A conversation with Stacy Caldwell, CEO of Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
Courtesy Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation
The Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation marshals an array of resources to confront unique challenges in one of California’s most beautiful places. While it is a global destination, Tahoe Truckee is also a rural region with no central governmental infrastructure. TTCF essentially functions as a regional hub focused on solving big problems via its three key initiatives—Family Strengthening, Forest Futures and Housing Solutions.
Since the summer of 2022, California Local has helped TTCF communicate with stakeholders and expand its reach with a series of Quarterly Impact Reports.
Stacy Caldwell has served as CEO of TTCF since 2012. In 2021, she was invited by the Aspen Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to participate in a rural futurists cohort. This is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Why Impact Is Important
“Impact” is a term that flies around in the nonprofit sector quite a bit, because it can be the best way for us to measure success. That can be difficult to measure given the big challenges that we take on, whether that’s ending homelessness, preventing hunger, or saving forests—the kind of projects that constitute the work of foundations and similar organizations.
When I think about communicating our impact, I know it has to happen internally and externally. These two channels are actually connected—if you are not capturing the impact and talking about it with your board and staff, it’s likely that you’re not doing a good job of getting your story out in the world.
The Stories Behind the Numbers
We were struggling as a community foundation to talk about our impact. Traditional philanthropy talks about assets under management, how many donor-advised funds they have, and how many grants they give out. While those are good metrics to indicate the health and vitality of an organization, perhaps, they’re not necessarily metrics that tell you what all this activity and energy is doing for the community.
So we needed to decide: How do we communicate our impact? We needed to look closely at capturing the metrics as well as the stories, and delivering this information to people who are invested in the success of our mission.
We needed to reach our community, donors, elected officials, and sister communities who have similar dynamics and are trying to have similar impact. We wanted to reach those who love the place we live, but don’t live here; those who have second and third homes or businesses, and therefore have a vested interest in this place, whether it’s for their workforce, for their customer base or for their lifestyle branding.
Finding Inspiration in Our Impact
There were two areas where I was looking for help in getting our message tightened up. The first was for our board, which meets each month, and provided packets that might include 32 documents. It’s very intense: The work of philanthropy, managing endowments and donor-advised funds, administering grants and scholarships...is very technical. Believe it or not, there’s a lot more science than art.
We need to be able to tell my board on a quarterly basis what’s happening beyond just the 32 documents in the packet. So I wanted something that excites them when it comes across their desk. Something that rolls up all this energy and activity, including funds going out and funds coming in, into stories that show what it all means.
We decided on a Quarterly Impact Report that captures the breadth and depth of the work that was taking place, from our team and in the community. I wanted to use this moment as a way to inspire my team to begin communicating at a higher level, and—equally important—to expand our reach.
Spreading the Word With California Local
At the same time, at the beginning of 2021, California Local was just standing up its vision of a cross-community platform that aggregated good local journalism alongside nonprofits and other local stakeholders.
It made sense for TTCF to function as a pilot project for their new offering. Our teams rose to the occasion, and the first four quarterly reports, in a way, have been a journey. And now, my team has aligned with a production cycle that synthesizes our work into templated content strategies and deadlines. Together, we’ve developed an efficient process that results in a powerful messaging tool.
Creating content designed to live on the Impact Report microsite is really ideal. It keeps our own website clean, without needing to archive all of the details. We have hit a stride of efficiency by working with a team that can take this content, dial it in, handle the graphic assets and everything else. This frees us up to do the good work of philanthropy.
Finally, by partnering with California Local, we know that our content can reach a broader audience across California that are connected to our place, even if they aren’t here full-time and are interested in the impact we seek.
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