Since taking office as director of the Gianneschi Center for Nonprofit Research at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College in June 2018, nonprofit executive Zoot Velasco has transformed the center by activating his vast network, developed over more than 30 years of working and volunteering in California’s philanthropic sector. The center is a hub for philanthropic professionals building their own networks, participating in continuing education, and both offering and benefiting from peer support.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, Velasco has marshalled these resources to help the Gianneschi Center become the heart of the local nonprofit sector’s COVID-19 relief efforts.
Moving Quickly to Make a Difference
OneOC, the Samueli Foundation and Orange County Grantmakers were a part of Velasco’s network pre-COVID-19.
So when the pandemic hit, Velasco contacted these organizations and brainstormed on the best response, resulting in an integrated solution in which OneOC listed resources on its website; the Samueli Foundation launched a dialogue with fellow nonprofits on Facebook; OC Grantmakers established an Orange County resiliency fund; and the Gianneschi Center launched a weekly email campaign with updates.
Thousands subscribed to Velasco’s preexisting 501(c)3(b)(s) podcast, which now focuses on COVID-19 resources, as well as steps for nonprofits to recover and make a difference.
“I kept my ear to the ground to know what different organizations were doing for COVID-19 and saw that many had been working in silos,” said Velasco. “But I had worked with all of them.”
Velasco has enlisted the support of fellow Centers of Excellence within Mihaylo College, including the on-campus chapter of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), to ensure nonprofits have access to Small Business Administration grants that have been made available to the social sector for the first time.
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