By Jeff Mortensen
President & CEO
The community landscape is ever-changing. Populations shift, new needs develop, and resources expand and contract. For more than 45 years, 360 Communities staff members have worked hard to understand clients holistically and provide customized support. Our mission reads: In the spirit of caring for our neighbors, 360 Communities provides hope and support to people by engaging communities to prevent violence, ensure school success and promote long-term self-sufficiency.
We help victims of domestic and sexual violence, children struggling in school, and people working through poverty. Our organization in a strong position to increase our impact in Dakota County and are focused on sustainable growth, developing people, and measurable results. For 360 Communities, status quo is never the option because it would not be in the best interest of the people we serve.
Despite two significant funding losses in 2017, we finished the fiscal year achieving budget. And for the first three months of our current fiscal year, we demonstrated the strongest fundraising performance in the last decade. This did not happen by chance. Our wise investment in developing staff and emphasizing leadership throughout the entire organization has helped 360 Communities position itself as a leader in its ability to intervene, stabilize, support, goal-plan, and advocate. With your help, we are positioned to break more negative cycles within families through investment in prevention and youth.
The daily news is filled with reports of domestic violence and sexual assault, stories of the education gap and students struggling in schools, and people facing the hardships of poverty including homelessness, under-employment, job loss, and unaffordable medical costs. The need for our work is clear. One in four women experience the horror of domestic violence, and in Minnesota last year 24 people were murdered due to intimate partner violence. One in four women will be sexually assaulted before age 25. In 2017 Dakota County public schools reported that 38 percent of third-graders were not achieving reading standards and a third of all students were eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch. There are 32,000 people in Dakota County who are living in poverty.
Last year, 360 Communities helped:
- 2,979 women and children find safety from family violence
- 427 victims of sexual violence find healing and support
- 3,581 students improve grades, attendance, and behavior.
- 9,910 people living in poverty gain access to nutritious food, avoid homelessness, maintain employment, and achieve stability.
This level of immediate support is significant, but these numbers do not fully illustrate the longer term impacts. Ultimately, community-based organizations need to understand how effective they are at reversing the more significant negative trends that pervade our communities.
We have been resolute about building the infrastructure and knowledge necessary to evaluate the long-term impacts 360 Communities is having with people accessing services. In 2017, we examined program models deeply and identified the differences being made that improve an individual’s condition on a long-term basis. Specific outcome measures were developed and the methods to capture that information were implemented. We know that 360 Communities is doing great work and are excited about this improved method to prove our long-term impact on the community in a quantitative way.
Some of the positive results we believe 360 Communities services achieve include: breaking the cycle of child abuse within families, decreasing domestic violence crimes, improving high school graduation rates, reducing homelessness, and providing economic stability. View some of the human stories that illustrate these impacts.
Dakota County is experiencing a growing demographic shift and now includes 20 percent people of color. 360 Communities believes diversity is a business priority tied to organizational excellence and better results. We have been successful in shaping our board of directors. Today, it is 21 percent diverse and includes individuals who have utilized our services as well as a high school student. We believe that as a community-based organization, we need to reflect the demographic changes within the communities we serve. There is much to learn from underrepresented voices.
As part of our strategic staff development, we have implemented new methods to increase self-awareness, develop skills to be better allies for clients, and foster a culture of inclusion and retention. Talent development remains a vital component of our continued success and one of the reasons why 360 Communities staff have been called heroes, saints, and angels by the individuals we serve.
360 Communities is also blessed by 1,200 dedicated and courageous volunteers who donated more than 44,000 hours last year, pouring significance, dignity and love back into the community. If you are interested in adding something significant to your life in 2018, consider volunteering at 360 Communities by applying at www.360communities.org/volunteer.
Here are some other opportunities to get involved:
• The Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign will be here soon. It is the largest food drive in the state with about 300 participating food shelves, including our network of five food shelves in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Farmington, Lakeville, and Rosemount. 360 Communities has a goal to raise $100,000 and 50,000 pounds of food during the month of March. You can find food drive resources here. Get involved and help us exceed this goal.
• The 33rd Annual Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Luncheon takes place on March 23rd at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club in Lakeville. The theme of this year’s event is “Prevention: let’s start with our youth.” Speakers will include a high school counselor and a student sharing perspectives on sexual violence in schools. We will address the need for more prevention work with our students to stem the tide of sexual violence in our culture. Cost is $30 per person. Register here.
Committed volunteers and donors provide the solid foundation of sustainability from which we can grow. Thank you. It is only with community support that 360 Communities can provide the critical services that make a significant impact on families. Consider making a donation or volunteering today. You can help 360 Communities to continue to evolve and meet the challenges of our future.