Making a Difference West Edition

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Community Partners helps nonprofits get off the ground

The idea was simple enough: find a way to make it easier for new nonprofits to establish themselves.

In the early 1990s, Paul Vandeventer had a conversation with a friend about the difficulties of starting a nonprofit. They saw many social and civic entrepreneurs in Southern California with good ideas who were put off by the rules and administrative details that came with beginning a project. So they put their heads together to develop a plan that could help them.

What they came up with was an organization that would provide fiscal sponsorship to up-and-coming nonprofits. The organization, which started in 1992, eventually evolved into what is now Community Partners.

“We provide the infrastructure and all the back office that’s important to running anything, such as finance, accounting, reporting, contracting, personnel services, [human resources],” said Vandeventer, Community Partners’ co-founder, president and chief executive officer.

The fiscal sponsorship they provide allows groups and individuals to “concentrate on the mission that animated them in the first place,” he said, so that they can address the community challenges they seek to solve.

Over the years, the nonprofit has grown steadily and now includes an average of 145 to 150 carefully selected projects. One of them is Days of Dialogue, which was developed county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and his wife, Avis.

That project was created in response to the Rodney King riots to help relieve tensions between community members and the police. Days of Dialogue eventually evolved into a program within the Institute of Nonviolence in Los Angeles, which was brought under Community Partners’ fiscal sponsorship in 2009.

The nonprofit also offers support to Libros Schmibros, a lending library in Boyle Heights that provides low- or no-cost books to community members.

But project leaders are under no obligation to continue getting fiscal sponsorship from Community Partners, Vandeventer explained.

Paul Vandeventer

“[Projects or organizations] can either after a year decide to spin off into an independent entity or stay with us as long as it takes for them to get established and into a scale that will allow them to do the work that they set out to do in the first place,” he said.

But beyond providing fiscal sponsorship to new nonprofits, Community Partners also has grant-maker partnerships. It works with local and national funders, corporations and government agencies to help its partners finance and realize their projects.

While Community Partners continues to be the backbone of many Los Angeles nonprofits focused on advancing and bettering their communities, it’s doing work at a bigger scale, too.

“Where we’re doing more work these days is bridging work between government and community organizations,” Vandeventer said. Its aim is to strengthen the bonds between publicly funded agencies and communities.

Recently, for example, Community Partners helped the L.A. County Office of Cannabis Management gather community input into the county’s marijuana policies.

As for the future of Community Partners, Vandeventer sees a 100-year trajectory.

“We’re planning for and thinking about the big future of the region and the challenges that go along with that. We want to be fully part of the positive change that makes [L.A.] a fit place for everybody that decides to live here.”

And it will continue to stay true to what Vandeventer wanted Community Partners to be in its very beginnings: an organization that isn’t just in L.A., but an organization that is of L.A.


CEO: Paul Vandeventer

Annual budget: $42 million

Number of employees: 42

Years in operation: 26

Location: 1000 N. Alameda St., Suite 240

Los Angeles, 90012