Peer Learning Cohorts

Select nonprofits work together for 36 months to become more efficient and effective leaders so their organizations operate at peak performance.

What we do

Each year, our Capacity Building Program forms a Peer Learning Cohort consisting of select nonprofits that agree to work together for 36 months at becoming more efficient, effective, and cooperative. They dig deep on leadership development, continuous learning processes, managing, planning, oversight, and generating resources. The goal: to help vital nonprofits operate at peak performance.

The organizations involved represent a breadth of services being offered in San Antonio, from after-school activities to distressed housing restoration to mental health support and more. Each nonprofit is provided with an external assessment using the Impact Capacity Assessment Tool (iCAT), which helps orient them to the work ahead. In the first year, cohort members meet on five occasions, connecting through peer learning opportunities, and creating the potential for lasting collaborations that can benefit communities for years to come.

2019-2020 Cohort

Girls, Inc. | View Website

Girls, Inc. of San Antonio inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold. The evidence-based, girl-serving program helps girls reach personal, educational and career goals by looking past discriminatory messages and embracing their internal self-worth. Trained facilitators meet girls with age-appropriate and hands-on learning opportunities inside and outside of school. Girls can dip their toes in a diverse array of activities, including life skills, STEM studies, leadership training, economics and social action. Dreaming big and exploring possibilities happens at Girls, Inc. through a safe and empowering environment fostered in each program.

House of Neighborly Service | View Website

Over 100 years ago, a refugee and Presbyterian missionary fled the Mexican Revolution and came to the West Side of San Antonio to encourage other refugees leaving behind desperate situations. Soon after, The House of Neighborly Service (HNS) established to support families building new lives, providing social services to a neighborhood in need. Now, helping the neighbor has become a way of life for HNS. From early childhood development to senior services, the organization meets the holistic needs of the community. A breadth of resources is provided through the Family Support Program, including diapers, food security, emotional support, housing, medical and legal needs.

JOVEN | View Website

A rise in juvenile crime unsettled founders of the Juvenile Outreach and Vocational Education Network (JOVEN). For almost 30 years, the group has combatted youth crime in Bexar County through education and support services, collaborating with local organizations and churches to assist high-risk youth. A holistic approach to programming meets youth in all stages- health education, prevention, intervention and counseling services. Leaders of America, a summer youth-intern opportunity, offers first-hand knowledge of necessary workforce ethic and skills. Character and resiliency are woven into each program to help children make positive changes toward a better-quality life and a successful future.

NAMI San Antonio | View Website

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization.  When Eve Oliphant placed a newspaper ad in 1974 inviting people into her home who had concerns for mentally ill family members, she started a movement. NAMI San Antonio continues the movement using a “pay it forward” model to stop stigma and provide hope.  NAMI provides free, peer and caregiver led classes and support groups for adults struggling with a mental health condition and their loved ones. Presentations are offered to faith groups, service providers, businesses, community groups, schools and law enforcement agencies. A person with “lived experience” – a peer or a caregiver who is living well – is trained to lead their own class or group or to speak in the community. This is how NAMI San Antonio brings hope!

Project Transformation – Rio Texas | View Website

Project Transformation connects three communities—children, college students and churches. All three C’s are combined in one interconnected mission, to change lives through relationship. The Rio Texas Chapter, formed in 2015, starts by addressing the needs of students challenged by low income and other related adversity risks. A summer camp emphasizing literacy improvement is implemented by college students, who live in intentional community together, building relationships while learning a unique, meaningful skillset. All of this takes place in churches, aimed to be re-anchored through dynamic and relational connections.

Restore Education | View Website

The founder of Restore Education, John F. Rhodes, believed that single parents and disadvantaged youth, who struggled in a traditional education setting should have the opportunity to achieve their dreams. In 1997, he and his staff began curating unique pathways to and through college, as well as developing workforce training to form self-sustaining careers.

Serving over 9,000 San Antonio individuals since 2008, the nonprofit operates three programs to help transform lives—an individualized GED program, a college readiness and support service, and multiple career training programs. These services give San Antonio learners the tools needed to be self-supporting adults, exemplar parents, and productive community members.

Previous Cohorts

Cohort 2 (2018-2019)
Cohort 1 (2017-2018)


Capacity Building is based out of our San Antonio office at 153 Treeline Park, Suite 330, San Antonio, TX 78209. For inquiries, please contact María Fernández.

Capacity Building Program Director

MARÍA A. FERNÁNDEZ | 830-315-9316

María joined the H. E. Butt Foundation after serving for four years as the Senior Director of Diversity and Equity Leadership Development for a national nonprofit developing teachers as policy, elected, and community organizing leaders. Over her 22-year career, she has led a variety of initiatives in California and Texas, including spearheading cross-sector initiatives at the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities at Stanford University. Fully bilingual and biliterate in Spanish and English, María also ran her own translation and interpretation business for over 10 years.

Prior to launching her career, María earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from Stanford University and a Master of Education degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. María also earned her Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University in 2019. She lives in San Antonio with her husband, a bilingual-bicultural studies university professor, and her two bilingual children.

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