California and the San Joaquin Valley are in the midst of the worst drought in state history. Due to record low rainfall and snowpack, in January 2015 Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency and introduced drastic water cuts, including a 25% reduction of water use by all cities. The drought has caused significant disruption and distress in urban and rural water use, agricultural livelihoods, the larger economy, and day-to-day activities of residents across the state.
The San Joaquin Valley is particularly hard-hit, with rural and low-income communities especially hurt by the drought, in the context of long-term changes in the agricultural economy, historically low economic development, poor infrastructure, and a frayed social-safety net.
In spring 2015, the Fresno Regional Foundation began examining the impacts of the drought on San Joaquin Valley non-profit organizations that have been at the forefront of helping struggling individuals, families, and communities. This project focuses on community-benefit organizations (CBOs) to highlight the often hidden community-level impacts of the drought, since non-profits have not been the focus of previous studies, and because these organizations provide the critical link between philanthropic strategy and lasting social impact.
The project gathered information and feedback from nonprofits through an on-line survey of San Joaquin Valley organizations, a series of stakeholder interviews, and four workshops with CBO leaders in Fresno, Merced, Visalia, and Bakersfield. The report ends with conclusions and recommendations for how foundations and other investors can best assist CBOs to improve their impact and better serve vulnerable populations in the Valley.