search icon

Quickly search the TTCF site for what you’re looking for.

The Martis Fund and Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation: A Decade of Collaborative Action

Published on April 22, 2024

“Collaboration is a shared value between The Martis Fund and the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation,” says Alexis Ollar, Vice President of The Martis Fund. “By working together with regional partners, nonprofits, and government jurisdictions, we can create a positive impact through philanthropy while leveraging more resources to support the environment and community.”

The Martis Fund (TMF) is itself a collaborative project. It is managed by the developers and members of the Martis Camp community, a homeowner community nestled in the Martis Valley, along with Mountain Area Preservation and Sierra Watch, two watchdog nonprofits that advocate for protection and preservation of open spaces throughout the region. The Martis Fund’s mission is “to conserve open space, manage and restore habitat and forest lands, and support workforce housing and related community purposes in the North Tahoe and Truckee region.” 

To help achieve its mission, the Martis Fund has generated and invested financial, social, and intellectual resources to the region. Board Members also bring land use, development, and resource conservation skills to bear. All of this makes the Martis Fund and its representatives key partners for the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation (TTCF). TMF board members lend their leadership and expertise to TTCF initiatives including the Nature Fund and Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee (MHC). With shared visions for the region, TMF’s collaboration has helped TTCF make powerful strides in its key areas of focus: Families, Forests and Housing. 


Protecting Open Spaces and Natural Resources

In an avowed effort to protect our natural resources forever, TTCF launched the Nature Fund in 2003. This endowed fund provides grants to local nonprofits to preserve wild places and creatures, educate the public, and make natural spaces accessible to everyone. 

The Martis Fund helps TTCF multiply its impact in this area. For more than a decade, TMF has provided matching grants to the Nature Fund. To streamline the efforts of nonprofits so that they don’t have to create separate proposals for the same work, TMF aligns their giving with TTCF’s grant cycle. Over the years, TMF has provided close to a million matching dollars to the Nature Fund– specifically focusing its grants to impact open spaces in Eastern Placer County, Truckee, and Donner Summit.

Collaborative philanthropy is essential to drive the scope of environmental work that both TMF and TTCF seek to accomplish. Putting together multiple funding sources is necessary in this area because, in the words of TTCF’s Community Impact Officer Phyllis McConn, “there’s no such thing as an inexpensive environmental project.“

“By leveraging these state and federal dollars, we can bring huge amounts of money into this community,” McConn says, “and that’s another example of how we can elevate this work.”

TTCF and the Martis Fund are not solely focused on providing dollars either. They are deeply committed to the nonprofit agencies that are on-the-ground, and work to help build the capacity of smaller organizations as they evolve into local environmental powerhouses. A perfect example of this is the Truckee River Watershed Council (TRWC), with whom TTCF and TMF have worked with consistently throughout the years as TRWC grew. 

“TRWC is a highly effective organization stewarding millions of dollars in state and federal grants,” McConn says. ”We’re fortunate our grants help provide the seed funding for fully engineered design plans that make their projects eligible for these much larger government grants. This leveraging increases the pace and scale of tackling their pipeline of restoration projects.”


Helping Families Stay Safe & Healthy

In 2012, four local social-service organizations — Family Resource Center of Truckee, North Tahoe Family Resource Center, Tahoe SAFE Alliance, and Project MANA— identified a way they could help local families and community members better. They saw that by head-quartering in a single location, they could improve cross-organizational communication and provide wraparound services that ensured every person received all the available help and resources. Recognizing the potential of this solution, TTCF spearheaded a capital campaign that raised $2.5 million to create a home for their missions. The Martis Fund was one of the first to provide financial backing for the effort alongside S.H. Cowell Foundation and Placer County. The campaign succeeded in purchasing and remodeling an eight-unit motel in Kings Beach to house the four organizations. In 2019, TTCF helped support those four organizations in merging to become a single entity: Sierra Community House. 


Human Services, Crisis Prevention, Domestic Abuse Services, Collaborative Funding, Collective Philanthropy
In 2012, TTCF spearheaded a capital campaign that raised $2.5 million to create a single home for four critical services organizations. The Martis Fund was one of the first to provide financial backing for Community House, now Sierra Community House in Kings Beach. Photo Credit: Sierra Community House.

