Cultivating Community Power with Rooted in Vibrant Communities

Magic Cabinet will launch our first fiscally-sponsored cohorts in the Puget Sound, the culmination of a year-long collaboration with Seattle nonprofit and fiscal sponsor, Rooted in Vibrant Communities (RVC).

Magic Cabinet’s grantmaking methodology has always been driven by one guiding ethos: champion communities’ work. While the pathways we have taken to realize this ethos are diverse and evolving, it remains our north star, challenging us to continue innovating alongside communities and influencing the sector to adopt more collaborative, equitable, and trust-based practices.

In 2022, we reached a milestone – launching our first small-budget cohort in Solano County, California. As a region with a decreasing pool of community-serving nonprofits and historically low philanthropic engagement, our team saw it as an opportunity to adopt a more creative and collaborative approach that centered community voices and emergent needs. In bringing this lens to our overall grantmaking, we sought to answer the question ‘How can we show up better for the communities we seek to support?’

Slowing Down to Deepen Impact

Following our Solano engagement, Magic Cabinet slowed our programmatic work to reflect on lessons learned over five years of grantmaking. During this pause, our team assessed the outcomes of our direct grantmaking, delved deeper into our community-informed engagement process, and worked to establish clearer and more equitable frameworks for our future grantmaking.

As this work evolved, flexibility was vital, especially as we started expanding our grantmaking into new communities. We realized that our narrow funding parameters might prevent us from exploring funding opportunities with a wider array of organizations or engaging directly with community-embedded solutions. This spurred us to consider alternative models that would better align with the unique needs of diverse communities, acknowledging that a one-size-fits-all approach could hamper rather than improve nonprofits’ effectiveness.

A Capacity-Building Collaboration with RVC

As a foundation that is deeply committed to resourcing smaller, community-led organizations, we are in a unique position to bridge funding gaps for nonprofits lacking the resources, time, and capacity to transition to standalone 501(c)(3) organizations. Rather than starting from scratch, our team saw an opportunity to collaborate with a well-known and respected fiscal sponsor to move funds even closer to the grassroots. 

In 2023, Magic Cabinet teamed up with Seattle nonprofit and fiscal sponsor, Rooted in Vibrant Communities (RVC) to identify priorities and build a fiscally-sponsored engagement framework. Echoing our approach to capacity-building, RVC collaborates with its nonprofit partners to pinpoint strategies, goals, and priorities, while also constructing systems and infrastructure to enhance each organization’s ability to fulfill its mission effectively.

We worked closely with RVC’s team to assess and alter our existing engagement framework to better meet the needs of their fiscally sponsored organizations. At a high level, this involved:

  • Updating our application process. Due to RVC’s comprehensive vetting process for nonprofit partners, we opted to remove repetitive questions on our application, shortening the overall process. We also extended our deadline to give nonprofits additional time to complete the application.
  • Eliminating our iCAT requirement. Through several conversations with RVC’s team, we determined that their capacity-building support was more intentional and plan-driven, allowing us to remove our iCAT requirement for the duration of the cohort.
  • Shifting our budget parameters. In order for more fiscally-sponsored organizations to qualify for engagement, we shifted our budget parameters to start at $250,000, increasing the probability of creating three cohorts in one engagement cycle.
  • Adding information sessions. Early on, we realized there were many outstanding questions and concerns that had not been addressed. We facilitated information sessions with RVC’s team and nonprofit partners to share more about Magic Cabinet, our process, and our goals for partnership.

Although our work is ongoing and may evolve as we build relationships with additional capacity partners, we believe our partnership with RVC lays the groundwork for Magic Cabinet to continue moving funding deeper into under-resourced communities.

A group of people are gathered in a restaurant space. A man and woman stand at the front of the room making speeches while everyone looks on.
The Magic Cabinet team gathers with representatives from RVC and their fiscally-sponsored nonprofits for a Meet and Greet Event.

A Collaboration Rooted in Equity and Trust

At Magic Cabinet, we aim to further disrupt traditional funding practices by providing resources to organizations that are both community-embedded and driven by communities of color. As an organization that is well-versed in the power of capacity-building initiatives, RVC is the ideal partner to help us remove barriers to funding, shift power to frontline organizations, and continue to transform the sector. 

Our commitment to investing in community-led solutions, which are so often found within grassroots organizations, remains steadfast. Of the many insights that emerged from our initial conversations with RVC, one was crystal clear: capacity-building is a critical need for fiscally sponsored organizations. With a renewed focus, we are eager to shift power to a new group of nonprofits to strengthen their organizations and build impact within communities. 

Stay tuned to learn more about the incredible organizations joining our first fiscally-sponsored cohorts!

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