory.
A Cohesive Vision for St. Croix
The Nonprofit Consortium brought together over 30 organizations that worked on positioning statements that would ground the Consortium in equity, sustainability, collaboration, empowerment, and policy. The following statements were developed at the 2nd Annual Nonprofit Consortium Funders Forum:
Nonprofit Consortium Positioning Statements
- St. Croix Foundation Nonprofit Consortium (NPC) is a place-based community convener and a network of grassroots organizations committed to equity and inclusion. The various non-profits who engage in the NPC serve the community and allow the NPC to identify the needs of the community. We utilize the resources of local and national networks to support, strengthen and empower the organizations and the community of stakeholders we serve.
- St. Croix Foundation and the Nonprofit Consortium is a leader incubator, bringing leaders together across over 30 organizations and 4 sectors for the purpose of system community change. We build collective power by maximizing the capacity of each organization to achieve their individual missions, build alignment, and share perspectives across and within the community. We create a unified voice for advocacy and social change on St. Croix and the infrastructure to support those changes.
- St. Croix Foundation, through the Nonprofit Consortium, bridges barriers and creates opportunities for cross-sectional collaboration towards one common goal: a brighter, more resilient St. Croix. By convening the Nonprofit Consortium, the Foundation has demonstrated its unique ability to engage our very diverse community like no other organization or government agency. Our charge now is to expand our reach by: (1) Creating stewards of positive change out of every person with which we interact, (2) Engaging with corporations, foundations, other non-profit organizations, governments, and individuals for the resources that we need to affect change; and (3) Empowering new, for-the-people political leaders that speak one, unified voice.
- The Nonprofit Consortium of the St. Croix Foundation develops and disseminates timely research and data that are equitable and accessible for supporting the intellectual capacity and power of the St. Croix community we are serving through transcultural and transformative initiatives. We develop and facilitate multi-strategic work that assesses and analyzes data driven - both quantitative and qualitative - eclectic human dynamics that implement multi-tiered solutions with sustainable economic foundations for intellectual research and development of the work of the Nonprofit Consortium.
- St. Croix Foundation Nonprofit Consortium represents a fearless and collective voice to secure political capital and resources to effectively change policy and remake economic development for inclusive growth. By increasing philanthropic capital and civic collaboration, we can leverage our voice to bring social, public, and private sectors to the table. We will grow the tax base for St. Croix by expanding the local entrepreneurial and small business community. We strive for equitable distribution of resources for growth, capacity, and impact for the benefit of the people of St. Croix.
- St. Croix Foundation for Community Development and the Non Profit Consortium work in partnership to change policy that eliminates structural barriers that contribute to key elements of the community as a need for systemic reform.
Sector Positioning Statements
Prior to the Funders Forum, four of our civic sectors in the Nonprofit Consortium had been work-shopping for a year to build a cohesive vision for St. Croix. In collaboration with their sister nonprofits, led by a dynamic international consultant, Allyson Reaves, their positioning statements and visions for the future were presented at the Funders Forum representing the groundwork for a unified, strategic plan that includes the following:
The Environment Sector: A Matter of Wealth
The Environment Sector supports the protection, conservation, mitigation, and restoration of our island’s natural resources (including historic built environments); helping to build environmental and, in turn, community resilience, while reconnecting our community with nature.
Arts & Cultural Heritage: The Conduit for Community Development
The Arts and Culture Sector serves as an artistic and cultural bearer for the St. Croix community by documenting our culture, caretaking our cultural archives, and creating a social fabric that feeds the young and old. The Arts & Cultural Heritage Sector bridges societal gaps through connecting and convening diverse populations and is a magnet for pride, self-worth, and happiness that heals the soul and addresses complex issues in an accessible way. Essential for public health and a powerful economic force, arts and culture is the grounding factor of a healthy St. Croix.
Education: Change Agents
Although the Education Nonprofit Sector has faced fiscal, leadership, and infrastructure challenges, and our families have experienced the devastation of two Category 5 hurricanes, we are responding by providing collaborative, adaptive strategies and embracing opportunities to create new paradigms for the development and education of all of our children.
