Nonprofit Spotlight: Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse (CORA)

Alessandra Madrid 03/09/2015

Located in San Mateo, CA, CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse) is the County’s only provider of comprehensive domestic violence prevention services.

Founded as La Casa de San Mateo in 1978, it became one of the nation’s first 24-Hour crisis lines. In 1979, it opened a 16-bed shelter program for battered women and their children. In early 2004, the organization merged with Sor Juana Inés Services for Abused Women, a center focused on the unique needs of the Latino population and became CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse). Their name reflects that it takes a community, working together, to end domestic violence.

Today, CORA is a multicultural agency committed to serving victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, financial status, language, sexual orientation, immigration status, class, religion, gender, mental or physical ability.

CommitChange recently sat down and had the opportunity to chat with Daniel Holloway, CORA's Development Associate. In his words this title, “translates to being the database guru and overseeing the overall marketing and design for the organization." Being the data aficionados that we are, we're always looking to learn more about the fundraising challenges our clients face. Most importantly, we wanted to know about the people that make up CORA.
There are 43 full time workers and, depending on time of year, anywhere from 10 to 30 volunteers supporting their efforts. Because of the nature of work of this organization, they have people with a variety of backgrounds, anywhere from lawyers to mental health professionals and those who assist on basic fundraising activities.

As mentioned earlier, CORA serves victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse. “We are proud to be one of the few organizations that covers all bases. Usually women aren’t allowed to bring children to emergency services shelters but we do allow them to bring in their children,” Holloway said. To get a better idea of who they typically serve, we asked about the age range estimate of the people who turn to CORA. We were surprised to find that the youngest person CORA has served is a 2 month old baby that came in to the shelter with their mother not too long ago; and that the eldest person they’ve helped was 95 years old; she was brought to them through a 911 call. Because CORA believes that every adult, teen and child has the right to a safe, non-violent home; they serve a broad range of victims and survivors.

Fundraising and Challenges

One of the biggest challenges of the area that CORA is located in is that it is saturated. There are many nonprofits and a lot of entities doing good work for the community. Therefore, donors are spread throughout and CORA has to work very hard to distinguish its mission and capture support from the surrounding community. San Mateo County is “ground zero“ for social dynamic changes and nonprofits must be on their A game to get attention from prospective donors.

“If we can dream and have it all we always are looking for more housing and space. Shelters get too full and, unfortunately, the only option is to turn people away,” Holloway mentioned.

CORA places a large amount of focus into incorporating as much technology as their budget allows. They have a regularly updated and secure website in English and Spanish, have adopted an easy to use donation processing platform, and are constantly communicating with donors and potential constituents through social media.

CORA and CommitChange

We asked Holloway to tell us about CORA’s experience with implementing CommitChange for all of their web fundraising efforts so far. “What I love about CommitChange is that everything is super easy on CORA’s side of things; I am not super tech savvy, however, I was able to input the HTML code for the donate button into our website myself. CommitChange is even easier on the donor side, which is why we have seen the percentage of our online donations increasing. Donors are able to get donations in easily.”

Working at CORA

“It’s strange that my most memorable moment working with CORA didn’t actually take place at CORA.” says Hollaway. “It was actually out to dinner at a restaurant in San Francisco. I had been working at CORA for about a month. CORA requires all employees, board, and staff to take part in a 40-hour domestic violence training. One thing we covered was titled “Just how widespread is domestic violence?” and it covered your basic stats for DV in the U.S. population. I listed to the numbers … 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence; 1 in 8 men will experience domestic violence; 1 in 2 transgender individuals will experience domestic violence. It was high, but at the end of the day, they were numbers. I finished my training and went home.
That night, my group of friends all gathered for dinner at our usual Mission eatery. I was one of the first to arrive, so I took my seat and waited for the others to filter in, which they did. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I looked up at this table of people I cared about, my people, my friends. Directly across from me where four female friends, and without thinking it popped into my head: “one of them has or will experience domestic violence.” It was a sobering moment. The enormity of the problem was suddenly real, personal and punch to the gut. That feeling has been with me every day at CORA since.”

Learn more about CORA by visiting their website or visit their CommitChange profile to donate!