2021 saw the biggest single day of fundraising in the history of Give Back Tahoe, launched by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation in 2014.
As 2021 wound down in the days after Nov. 30’s “Giving Tuesday,“ the Give Back Tahoe campaign raised $100,000 more than it did over the same period last year. That followed the biggest single day of giving in the history of the event, which was launched by the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation in 2014. In total, TTCF, its donors and participating nonprofits raised just shy of $530,000.
Stacy Caldwell, the foundation’s CEO, reports that most of the 61 organizations that participated had a very good year, including the 25 nonprofits that together were awarded more than $50,000 in grants directly from TTCF.
More importantly, Caldwell says, this leap forward shows that the people of Tahoe-Truckee are coming to a collective understanding that local nonprofit groups play a key role in creating the fabric of the community. She points out that every group that raised money during the Give Back campaign has been deemed a “community benefit organization” by the IRS, and has therefore made a promise that all activities will benefit the region and its people.
“To me, this success proves that a certain group of people within this community acknowledges that it’s not just government and it’s not just business that builds a community,” Caldwell says. “This is how we come together and serve—through these nonprofits. Their missions help create the quality of life in a healthy, resilient community.”
With a big win in the rear-view mirror, TTCF is accelerating its efforts in three areas: housing, families, and forests.
One initiative—to pursue regional solutions to a persistent housing shortage—is the focus of TTCF’s Mountain Housing Council, a consortium of 29 public, nonprofit, and private organizations working together to “create an innovative and accelerated portfolio of solutions to regional housing issues.”
When TTCF brought the consortium together in 2017, the tight housing market already plagued employers up and down the tourist economy. After the pandemic, the housing crisis multiplied. At a virtual meeting last May, housing advocate and government affairs consultant John Falk said the housing shortage in North Lake Tahoe and Truckee had created an existential threat.
“We are going to see the quality of our workforce degrade to the point where it is going to degrade the quality of life here unless we deal with it,” Falk said. “It’s difficult to impossible to attract and retain people right now.”
TTCF’s Regional Housing Implementation Plan, released last October, finds more than 9,500 unmet housing needs in the region. Almost half of these are current local workers who are inadequately housed. The other half include commuters who live in Nevada or in the Sierra foothills and would prefer to live where they work; seasonal workers; and a small number of homeless people.
The plan addresses every problem that must be solved to create what it calls Achievable Housing for All. These include, among other things, land, financing, and jurisdictional obstacles. The process TTCF is facilitating includes representatives from all of the myriad jurisdictions, as well as developers, planners, environmental groups and the private business community.
The Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee, a program of the Community Foundation, focuses on mental health, behavioral health, and safety-net services including childcare and food security—what TTCF Communications Manager Caroline Craffey calls “family strengthening.”
Craffey points out that mountain communities face unique challenges when it comes to mental health. In addition to the shortage of resources common in rural areas, isolation and long winters can lead some vulnerable people to depression or substance abuse.
Again, when COVID struck, these problems became more acute. Businesses were forced to close and many people lost their jobs. Others were suddenly priced out of the housing market. Those fortunate enough to be able to work faced the risk of being infected. And of course, the shutdown was followed by wildfires that brought new stresses, as the Dixie and Caldor fires flanked the Tahoe Truckee region.
Responding to all of this, TTCF launched an emergency preparedness fund built around a concept that is taking hold nationwide, and known as Community Organizations Activated in Disaster.
Perhaps the most ambitious initiative for TTCF in 2022 is Forest Futures. This $30 million campaign, initially launched in 2021, has to be ambitious, because it’s confronting an enormous problem. Climate change and a century of misguided forest management have created circumstances that threaten all of California’s forests, including those surrounding the Tahoe Truckee region.
The bark beetle is decimating conifers and leaving millions of dead trees standing. Overzealous fire suppression and neglect have combined to create a situation where there is so much fuel in our forests, wildfire has become exponentially more deadly. Megafires now regularly threaten mountain communities.
In a brief position paper, TTCF explains the need for the Forest Futures program, and outlines a three-tiered “regenerative solution.” It begins with a plan to protect lives and homes by putting early detection systems in place, improving evacuation routes, creating defensible spaces, and managing fuels by thinning forests and harvesting thousands of burn-piles of deadwood.
Paradoxically, the challenges presented by this dangerous situation create new opportunities. And so the second leg of the Forest Futures plan calls for building infrastructure, including small-diameter sawmills, biomass facilities, and a trained workforce to turn wildfire fuel into a marketable commodity. In doing so, Forest Futures aligns itself with the California Wildfire & Forest Resilience Task Force, a $1 billion statewide effort.
Finally, the Forest Futures program plans to work with the private sector to accelerate market solutions. Its work in this arena won praise from the professional journal Inside Philanthropy, which explained the initiative: “The foundation is aiming to leverage its grantmaking to attract private sector efforts not only to turn all that fuel into something marketable, but also to create new sustainable businesses—and jobs—in its region.”
Caldwell and Craffey both credit the spirit of collaboration for all of TTCF’s recent successes.
“It's been the strength of everyone coming together,” Craffey says. “Especially over the past two years. One organization wouldn't be able to accomplish everything that’s needed—it’s the strength that comes from partnerships.”