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Two Years to Remember

By Shelley Hoss

The ConnectOC Blog is a place for sharing insight, information and examples of how Orange County residents, donors and nonprofits are working to build a brighter, stronger, more vibrant community.  We welcome you to share your thoughts by commenting below.

 

When I was invited by the Orange County Register to become a contributing columnist for the Faith & Values section in March 2013, I couldn’t have imagined a better match with the work we had just begun through ConnectOC— the Orange County Community Foundation’s leadership initiative to inform residents about both our greatest needs as a community, and the exemplary work of local nonprofits working to move the needle.

As I sat down to write my first column, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the topic of Orange County nonprofits, gleaned through my 29-year career in the sector. And in particular through my last 15 years at OCCF’s helm, during which I have engaged with nonprofits working on everything from feeding the hungry to bringing arts to our schools to protecting Orange County’s natural resources. But in the course of writing 75 articles featuring more than 100 local nonprofits, my insights—and appreciation—have grown more than I could have imagined.

As I look back on the body of work reflected in these articles, three major themes rise to the surface…

First, Orange County is still a community of contrasts, where extremes of wealth and poverty co-exist as uneasy neighbors. But, we are making progress every day thanks to the smart, savvy and resourceful nonprofits working to create equity of opportunity for all who call Orange County home.

Second, the energy and innovation that define Orange County’s business sector is every bit as evident in our nonprofit sector, where creative solutions are being tried and tested in order to make progress on the greatest barriers to the success of our community as a whole.

And finally, new frontiers of strategic partnership, collaboration and alignment are being tackled by forward-thinking Orange County nonprofit leaders driven by the desire to advance their effectiveness in serving our community. Their results are creating best-in-class models that can set the curve on a national level.

There is no question that Orange County’s nonprofit sector embodies the best of both the head and the heart. Here is where passion meets purpose, and where double bottom lines are the order of the day. Nonprofits must achieve their charitable missions while maintaining financial health, all without the capital markets, equity incentives and economic drivers their for-profit counterparts enjoy. The challenges they face are enormous, and largely invisible to those observing from the outside.

Orange County’s nonprofits deserve our deepest gratitude, our greatest respect, and our fervent support. It has been my privilege to shine a light on their work through this column over the past two years. As I mark my 15th anniversary at OCCF, I will be taking time away this summer to reflect, recharge and refine my vision for the next 15 years. I look forward to picking back up in September, and continuing to tell the story of this extraordinary county and the exemplary nonprofits working to make sure it reaches its full potential.

In the meantime, please continue to visit ocnonprofitcentral.org to find your perfect nonprofit match, choose a place to volunteer with your kids this summer, or discover the inspiration to make your own unique contribution to our community.

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Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at shoss@oc-cf.org

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