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.

⭐️ Cohort Spotlight ⭐️

A series of emails that began last year featuring the amazing work of our partner organizations and those they serve. A list of all the partners can be found here.


Help support one of our amazing nonprofit partners.

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2020-2021 Cohort

AVANCE – San Antonio | Website

Established in 1973, AVANCE is a national, nonprofit organization, primarily serving Texas, that meets hard to reach, low-income families where they are. Meaning “advance” or “progress”, AVANCE serves as a trusted guide to support parents and their children in a family-oriented, non-judgmental environment. Programs yield measurable learning outcomes while building community and social capital. The Parent-Child Education Program (PCEP), an evidenced-based model of early intervention, focuses on the interdependent welfare of children, families, and the community. AVANCE offers a multitude of wrap-around services and programs including PCEP, Early Head Start, Head Start, Services to Fathers, Health Clinics, and Caminos al Futuro (adult education and workforce development programs).

Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas | Website

Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Texas provides children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one mentoring relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. The single most critical factor that determines if a child grows up successfully is whether or not they have a strong, positive, consistent, caring adult role model in their lives. Through mentoring and training, Big Brothers Big Sisters builds the developmental assets youth need to grow up successfully. Thousands of volunteers serve as mentors each year helping youth overcome challenges and reach their full potential.

Jewish Family Service | Website

Jewish Family Service of San Antonio strives to enhance the quality of life of individuals and families of all ages, faiths, sexual orientation, and economic backgrounds in San Antonio and the surrounding area, guided by the Jewish values of “repairing the world” and “taking responsibility for each other.” Since 1973, JFS has provided affordable mental health counseling, group therapy, psychiatry, case management, senior services, and educational programs. In 2019, JFS was the lead agency in starting the San Antonio Mobile Mental Wellness Collaborative. This group of six nonprofits provide an innovative, holistic approach to mental wellness right into the school districts.

Madonna Center | Website

The Madonna Center helps individuals and families improve their daily lives through education, connections to resources, healthy aging, and creating a sense of community. Early childhood programs are designed to educate young children and prepare them for success in school. From after-school programs to senior services, Madonna Center has activities and programs meant to build community among all age groups. The Center also hosts summer camps and the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) early childhood program.

Presa Community Center | Website

Presa Community Center improves lives by providing access to needed resources and tools for social and personal transformation. The Center provides comprehensive programs that foster independence, personal growth, and empowerment for youth, older adults, and families. In addition to resources and referrals, community members can access educational support, free tax assistance, computer lab, emergency food, transportation for older adults and people with disabilities, plus various classes and activities. We base our approach to service on or core values:

  • Holistic approach to serving the community; touching all aspects of their lives.
  • Humanity: care for the individual, with dignity and respect.
  • Community Ownership: priorities & approaches driven by the community, rather than management.
  • Advocacy: for our community’s improvement.
  • Collaboration: with partner organizations to uncover root causes of problems.
  • Value: believe in the potential of each member of our community; help each person see and believe in their own value and potential.
SA Youth | Website

SA Youth’s prime focus is helping high-risk youth and youth adults to achieve their full potential by providing quality educational programming in a safe environment. SA Youth’s vision is for all San Antonio youth and young adults to have equitable access to educational opportunities, graduate from high school, and become successful community-minded adults, regardless of circumstance.

Previous Cohorts

Cohort 3 (2019-2020)
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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