Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 2:27 pm | Fair 57º


Cynder Sinclair: Nonprofits, Local Government Explore Ways of Working Together More Effectively

Over 30 local nonprofit leaders eagerly gathered at the University Club last week for Nonprofit Kinect’s regular Executive Director Roundtable breakfast meeting. Mona Miyasato, County of Santa Barbara CEO, gave an inspiring presentation about opportunities for better collaboration between local government and nonprofits.

After just over two years on the job, it’s clear that Miyasato’s positive energy and practical approach is transforming our county government. Change, partnership and innovation are all topics Miyasato wove into her well-received message.

“People don’t like change and they don’t like the way things are,” said Miyasato. “Yet without change there would be no butterflies.”

She advises it’s best to walk boldly into opportunities with an open mind, understanding that change and status quo are not black and white. There are always overlaps, nuances and grey areas.

She is committed to government doing the best they can with what they have before them through imagination and creativity.

Miyasato oversees the county’s $1 billion budget and 4,350 county employees.

Previously from Marin County and Santa Monica, she is familiar with the important role of nonprofits and their challenges.

She highlighted similarities between nonprofits and local government as serving the same clients, having similar missions, addressing the same community problems, realizing mutual support for efforts and having the ability to make a tangible impact on the community.

The challenge, however, is finding effective ways to work together and maximize benefits to the community. There are many ways we can work together more effectively.

Examples of recent collaborations between the county and nonprofits include Central Coast Collaborative on Homelessness, Report on Poverty, Child Welfare Task Force, Economic Vitality Task Force, South Coast Task Force on Youth Safety and 211.

Mona Miyasato Click to view larger
Mona Miyasato (Courtesy photo)

She listed recent county actions to date as the revamp of Human Services Commission granting, which includes incorporating philanthropic best practices, multi-year funding, prioritization of collaboration among agencies with like clientele and providing funds to build capacity of organizations (e.g. training, planning).

Miyasato also acknowledged some obstacles to collaboration between county government and nonprofits as different perceptions about issues, lack of understanding about each other’s work, information and decision making not shared and unequal balance of power between grantee and grantor.

Miyasato also listed several actions nonprofits can take to work more effectively with city and county government, including informing local governments about their progress throughout the year, not just during the funding application process; understanding the needs of the whole community and seeking collaborations; ensuring financial controls, accountability and presenting evidence of outcomes.

Her list of what local government can do to work more effectively with nonprofits include clearly sharing information early and often during the budget-planning stages to assist clarity for nonprofits; minimizing duplication of efforts by coordinating nonprofit funding applications and contracts; viewing problems or needs as belonging to the whole community, not just to a nonprofit organization; and acknowledging nonprofit organizations and the benefits to the community.

Miyasato emphasized the importance of local government and nonprofits partnering together by sharing information, both during and outside day-to-day working; sharing resources such as training, forums and strategic planning on issues; jointly developing clear, written guidelines about mutual expectations and working to accomplish them together; seeking innovative pilot programs; supporting each other’s mission; and identifying and prioritizing community-wide needs.

A longtime student of local government best practices, Miyasato referenced a recent article in the magazine Popular Government, entitled “Strengthening Relationships between Local Governments and Nonprofits.”

She encouraged all nonprofits to contact her office with innovative partnership concepts. Several organizations eagerly discussed their ideas with her after the presentation.

She ended her presentation by acknowledging that we live in paradise and that it’s our responsibility to keep it that way.

“It’s tough keeping paradise as paradise; but here, now, together, we are the ones to do it!” Miyasato challenged everyone to work together toward this worthy, mutually beneficial goal.

About Mona Miyasato

Mona Miyasato is the county executive officer for the County of Santa Barbara. She joined the county Dec. 9, 2013, and reports to the Board of Supervisors.

She serves as the primary advisor to the Board of Supervisors on all matters relating to the efficient and effective administration of county government.

She is responsible for a $1 billion operating budget and 4,350 employees as well as management of all county functions and operations except those duties assigned to elected officers of the county.

Previously, Miyasato worked in the County of Marin, where she has served as chief assistant county administrator for five years, serving also as that county’s information services and technology director and human resources director for interim periods of time.

Before that, she worked for the City of Santa Monica for nearly 10 years, starting as a project manager in affordable housing and redevelopment and eventually becoming the city’s deputy city manager.

Prior to that, she worked in Southern California as a community and environmental planner for various public and private agencies.

Miyasato received Bachelor of Arts degrees in both political science and economics from UC Berkeley as well as a Master of Public Policy degree from Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government.

She lives in the Eastern Goleta Valley area with her husband, David, a transportation consultant, and their cantankerous dog, Simon.

— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. To read her blog, click here. To read her previous articles, click here. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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