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Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Local-Focused Funder

The Community Foundation of the Valleys has a mission to encourage residents and businesses to give money for local organizations – a premise with particular relevance to the Valley region, its founders say. Community foundations are grant-making public charities that work in a defined geographic area. They bring together financial resources from many individuals, family trusts and businesses and direct the money to support effective nonprofits. The startup CFV provides donors in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys with a channel for making tax-deductible contributions that support services and grants to local nonprofits. “We exist to help facilitate and make giving easier,” said CFV Executive Director Brigette Loden. “We have many constituents including area nonprofits that have been vetted to receive charitable contributions, organizations needing assistance to dissolve complicated assets and donations, and people and businesses wanting to give.” Valley civic leaders originally launched the foundation in 2003 as “The San Fernando Valley Community Foundation.” However, the foundation went dormant during the Great Recession. The organization started again a few years ago to tap into the pool of wealth in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys, according to Loden. Lapse to relaunch In the early 2000s, attorney David Fleming was a vocal advocate for the San Fernando Valley seceding from the City of Los Angeles. The effort, he said, was based on the idea that local communities and residents were not getting their fair share of city services. The Valley did not secede from Los Angeles, but Fleming said the movement brought attention to the issue and city services have improved since then. His involvement in the CFV is tied to his desire to see the greater San Fernando Valley operate more autonomously. There are a lot of assets in the Valley, Fleming said, yet people donate a lot of money organizations outside the area. Working with a foundation like CFV is a way to keep money local and help nearby people and organizations. “Now is the time when the Valley can take its position,” Fleming said. “This area is evolving as a major (population and business) center, and I think the Community Foundation of the Valleys will be very successful over time.” Fleming helped launch the CFV in 2003 and works as an advisor for the rebranded foundation. Loden said the Valley region has one of the highest levels of wealth and wealth transfer – where aging parents or grandparents transfer assets to the younger generation – in Los Angeles County. Certain parts also have high rates of poverty. “We thought it was important to create a conduit to address these needs,” said Loden, adding the organization has gone through a rebranding process and expanded its services to become a true community foundation. It established new executive leadership in 2017. “Over the past three years, we’ve been working hard to get the foundation going again,” said Tamara Gurney, chairwoman of the organization’s board and chief executive at Sun Valley-based Mission Valley Bank. “Last year we made some huge progress.” As one of the founders of Mission Valley Bank, Gurney knows first-hand the challenges of launching a new organization to serve Valley residents. “I think this is important work,” she said. “I can see out into the future that the Community Foundation of the Valleys is going to have an impact on people’s lives.” On the donor and collection side of charitable giving, CFV helps build permanent endowment funds and uses a portion of the annual income from those funds to support local nonprofits. It can also set up donor-advised funds – a philanthropic vehicle at a public charity that allows donors to make charitable contributions, receive an immediate tax benefit and recommend grants from the fund over time, according to the National Philanthropic Trust. These funds are often simpler and more cost effective than creating independent family foundations, said Loden. CFV donors are not required to give all of their charitable dollars to local causes, but the foundation strongly encourages them to think locally. It can create customized plans to meet each donor’s needs. On the money distribution side, the foundation launched its inaugural Give Back, Give Local campaign and hosted its first Give Back, Give Local reception in December. Grants were given to area organizations including Carousel Ranch, Fire Family Foundation, Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, ONEgeneration and the Santa Clarita Coalition. CFV’s priority areas for resource allocation include community health, arts and culture, homelessness, children’s services, animals, capacity building and disaster relief. California model CFV is modeled after the 102-year-old California Community Foundation, which controls more than 1,600 funds and nearly $1.5 billion in assets. The foundation is dedicated to “positive systemic change that strengthens Los Angeles,” according to its website. Since 2000, the California Community Foundation has received more than $2.2 billion in donor contributions and given $2 billion in grants, but Loden said a relatively small portion of that money goes to Valley organizations. The larger organization provides CFV with administrative support to cut costs, and CFV donors can pool investments with the California Community Foundation’s $1.5 billion and high return investment options. “The (California Community Foundation) model makes a lot of sense,” said Fleming, a long-time member of the foundation’s board of directors. “We have the model and it works.” CFV’s main focus right now is working on a grassroots level to attract donors and nonprofits, said Loden. Partnering with California Community Foundation lends the new foundation credibility and provides leadership advice on philanthropic management. Ken Craft, chief executive of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, welcomes the new community foundation. Hope of the Valley provides hot meals to the homeless and hungry; emergency and recovery shelters; a shower and hygiene program; and the Van Nuys Help Center, which offers a computer center, case management, recovery services, life skills and support classes. It received a grant at the CFV’s recent Give Back, Give Local reception. With homelessness increasing in the San Fernando Valley, there’s a great need for organizations that can help channel financial and other support to nonprofits, Craft said. “In the past, there have been foundations that give to local nonprofits, but there hasn’t been one that focuses on the Valley,” he explained. “To me, it’s something unique to say to residents ‘Let’s give where we live, work and play.’”

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