RCF Connects’ leader reflects on org’s success with eye on the future

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RCF Connects' leader reflects on successes with eye on the future
Jim Becker (Photo by Kathy Chouteau)

By Kathy Chouteau

When Jim Becker, president and CEO of RCF Connects, first joined the Richmond foundation, he was leaving a state affordable housing nonprofit in search of making an impact on a local level.

“There was a lot of appeal to work for an organization that was visionary about how to make Richmond a better place, and I always loved the city,” said Becker.

Nearly two decades later, RCF Connects is known to move mountains in Richmond and nearby communities, connecting community members to opportunities of affordable housing, financial independence, equitable opportunities, meaningful grants and much more.

Now, the foundation is entering another chapter in its transformational philanthropy journey—a search for a Co-CEO. When asked if he’s retiring, Becker said, yes, but not right now. Rather, he said the search aligns with the organization’s own strategic plan of helping residents come together to share power in our community.

“I’m leaving things that people will use even when I’m gone…And that’s kind of cool.”

The idea for a Co-CEO grew out of an organizational think-tank on what leadership structure would work best for RCF Connects. This is the first community foundation in the country to hire a Co-CEO, which Becker described as innovative philanthropy.

The deadline to apply for the Co-CEO position is June 30, 2024; learn more about the position here.

If the new co-leader wants a snapshot of what an RCF Connects future looks like, Becker’s legacy offers a good hint. The nonprofit leader is quick to share accolades with his team regarding their collective work. An initiative he’s particularly proud of is the organization’s early investment in Richmond College Prep, K-7 schools in the city’s Santa Fe/Coronado neighborhoods.

Becker said that the question was, if children in low-income neighborhoods had the same resources and supports as children in more affluent communities, could they perform at the same level? The answer is a resounding yes, he said, with Richmond College Prep consistently being one of the top performing Title One schools in California.

Another source of pride for Becker is RCF Connects’ work raising funding to bring together three Bay Area professional sports teams, the Golden State Warriors, the Raiders and the As. Those relationships helped build basketball courts, baseball fields and a turf field for football at MLK Park in Richmond. He’s proud of everyone’s extensive efforts, including coordinating fencing and lights with the Neighborhood Councils. Today, it’s one of the busiest parks in the city, he notes.

“MLK Park is always something I’m going to be proud of,” said Becker.

The RCF Connects leader also derives a sense of accomplishment from their work creating a social impact bond as a financing mechanism to build or return blighted homes back to affordable home ownership. He said other Bay Area cities are now looking to replicate this financing tool to manage their own blighted and abandoned properties.

“I’m leaving things that people will use even when I’m gone…And that’s kind of cool,” said Becker.

When asked why he thinks the community is better for having RCF Connects, Becker—aside from the aforementioned accomplishments—referenced his staff’s ensuring opportunity work, notably leading the Measure X campaign on the last ballot. It passed and attributes a ½ cent sales tax for safety net services, or around $92 million annually that Contra Costa County previously didn’t have.

He added that the organization’s efforts advocating for Equity for Black Women and Girls in our County—where less than one percent of dollars are attributed to helping them—is one fastest-growing areas of RCF Connects and very important work.

In terms of the future, Becker said that RCF Connects doesn’t have plans to expand its programs, but it does intend to become a stronger grant maker by creating an endowment and growing its donor advised funds. “We encourage people to donate today to impact people today,” he said.

And while the organization services other parts of Contra Costa County now too, Becker said, “Our home is still in Richmond.”