Sierra Community House now runs programs that deliver family strengthening, crisis intervention, hunger relief, and legal services. From its Kings Beach location, it provides meals to more than 1,000 families per week, takes crisis intervention calls, and offers a range of related services to help families and community members through tough times. Everyday community members contact Sierra Community House looking for help. These are families in need of food; individuals seeking safety from domestic and sexual violence; parents pursuing education and healthcare for their children; community members in need of affordable housing and meaningful employment; and vulnerable residents striving to find relief from isolation, poverty, and chronic disease. Over the past year, Sierra Community House helped keep our community safer, healthier, and more connected by delivering 26,783 services to more than 5,000 community members.


Taking Down the Pine Cone Curtain for Workforce Housing

TMF and TTCF have worked tirelessly in response to the regional affordable housing crisis. From regularly meeting as part of the Mountain Housing Council to driving collective philanthropy to helping break ground on projects, the two organizations have collaborated to drive solutions for community members, families, and businesses.

affordable housing, housing crisis, california housing, community foundation, philanthropy
The Railyard Master Plan was a 20-year planning process devoted to creating infill development to provide homes for local workers in downtown Truckee. TMF and TTCF worked together to leverage the grant funds that helped get the Truckee Artist Lofts off the ground as part of that process.


TMF and TTCF collectively supported the development of the Truckee Artist Lofts (TAL), which resulted in 76 workforce housing units. The Railyard Master Plan was a 20-year planning process devoted to creating infill development to provide homes for local workers at a former mill site in downtown Truckee. TMF and TTCF worked together to leverage the grant funds that helped get the TAL off the ground as part of that process. The Martis Fund itself contributed $1.4 million, the Town of Truckee matched that amount, and TTCF added another $750,000 to the funding matrix and structured the impact investment. 

Amy Kelley, Program Coordinator for the Martis Fund, says collaboration was the key to the success of that project, and many others since.

TTCF deserves immense credit for bringing this collective impact model to our community, pulling partners together to leverage funds and elevate projects,” Kelley says. “And that aligns with the Martis Fund’s grantmaking strategies. In my experience The Martis Fund values collaboration and appreciates when projects have multiple funding partners invested in their projects.” 

Tom Murphy, TMF’s board member and former president, points to TTCF’s Mountain Housing Council as another successful collaborative effort. Engaging the MHC, the Martis Fund offered down-payment assistance and other programs that helped local people employed within the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District boundaries get into homes. Again demonstrating the spirit of collaboration, Mountain Housing Council partnered with numerous agencies, municipalities and government entities to achieve its mission of confronting the region’s burgeoning housing crisis.

“We were able to take down what I call ‘the Pine Cone Curtain’ between these regions, governmental boundaries, and public service district entities,” Murphy says. “That allowed us to all come together to move the needle to leverage resources and bridge funding gaps to create and get more locals into achievable housing.”

That work continues. In 2020, the Housing Funders Network came together again, resulting in a $350,000 grant from Martis Fund to support small scale, infill development on Donner Lake. A multi-family project on a half acre at the west end of the lake, it is one of the first recent workforce housing projects built by a local developer, and hopefully will not be the last, Amy Kelley says. We are hopeful it is a model that can be replicated.

“This is a really beautiful picture of how collaboration can work,” she says. “Because the Martis Fund and other partners can align resources through the Funders Network, and it can then go to developers with viable projects. It’s an elegant mechanism.” 


A Region of Partners & Collaborators

The challenges that the Tahoe Truckee region faces can feel insurmountable. That’s exactly why this rural region has been diligently working to dissolve the silos that can inhibit meaningful social and environmental progress. The public agencies, nonprofits, elected officials, business owners, and community members in this region are consistently coming to the table to tackle the housing crisis, climate extremes, and health challenges of its community members. Collaboration provides the ability to bring forward systemic solutions to so many challenges. TMF and TTCF are ready and willing partners who come to the table, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.