Guided by a vision for all residents to have the opportunity for economic mobility and a high quality of life, from 2018 to 2021 Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation implemented a four-year strategic plan to impact the priority areas of educational attainment, community engagement, and economic opportunity.
After undertaking a year-long strategy review process through community outreach, in September 2022 our board reaffirmed that the original goals and intended impacts of these priority areas are still vital, that progress had been made despite the pandemic, and that we needed to continue the momentum. They also voted to refresh strategic objectives underneath the main goals to be more relevant to our changing environments.
Our refreshed priority areas described below continue to be where we believe philanthropy can make a measurable difference, BTCF can provide leadership, and opportunities exist to collaborate with our donors, volunteers, and other partners for lasting impact.
I. Community Engagement
Increase involvement, foster connections and harness the skills and expertise people can bring to organizations and communities
Increased community engagement through arts and the creative process, especially among lower-income residents, communities of color, youth and immigrants
Arts Build Community (ABC) in Berkshire County
- Continue grantmaking to increase community engagement in the arts and creative process, especially among lower-income residents, communities of color, youth, and immigrants
- Continue to involve residents in decision making and other grantmaking
- Support engagement in Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities through grantmaking
- Strengthen engagement with BIPOC-led and BIPOC -serving nonprofits and partners (e.g., Berkshire Black Economic Council/Black Arts Council)
- Support arts for community building and healing trauma in black, brown and immigrant communities (bridging divides, education work, grantmaking); sharpen existing body of work
- Build grantee capacities
- Strengthen arts and culture organizations and networks, foster resident engagement and leadership development, and build philanthropic support to sustain this work
- Resident Leadership Engagement: Deepen, expand and sustain cohort of grantees
- Develop and implement a plan to sustain ABC longer-term outcomes
Arts Build Community (ABC) in Berkshire County
- Support programming in schools and opportunities to invite individual artists and organizations into in-school programming
- Create a grantmaking cycle for which organizations and artists can apply to implement projects based in schools in highest need districts
- Explore ways to leverage government funding (e.g., National Endowment for the Arts) in support of BCAN sustainability
- Continue to offer nonprofit leadership conferences and smaller seminars (in-person when possible)
- Augment our grantmaking and capacity building efforts for nonprofit board consulting (and with other knowledge resources) to strengthen the governance and diversity of smaller nonprofit boards [cross over with Equity Initiative]
- Explore opportunities to partner with proposed BIPOC Leadership Academy to be supported by Equity Initiative as way to support and encourage more board leadership service among leaders of color
- Connect residents to volunteer leadership opportunities
- Continue grantmaking cycles
- Small grants regionally
- Larger grants to augment existing projects
- Continue convening activities
- Explore ways to build out strategies that support youth engagement
- Through service opportunities that bring groups of young people together from different backgrounds around a common goal or youth philanthropy
- To provide agency to young people to support projects that bridge differences
- Continue annual youth film challenge in close partnership with targeted local schools
- Further Implement and Sustain Arts Build Community Initiative: Continue Phase 3 (2nd of 4-year) implementation. Program components include: strategic grantmaking, nonprofit capacity building, nonprofit network building, resident engagement & leadership development, and donor engagement. Develop ABC Sustainability Plan for 2027 and beyond.
- Increase Nonprofit Board Effectiveness: Continue partnership with Essex Co. Community Foundation for Institute for Trustees program and offer stand-alone seminars/convenings throughout region to develop board leadership. Provide funding for strategic planning needs including strengthening the governance of smaller nonprofit boards and Pittsfield ARPA cohort.
- Refresh Bridging Divides, Healing Communities Program: Design and convene a new initiative that promotes learning about democratic principles through immersive experiences for young people that enable them to effect change on an issue that matters to them. Explore feasibility of Americorps Civic Engagement Fellowships.
Community Engagement Initiatives
II. Economic Opportunity
Strengthen entrepreneurship and the conditions that allow the economy to grow and residents to prosper
Intended ImpactJobs are created in new enterprises and small businesses because of greater access to capital and technical assistance
- Expand support for early-stage businesses in order to cover all of BTCF’s region
- This can be carried out either by continuing to support the expansion of EforAll or through established partnerships with organizations such as Gateway for Entrepreneurial Tomorrows, which supports women entrepreneurs in NED
- Explore/develop cost-effective impact investing strategies through partnerships that provide capital to ventures creating economic opportunity for entrepreneurs and/or residents
- Available capital would be pooled by donors and other funders through BTCF working with an intermediary
- Region-wide strategies could be focused by sector, such as food and agriculture or the creative economy, or through equity lens such as support for BIPOC-owned businesses in conjunction with Equity Initiative
- Support minority and women-owned businesses in becoming registered as Minority and Women Owned Businesses (MWBE) in order to support procurement of contracts and accessing federal funding
- Expand Support to Start-Ups: Expand strategy and identify additional partners to support emerging entrepreneurs in Columbia County, Northwest Litchfield County and Northeast Dutchess County.
- Support Legacy Businesses: Develop and implement strategies to support legacy businesses that are seeking and ready to transition to new ownership.
- Implement County-level Housing Strategies: Finalize development and begin implementation of housing affordability strategies in each of BTCF’s four counties.
Economic Opportunity Initiatives
III. Educational Attainment
Increase educational attainment across the age continuum—from early childhood through adult learning—as a pathway to greater economic mobility
Early literacy among young children improves; lower-income youth continue education beyond high school through certificate and degree programs; and more adults complete degree and certificate programs that help them more fully participate in the economy
- Continue to build on current grantmaking strategies, exploring how to improve and expand:
- Parent-child visiting program
- Parent education for childhood literacy
- Quality of Early Childhood Development programs
- Exploit ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) and funding stream opportunities
- Continue to support and expand current programming
- Increase collaboration with employers
- Support area fund investments
- Continue to provide scholarships for qualified low-income applicants in addressing financial gaps
- Exploit ARPA and CVTE funding stream opportunities
- Continue to integrate into scholarship program
- Expand Early Learning and Literacy Programs: Continue to improve and expand programs that increase parents'/ caregivers' knowledge and engagement around the development and education of young children and the services available to them. Continue to support Early Literacy Learning Network in Columbia County.
- Expand School to Work Programs: Continue to support and expand current career readiness programming in sub-regions while increasing collaboration with employers and supporting area fund investments. Increase the number and quality of internships and experiential learning opportunities. Identify next Educational Attainment strategy in Northwest Corner.
- Develop and Direct More Scholarship Resources to Support Underrepresented Students: Continue to expand scholarships for qualified low-income, BIPOC and non-traditional applicants in addressing financial gaps.
Educational Attainment Initiatives