In the seven months since he stepped into the role as the business development manager of the FAME Assistance Corporation, a good portion of Lee Marshall’s time has been spent laying the groundwork for the new direction the community benefits organization will take.

“We want to be self sustaining, and what that means is generating revenues in business that will allow us to do the type of things we need to do and not be reliant on grants and things of that nature.”

Marshall, who came to FAME with a background that included working in corporate America in the banking world and most recently owner of his own business development firm, said the reason why this is a necessary step for FAME to take is evident, when you look at the current economy.

“When the economy goes soft, grants and those types of money, (because of budget deficits at the state, local and federal levels) get cut. If we rely on that 100 percent, when those things happen, we have to make serious reductions in staff, and serious alterations in our programs.

“By doing projects that allow us to generate income outside of grant funding, any hiccups in government, private sources or banks, don’t force us to make personnel changes, layoffs and thing of that nature,” Marshall added.

FAME Assistance Corporation currently offers transportation, health, environment and housing programs in addition to its business development work.

To develop self-sustainability, Marshall said FAME is working on a number of projects. The first is called Save Our Homes.

“What we’re looking to do there is get donated property, (singe family homes) or low interest lines of credits to purchase residential homes in areas that we serve. Our goal is a minimum of $50 million, which may represent 200 to 300 homes depending on the value.”

The non-profit would turn around and sell these residences to people at a much more affordable and reasonable rate, which would provide income streams for the next 15 to 30 years.

FAME Plaza is another project in the planning stages. This is a five-story commercial office structure with retail on the first level.

“There are a lot of folks that like this area, and want to move here, but there is not a lot of new office spaces,” explained Marshall, who said the plaza will provide one solution to that dilemma.

On the business front, Marshall said FAME is looking to create another equity fund.

“The one we have now is expiring, and we want to create another one,” said the business development of the $5 million FAME Renaissance Equity Fund. He said the current fund expires in June 2008, and it take 12 to 18 months to raise all of the funding for a second one.

In addition to creating income streams, Marshall said there is also a change in the thinking at the South Los Angeles-based nonprofit.

“The organization is taking an approach to how we do business that is more in line with how a for-profit would do business. That’s in operations and management and personnel. Everybody in the organization in management positions has a strong business background. They know how to manage money, programs and people. That will allow us to handle the programs we currently have and also focus on those things that allow us to be more self sustaining.”