Guidance for Growth | WA-BLOC

Posted by Zach Grossnickle — November 8, 2019

When WA-BLOC was founded in 2016, it was a small grassroots project and with its mission to empower academic, creative, community-connected lifelong leaders through high-impact academic and “place-based” social justice leadership development. Flash forward a couple of years, it is now responsible for a $400,000 annual operating budget and ~20 yearly employees. WA-BLOC’s fast-paced growth exceeded the type of support it initially required. To sustain its growth, WA-BLOC had two options: pause and funnel limited resources to operational roles to meet these needs or find a model of fiscal sponsorship that would allow them to focus on what they did best- programming, leadership development, and advocacy.

After several initial conversations with SVP staff, WA-BLOC was introduced to SVP Partner Jon Kauffman who provided valuable coaching and resources on the different types of fiscal sponsorships and the potential benefits/costs of each. Jerrell Davis, WA-BLOC co-founder first introduced WA-BLOC to RVC and their Operational Support Program. Davis also works for Rainier Beach Action Coalition, another local organization part of RVC’s OSP program. With this collective help from Davis and SVP, WA-BLOC identified Rainier Valley Corps as a potential new sponsor. WA-BLOC applied for RVC’s Operational Support Program in January of 2019 and was accepted in March.

Since joining Rainier Valley Corps, WA-BLOC’s capacity has changed tremendously. They are growing sustainably as an organization and are seen and valued as grassroots, majority person of color led organization. SVP and RVC have provided the support needed to help meet the challenges WA-BLOC historically experienced as an organization. From robust HR policies, to access to benefits/insurance, to annual budgeting tools, SVP and RVC have helped to elevate WA-BLOC operational needs in significant ways.

The value of unrestricted grants

All the SVP’s multi-year Investee are awarded a general operating grant which gives the Investee sole discretion to use the funds as they see fit. At WA-BLOC this allowed them to confidently launch a new K-5 Freedom Schools site at Emerson Elementary School. Often, WA-BLOC faces challenges with cash flow because of slow invoicing and payment from government contracts. SVP’s unrestricted grant allowed them to pay for upfront costs for their new site until funding from the City of Seattle came in August.  Beyond the new site, SVP’s general operating grant for the 2018-19 year allowed WA-BLOC to confidently fund benefits for full-time employees the first time in their history.

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