In just the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region there are currently close to 600 kids in the foster care system. They often come into care with little notice and very few belongings and it is the foster family’s role to supply these children with basic needs, help them feel safe and keep up with the appointments and paperwork required during a child’s placement.
The journey is often lonely and emotionally exhausting for everyone involved. It was this challenge that prompted four Charlotte-based foster moms to seek out support during their own foster care journeys. After finding each other, they quickly realized the need for a community of support that would ensure every foster parent had the resources they needed to continue offering a safe place for children. Foster Village Charlotte provides Welcome Packs for new placements, offers support groups for foster parents and spends countless hours advocating for some of Mecklenburg County’s most vulnerable residents – because they believe that it takes a village.
A Grassroots Movement Builds a Strong Foundation
It is this ‘village,’ alongside a real community need that has fueled Foster Village’s momentum. When Foster Village Charlotte joined Cultivate in 2020, they were an emerging organization that had a groundswell of grassroots support, an ambitious vision and deep passion for local children and families. The FVC team had recently moved into a Center that would serve as a home for their support groups, Welcome Pack storage and space for foster families and biological families to work together to support the children in their care.
Foster Village Charlotte knew where they wanted to go – but they also knew they needed help to build a strong foundation that would make them sustainable for years to come. “When we joined Cultivate, we had a lot of momentum and community support,” said Founder and Executive Director Becky Santoro. “But no one on our team had nonprofit experience and it felt like we were drinking from a fire hose.” Together, the founders worked through each of Cultivate’s modules, gaining valuable knowledge on board development, fundraising, program management, marketing and more.
Santoro also noted that what she built during Cultivate was invaluable. “One of the most meaningful parts of the program for me was the ability to meet leaders who were going through this experience with me. The ability to bounce ideas off people and compare notes was so encouraging.”
Building a Sustainable Movement
Support during the Resource Development module turned out to be particularly helpful for the organization. “During our time in Cultivate, we launched a peer-to-peer campaign that would leverage this groundswell of support. We found that grassroots fundraising was really aligned with who we are and what we are about – this picture of everyone coming together for the good of all,” said Santoro.
The team launched Foster the Movement, a fundraising campaign that asked foster families, volunteers and donors to share their stories on social media and ask for support from friends and family. The Village overwhelmingly responded, raising more than $80,000 to help continue the services that had supported many of them so well.
“It showed us that there is this powerful grassroots movement that not only raises money but helps to spread your mission and vision – and you can’t put a price tag on that,” said Santoro. “Cultivate really encouraged us to dig deep into that part of ourselves and enable people to help us grow this Village that had become so critical to their foster care journey.”