Sonoma Valley Fund Capacity Building Grants Program

Cohort Two Guidelines

In 2015, the Community Foundation Sonoma County’s Sonoma Valley Fund launched a capacity building grants program called Organizational Capacity Learning Cohort One. That effort engaged six organizations over three years (now in its fourth Sustaining Success year) in an intensive learning and sharing process. The Sonoma Valley Fund is initiating a second Cohort — Strengthening Capacity, Connections and Community. With guidance provided by Cohort One organizations, Cohort Two will focus on broadening and deepening connections and cultivating resilience — helping each other be braver, stronger and better together — able to overcome obstacles, meet challenges, deliver quality services, and support one another over time to continuously improve. The Fund’s overarching goal is to continue to grow a network of nonprofits deeply committed to strengthening themselves and one another in service of delivering quality programs and offerings to Sonoma Valley residents.

The Issue

Sonoma Valley is famous for serene vistas, rolling vineyards and lush farmlands, but for those of us who live here we know there are profound economic disparities that render some in our community hungry, homeless, under-educated and lacking in basic healthcare.  These disparities are made evident in the 2014 report, A Portrait of Sonoma County, which used the Human Development Index for measuring well-being within our county.  They are further highlighted in the 2017 Hidden in Plain Sight report, which compared community needs with capacity to meet those needs.

We are lucky to have many dedicated community-based organizations addressing these disparities. In most cases, these organizations operate on very limited budgets, receiving program-specific support. Rarely are they provided funding to invest in their own capacity or development or even their own assessment of capacity and developmental needs.

We seek to recognize and support nonprofits currently addressing the needs of our most vulnerable populations in Sonoma Valley and the springs.  We will provide funding and technical assistance to a Cohort of up to six organizations interested in committing time, energy and creative thinking to the goal of braver, stronger and better together. What follows is an outline of how we expect the effort may unfold over four years (subject to change):

Year One: Getting to Know You and Defining Capacity Building Goal(s)

  • Receive $10,000 general operating support to enable participation
  • Participate in all scheduled meetings estimated to be at least four full-day Cohort learning sessions (9:00 – 3:00)
  • Participate in cross-site visits to meet your Cohort colleague organizations personally
  • Complete an organizational assessment survey
  • Participate in a technical assistance site visit with consulting team to review survey results
  • Receive ongoing consultation from consulting team on non-profit strategy, capacity and evaluation
  • Complete a Year-End report that summarizes the experience
  • Develop and submit a capacity building project proposal for Year Two funding


Year Two: Practicing Change

Assuming full participation in Year One activities and submission of a capacity building project proposal, receive support toward capacity building project implementation.

  • Participate in all scheduled meetings estimated to be at least four full-day Cohort learning sessions (9:00 – 3:00)
  • Receive consultation from consulting team in support of project implementation
  • Participate in telephone check-ins and potentially site visits with consulting team
  • Complete a year-end project report that identifies project and organizational process and outcome results; and includes a proposal for third year funding
  • Provide feedback on Year Two Cohort experience


Year Three: Braver, Stronger & Better Together

Assuming full participation in Year Two activities, receive a second grant toward capacity building project implementation

  • Participate in all scheduled meetings estimated to be at least four full-day Cohort learning sessions (9:00 – 3:00)
  • Participate in telephone check-ins and potentially, site visits with consulting team
  • Complete a final report on the Cohort experience that identifies project and organizational results
  • Develop a Cohort concept for Sustaining Success in Year Four and commit to implementation


Year Four: Sustaining Success

Implement Sustaining Success concept – agree to self-organize at least one session with professional facilitation provided at the expense of the Foundation to reflect on the lasting impact of the Cohort experience and how to maintain the benefits.

Participate in telephone check-in with consulting team to evaluate progress and impact

Capacity building work is not easy. There are no magical solutions and the benefit to organizations always correlates with the time and effort invested by the organization.  Before applying, applicants should consider the following:

Does your organization have the ability (and desire) to:

  • Participate consistently and collegially in the learning Cohort?
  • Have your staff and board complete an organizational assessment survey?
  • Work with colleagues and a consultant to evaluate priorities for a capacity building project?
  • Develop and implement a capacity building project proposal?
  • Report on results and progress and ask for help when needed?

Non-profit organizations committed to strengthening connections with one another, that are based in the Valley and providing services or offerings to Valley residents are eligible to apply.  We are striving to build a healthy community in Sonoma Valley — a community in which all residents can thrive. Organizations whose ambition aligns with ours are encouraged to apply.

Please note – this funding cannot be applied to the following:

  • Annual fund campaigns, fundraising events or debt retirement
  • Capital campaigns
  • Conferences or one-time events
  • Political or religious purposes (or programs requiring religious participation)
  • Projects that primarily serve residents outside of Sonoma County
  • Organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other characteristic protected by law

Application Timeline

  • September 25, 2019: Guidelines and Grant application opens online [Click here to begin your application]
  • October 7, 2019: Workshop with Consultants & SV Grants Committee, Q & A and Technical Assistance [Click here to RVSP]
  • October 23, 2019: Applications Due by 5:00 PM
  • Late November: Cohort Announcement — Applicants Informed

How to Apply and How to Ask Questions

The Community Foundation Sonoma County’s Sonoma Valley Fund is using an online process for grant applications. Please click here to begin our application. Registration for the October 7 Workshop can be done by following this link.

Please direct questions to Jill Blair ( or Lisa Korwin (, our consulting team or Karin Demarest, Vice President for Programs, For questions about the online application process refer to the Frequently Asked Questions or contact Annette Williams,