• 2017 Strategic Plan Update 740x250

Strategies for Sustaining Impact as Revenue Declines

Sustainability Strategy 1: Build, strengthen, and sustain cross-sector systems

Baby on Florr 300x726Research supports the critical role of strong, coordinated, and responsive systems in supporting families and improving outcomes for children prenatal to five. Systems-focused strategies can improve the formal structure through which services to young children and their families are delivered. System building opportunities include public policy, education system linkage, resource coordination, workforce development, data integration, access to information resources and referrals and other efforts.

Enhance Communications and Engagement

First 5 Sonoma County will conduct a robust communication and engagement campaign to cultivate champions of early childhood and educate residents and community leaders about the importance of investing in early learning. The success of collaborative efforts that lead to systems-change are largely driven by the individuals who lead and comprise the effort, so authentically engaging the community is essential. First 5 should ensure that staffing reflects the skill sets necessary for strong engagement. Coordination and alignment of messaging about early childhood and leveraging related communication efforts is essential.

Expand Legislative Advocacy Efforts

As Prop. 10 is a statewide revenue source for programs and services supporting children prenatal to five, every county’s First 5 Commission is being impacted by the revenue decline. Legislative advocacy at the federal and state levels is critical to ensure lawmakers are aware and champion the value of investing upstream. First 5 Sonoma County should be strongly engaged in efforts to persuade and build alliances with legislative representatives, advocate for specific legislation that supports the goals of First 5 Sonoma County and statewide, as well as coordinating with and leveraging the power and focus of First 5 Association’s legislative advocacy work.

Utilize the Grant Making Press to Drive Systems Change

Funders have the opportunity to create incentives to drive organizational and system behavior through competitive funding processes, scoping of contractor work and grant monitoring. First 5 will utilize Request for Proposals and contract development as tools to institutionalize integration of key frameworks, including the Strengthening Families Framework, trauma-informed approaches and other emerging and best practice.

First 5 will utilize the procurement and contract management processes to drive consistent practices, strengthen provider communication and collaboration, and institutionalize universal and centralized referrals across funded services to ensure critical needs are met, such as ensuring developmental screening and enrollment in health coverage.

Sustainability Strategy 2: Increase the organizational capacity of community-based service providers

Boy by Pole 300x476Fund Organizational Capacity Building

First 5 Sonoma County pools funds with other local funders to support a 3-year capacity-building program for nonprofit organizations that serve children, prenatal to five, and their families. The effort will support organizations to plan for the significant First 5 funding reductions over the next five years. The program will encompass a range of activities that will target strengthening the organizational infrastructure of community based organizations that serve children, prenatal to five, and their families.

Target areas will include fund development capacity, promotion of inter-agency collaboration, community engagement, improved efficiency of services offered, board development, increased use of best practices and strengthened leadership skills. Organizations will identify and adopt sustainability strategies as a learning community, and find ways to leverage operational resources to maximize administrative resources and costs. Grants to support general operating costs will incentivize participation and help to support organizational change.

Strengthen Provider Data Collection and Information Sharing Practices

First 5 Sonoma County will work with Upstream Investments and other critical partners to enhance this important component of high-functioning systems. The capacity of agencies to share both client-level and aggregate data will be paramount to secure funding from a variety of local, state, and national sources. First 5 staff will support the collaborative work of developing data collection and sharing agreements and will leverage currently implemented systems (e.g., Persimmony). Ongoing technical assistance will be provided to strengthen data collection, data entry and using data to improve services.

Sustainability Strategy 3: Increase responsive grant making to allow greater flexibility to address emerging needs in a nimble and relevant manner

Toddler Boy 300x281Expand Flexible Funding Allocation

First 5’s existing Flexibility Fund grants program will be expanded and guidelines revised to allow the Commission to be more nimble and responsive to emerging needs of the community. Grants made from the new Responsive Grants Fund will invest in innovative and cost-effective solutions to urgent and emergent community needs that impact children prenatal to five.

The fund may also be accessed for projects and programs that advance policy and sustainability of 0-5 systems through advocacy. Responsive grants may be made for investments not otherwise addressed in planned allocations but that are aligned with the Commission’s 2010-2020 Strategic Plan. Match requirements and opportunities to pool local public and private dollars will further increase the investment power of First 5’s dollars and maximize community funding.

Sustainability Strategy 4: Increase operational efficiencies

Two Boys 300x562In addition to a focus on programmatic activities and outcomes that maximize community-level impact, First 5 Sonoma is also committed to ensuring fiscal and operational accountability. This means creating a long-range financial plan that includes allocations to achieve the Commission’s priority goals, a reduction in current grant expenditures, and supplementing declining Prop 10 funds from the dedicated fund, which is scheduled to be spent down by fiscal year 2021. It also includes an analysis and implementation of cost savings in administrative and operational expenses. The Commission will seek opportunities to reduce operational costs, including facilities, staffing, and contracted services and will develop innovative solutions and strategies to maximize operational efficiency.

Refine Evaluation Priorities

Evaluation best practices emphasize the importance of developing specific and quantifiable indicators to measure progress toward desired outcomes with specific, easy to understand, and unambiguous performance measures of both the quantity and the quality of the changes that have occurred. Many of First 5 Sonoma County’s investments in ongoing programs have been proven to be impactful through rigorous research and local evaluation. First 5 Sonoma County will conduct an audit of its current evaluation activities to determine areas for cost savings, such as scaling back evaluation of already proven programs.