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The Ritter Center Nikki Cook & Darby Cox COM 427: Grant Writing and Fundraising

Summary and SWOT Discussion The Ritter Center has been in operation in the same location since 1981, providing a variety of services and resources to working poor and homeless, all free of charge. The 501-C3 organization was established in 1980 to respond to the needs of Marin Countys low-income and homeless residents. All agency programs focus on providing highly professional services with respect and compassion. The agency employs a comprehensive case management model to assess each clients immediate and long-term needs. A case plan is then developed to help stabilize clients and lead them back towards self-sufficiency. In addition to case management, Ritter Center provides primary health care services at its State-licensed clinic, behavioral health services, supplemental groceries through our food pantry (Marin's largest pantry), showers/laundry/lockers/restroom facilities at our Day Service Center, job matching services via Marinhelpers.com, and general delivery mail and voice mail boxes for the homeless. Currently, the organization manages to assist more than 4000 individuals a year, which is also heavily reliant on the large numbers of dedicated volunteers. A survey done recently in Marin County revealed that there are now 500 fewer homeless in Marin County than two years ago. While this is progress, the study also showed that there are about 1,000 people on the precipice of becoming homeless. The ongoing battle against homelessness is raged by a number of agencies, and the Ritter Center is at the forefront of the war. Ritter Center was founded in 1980 to help Marin Countys low-income and homeless residents. The agency aims to offer support and training, providing the tools to turn the homeless into productive members of society. After years of traditional fundraising efforts, the agency looked to Marins strong artistic community in order to generate awareness and funds. An example of this new fundraising is

the Art Houses project, which asked local artists to contribute models that would be displayed and eventually auctioned off to raise funds. This year's art houses will be on display until midJune. In 2010, there were 25 artists involved in the project, but the agency narrowed down the number of participants this year. Ritter House also changed the basic material from wood to steel for this years artist participants, hoping for quality over quantity. With the Marin Community Foundation as the lead event sponsor, the six Art Houses will be auctioned off at a gala event. While homeless statistics in Marin County look favorable, its a bit misleading when one considers the growing numbers of people on the brink of losing their homes. The number of people in Marin who are precariously housed those facing eviction, living in severely overcrowded housing, or experiencing housing instability as evidenced by frequent moves, couch surfing or living in doubled up situations due to economic hardships have increased 35 percent (up to 4,103 from 3,028 in 2009). Recently, federal funds authorized to prevent homelessness and to rapidly re-house the recently homeless through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appears to have had the intended impact in Marin. The number of homeless living on the streets, in parks, temporary shelter or in vehicles is 1,220 down from more than 1,700 in 2009. As an organization, the Ritter Center has undergone some transformations in recent years, all which started with the hiring of executive director, Diane Linn in late 2008 in an effort for her to focus on grants, community building, and fundraising. Currently the organization maintains a full board, fulfilling all positions. Some of Ritter Centers strengths are found in the success rate of programs. It is responsible for the largest food pantry in Marin County and distributes more than 7500 bags of groceries to over 1400 households.

In terms of public relations, the Ritter Center is makes clear in the community that it is continuously starting new and successful programs in an attempt to expand and build partnerships. An example of these partnerships is their current partnership with Good Will. Ritter Center has been providing the less fortunate in their community with free supplemental and emergency clothing since its inception in 1980. Ritter Center is located a half block from a Goodwill thrift store and, in 2008, the two agencies formed a partnership to provide Ritter Center clients with free clothing from Goodwill stores. The two agencies periodically conduct joint clothing drives in the community. The value of a portion of the items collected are converted into clothing vouchers for Ritter Center clients to shop at the neighboring Goodwill store. In this manner, Ritter Center clients can still receive free clothing while the two agencies are able to operate more efficiently and serve clients more effectively. Ritter Center will still keep a stock of emergency survival gear onsite for the homeless, including rain gear, sleeping bags, and warm socks. Other strengths for this organization include its website, which is very informative, thorough, and provides detailed information about programs and upcoming events. The site is also effective in advertising for donations and volunteering, which is vital for the organization. Although Ritter Center does not actively engage in social media, it does have up-to-date social networking. When interview, Linn made clear this was definitely an area that needs improvement. In addition there are some fairly obvious glitches with the website that definitely need attention. Besides social media other weaknesses for this organization include the lack of diversity of the board, which is made up of mostly older white men. This can be a potential problem because the board has to be able to relate to their clients in order to serve them appropriately. In

terms of weaknesses in organizational structure, the mission and vision seem too brief and vague to cover the amount of programs and services offered. Another ongoing weakness/threat (also a threat because they have been attempting to petition to the county to make renovations to buildings, but have been hitting a lot of road blocks). The building and facility limits the number of clients able to be seen and assisted. Other improvements that could be made include more staff cohesiveness. While the staff is very dedicated, there is room for more team building. In addition, Ritter Center could also increase its political involvement. This is a community based organization and should be working towards educating the community as a whole about homelessness to do some empathy building and increase involvement. This works into some of the threats to the organization, which include the struggling economy, the stigmas held by wealthy communities about the homeless population, changes in legislation, and of course the availability of grants. The most significant impact of these is the 37% increase in the number of households needing services and seeking food assistance from the pantry compared to two years ago. Overall this organization has a great deal of opportunities. Ritter Center seems to be one of the only organizations in San Rafael that is offering these services, which increases grant and donation potential. There also seems to be an overall positive reputation held by the community for the center. Ritter Center continues to create opportunities by offering internships to help with fundraising and outreach. The biggest opportunity the Ritter Center has is the potential to educate the community and other potential supporters about the new face of homelessness and the increasing necessity their resources provide to their community.