The August 2012 edition of Sotokoto magazine includes a feature article on the Sanaburi Foundation, a recipient of the BTMU Americas Community Recovery Award through JCIE’s Japan NGO Earthquake Relief & Recovery Fund. The article describes the origins of this unique community foundation, its mission of supporting recovery in the Tohoku region, and the way in which it raises funds. It also showcases some of the foundation’s recent grantees, including a program that uses art and music to reach out to children in Fukushima Prefecture, as well as a “Recovery Support Center” in Miyagi Prefecture that engages the elderly to prevent them from becoming isolated. Altogether, in its first year of operations, Sanaburi supported more than 50 projects. It is also planning to start lend money to small business owners as a way to kick-start the rebuilding of the community.
The JCIE grant was focused on capacity building for the foundation and helping the organization improve its outreach. For example, the Sanaburi Foundation has hired a person with PR expertise for external outreach, which is critical for long-term fundraising and for facilitating the kinds of connections that make a community foundation effective. They are currently advertising for another program officer as well. And they have created an appealing and informative website, including information on their grantees and on how individuals, corporations, and others can contribute. As the Sotokoto article mentions, in the Japanese context it is often difficult to convince funders to cover organizational costs. Many want 100 percent of their donations to go directly to the grant projects. Institutional and capacity building support therefore is crucial in allowing the Sanaburi Foundation to conduct outreach to potential funders and fund recipients, research and create connections with grant organizations, maintain close ties with various actors in the community, and keep a close eye on the ever-changing needs in the community.