Health & Human Services: Revolutionaries for Social Justice & Healthy Communities
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma & Maria, the social ills on St. Croix have been exacerbated by the reduction of resources and lack of accessibility to relief. The Health and Human Services sector empowers our community by advocating for justice, equality and well-being. We serve as champions for underserved and unserved populations by transforming social norms, embracing collaboration, promoting education and being an example of compassion, love and healing.
Building Trust for Collaboration and Transformation
The Nonprofit Consortium is creating a safe space for our nonprofits to engage in transformative dialogue and strategic planning. With budget cuts, including a recent announcement that our local government will be cutting funding allotments for nonprofits in the Human Service Sectors, with greater demands, and with the urgency of local recovery efforts, the opportunity that the our Nonprofit Consortium has before it to demonstrate a new framework for disaster recovery is profound. With growing recognition around the ingenuity and courage intrinsic to our sector, the Consortium has helped the Foundation reframe our narrative about this cadre of community warriors who are shepherding social transformation every day. Because here’s the reality: our civic partners not only represent a steadying force in our community but are also filling critical service gaps while advocating for and moving the needle around equity and social justice for the most vulnerable and underserved residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Looking to a Resilient Future
As needs increase and resources become scarcer in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, leveraging the strengths and staying power of the civic sector through the St. Croix Foundation Nonprofit Consortium has become more critical than ever before. Consider the following even 6 months after the storms:
- Eight of thirteen public schools on St. Croix are condemned, requiring every single public school student and teacher to endure grueling double sessions. Public school students now receive only 4 hours of instruction every day after having lost almost 3 months of school directly after the hurricane. Because of reduced time in school, our nonprofit sector is filling serious service gaps, providing before and after school programming, bussing students, and providing safe spaces for children and families while also protecting and preserving our natural and historic, built environment.
- St. Croix's only hospital is still slated to be condemned and mental health services are almost nonexistent. To exacerbate matters, in a recent email sent to all nonprofits who receive local government funding for health and human services, organizations were informed that, "We most certainly understand the importance of your organization to this territory, and have seen your tremendous response efforts and we continue to work towards resiliency. Unfortunately at this moment, Office of Management and Budget has informed our department that they are unable to provide legislative funding to your organization and will continue to monitor the revenue and respond accordingly." After receiving no funding for the last two quarters of 2017, this message from the Department of Human Services underscores the importance of the work of the Nonprofit Consortium to leverage and expand funding opportunities.
- 60% of all blue-roof tarps in the four islands of the Virgin Islands are on St. Croix, the poorest of all the islands even before the hurricane. The multiplier effect of this will be felt in every sector and will require that our Long Term Recovery Group, a sponsored project of the Foundation, to combine its efforts with our nonprofit organizations to achieve true resiliency.
For every challenge, however, there is an opportunity. It lies in the strength, innovation and passion of the nonprofits on St. Croix. To help build operational capacity, St. Croix Foundation is committed to providing the Nonprofit Consortium with professional development and organizational development training as well as collaboration skill-building. St. Croix’s nonprofits have illuminated this one fact: everything really is connected to everything! When seemingly disparate organizations sit at one table and gain understanding of each other’s work and vision, the intersections where missions and visions meet is unearthed and bridges are built. We seek to begin directing resources at those joints to support collective impact and sustainability.
Our investments in our civic sector are already paying off and we can report that we now have personal champions who know St. Croix, who know St. Croix Foundation, who know the passion and potential of our civic leaders, and who are working on our behalf to open doors of opportunities for St. Croix. GlobalGiving and every single person who continues to believe, is one of those champions. We hope you'll stay the course with us because, in the end, we are affirmed in our belief that Civic Leadership is the pathway to holistic community development and disaster recovery.
The Landmarks Society grounds the work in culture!
The Boys & Girls Club makes up for lost class time