Three Questions With Sol Marie Alfonso Jones
Our senior program officer, managing Education, Environment, and Youth Violence Prevention, came to the Long Island Community Foundation in 2009. She also spearheads our Community Development programs, including the affordable and fair housing initiative on Long Island. She is a graduate of the University of Rochester, and studied at Columbia Business School’s Non-Profit Management. She’s been a member of the Energeia Partnership, a leadership academy that addresses issues challenges the region.
The Long Island Community
Foundation funded a research report on Long Island’s affordable rental housing crisis. How does that help?
Advancing affordable and fair housing here is one of my favorite topics! No one can find a centralized database for
basic information. We worked with the Regional Plan Association and the Rauch
Foundation so everyone can plan effectively—something that didn’t happen on the Island before. Past practices created many problems we see today, like environmental issues, limited transit, and few housing options for young families or seniors. Without data and analyses, it is hard to make sound decisions for the long term sustainability in Nassau and Suffolk.
Long Island has some of the highest ranked schools in the country. Why is education a priority area for the Long Island Community Foundation?
The Island has high-performing and low- performing schools – sometimes just a few miles from each other. Long
Island schools are the most segregated in the state and a recent study by the Long Island Association indicates a widening achievement gap between the wealthiest and poorest districts. Addressing education inequities is not only the right thing to do, it is the economically smart thing to do, for the future of Long Island. The Long Island Community Foundation does this by supporting in-school and after-school academic programs and promoting partnerships and collaboration to bolster low-performing schools.
The Foundation gets so many
proposals-how do you decide which to select?
This is the most difficult part of my job because of the many great nonprofits on Long Island. We identified eight issue areas of focus, and any proposal has to meet one of those. We look for a proposal that clearly connects the issue, the strategies that are being proposed, and the expected outcomes. We usually prefer nonprofits based on Long Island that have boots on the ground and a keen understanding of solutions. We determine where our grants can have the greatest impact. Then we make recommendations to our board. We try to remain flexible enough to respond to the unexpected, like Super Storm Sandy. We know we’re stewards of funds opened by charitable donors.