September 29 2015

Fresno, Calif. – A first-of-its-kind report reveals 95 percent of San Joaquin Valley nonprofit organizations rate the impact of California’s drought on their clients and their organizations as moderate or severe.

Undertaken by the Fresno Regional Foundation, the report was released on Sept. 29 at the Foundation’s headquarters in Fresno.

This study is the first to survey community benefit organizations on the forefront of serving the poorest and most vulnerable residents of drought-stricken Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare counties.

“These organizations have been the ‘boots on the ground’ but their experience and insights into this so-called silent disaster have not been previously explored,” said Hugh J. Ralston, president and CEO of the Fresno Regional Foundation. “We believe foundations and donors have a unique opportunity to support these nonprofits in their important work during this period of increasing vulnerability. Providing this unique data and offering solutions is something we are proud to bring to this region.”

Titled “Beyond Almonds and Blond Lawns: Investing in Nonprofit Organizations to Sustain Central Valley Communities Beyond the Drought,” the study was underwritten by The California Endowment and received support from the Kern Community Foundation.

Sixty nonprofits with representatives from all seven counties cited reduced agricultural employment and water insecurity as longstanding issues which have grown worse during the epic drought. Along with access to clean water, demand also has increased for food, rental assistance and mental-health support, the CBOs reported. As one respondent stated, “We are not able to keep up with the enormity of the demand.”

Other key findings include:

  • CBOs have taken on services normally provided by local governments, which are receiving lower tax revenues as result of the drought’s impact on the Valley’s agricultural economy;
  • The drought exacerbates underlying problems faced by the Valley’s poorest families, especially the employment challenges of the ongoing transformation in the agricultural sector from labor-intensive row crops to higher-value tree crops;
  • Recommendations on how philanthropic investments now and after this drought ends can help CBOs innovate to solve long-term problems in their communities.

Rollouts are planned for Merced, Visalia and Bakersfield in the weeks following the Fresno event.

To access the full report online, click here.


About the Fresno Regional Foundation

For nearly 50 years, the Fresno Regional Foundation has served as the region’s community foundation, covering six counties in the central San Joaquin Valley. Its mission is to promote effective philanthropy, strengthen donor legacies, build capacity of local nonprofit organizations and deepen community across the region. In 2015, the foundation opened its Center for Community, starting a new chapter in its history. The foundation is the lead organization for this study. For more information, visit

About The California Endowment

The California Endowment’s mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. The Endowment challenges the conventional wisdom that medical settings and individual choices are solely responsible for people’s health. The Endowment believes that health happens in neighborhoods, schools, and with prevention. The Endowment provided funding for this project. For more information, please visit

About Kern Community Foundation

The Kern Community Foundation is a vibrant nonprofit enterprise with a powerfully simple mission of growing community and philanthropy. Kern Community Foundation is known as a home for local philanthropists, a results-oriented grant maker and a trusted community leader working to improve the quality of life for all who live in Kern County. The Kern Community Foundation collaborated with Fresno Regional Foundation on this project and hosted one of the CBO convenings detailed in this report. For more information, please visit


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