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2001-2004: Reflections of Stewardship

Reflections of Stewardship

The year 2000 started out with a bang and, for investors, ended with a whimper. So it was for the Fresno Regional Foundation as well. As the stock market tumbled so did donations, Foundation assets and investor confidence. “The 2000 market lost a third of its value in six months,” said Arreguin. Luckily, the 1990s were stellar years for donations including substantial gifts from Mr. Peter Bennett, Blue Cross and the Berven Family. The extra funds in the coffers didn’t last however as donors, experiencing their own closer-to-home financial challenges, reduced their donations, leaving the Foundation with no measurable assets for re-granting in 2001 and 2002.

Concurrent with the national stock market crisis, a regional crisis of a different kind was formally identified. A study commissioned by Modesto’s Great Valley Center, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and the James Irvine Foundation, showed that statewide, philanthropic grants average $3 million per 100,000 people. But in the Central Valley from 1995-1997, the number was $1.2 million, or 40 percent of the state average. The article confirmed what the Fresno Regional Foundation knew all along-the Valley region is known for being land-rich and cash-poor, an agriculture-based economy not necessarily known for its philanthropy. Moreover, the Valley has only a few locally owned corporate headquarters which typically give generously to hometown causes; the existing local corporations have long been targeted for funding in the Valley.

However, as awareness of the Fresno Regional Foundation was promoted, that would change. “The focus used to be on local money but now it has widened to attract money from outside foundations,” said Mort Rosenstein, M.D., FRF Board Chairperson.

“It’s a different paradigm. It used to be that we were scrambling to find money; now we must refine our methods. We have to have long-range planning in place and a vision of sustainability for ourselves and our grantees.”

Part of the planning was put into effect when the Foundation decided to change financial advisors in 2003. Though it took a year of concerted effort between the Board Investment Committee, current and past board members, accountants, attorneys and bankers, it was worth it. In January of 2004, the Foundation’s major assets were transferred to SEI Philadelphia; over the course of the next three years, returns would average better than ten percent.


Next: 2005-Present: Reflections of Excellence


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