New CEO Announcement

 Monday, August 22, 2016

On Sunday, August 14, the Fresno Bee announced our big news, the hiring of Mayor Ashley Swearengin as the next CEO of CVCF, effective January 16, 2017. The decision was unanimous. Fifteen board members—nine men, six women, some from business, some from government, some from large organizations, some from small, some from agriculture, some from urban centers—all voted in support of offering the position to Mayor Swearengin. 
The decision to hire Swearengin has been well received by philanthropic leaders. “We at The James Irvine Foundation view CVCF as an important partner in the effort to expand economic and political opportunity for young adults and families in the Central Valley. We look forward to the unique leadership that Mayor Swearengin will bring as the next CEO,” said Don Howard, President and CEO of the Irvine Foundation.
I have known Ashley for about 20 years so my vote was easy. I have watched her lead a number of organizations from the Fresno Business Incubator in the 90s to the City of Fresno today, always with excellence, competence, care, compassion, strength, energy and humor. She is a remarkable leader, the kind that attracts talent, builds teamwork and produces results. 
Among a number of critical board goals, Ashley will be charged with delivering a stable business model. Community Foundations of our size do not earn enough in fees to cover their overhead. They essentially have two choices: hunker down or set a bold vision. They can cut costs, recruit volunteers and provide what minimal services the budget permits, or they can recruit strong leadership, raise capital, invest in the vision, work hard and grow the asset base to the $150 million or so that produces fee income to match critical expenses. The CVCF board has chosen the latter course. It offers great possibilities because the returns to the community are superb for the dollar invested. We will begin telling that story in the fall, explaining to the community why CVCF is investment worthy, demonstrating the benefits of a strong Community Foundation and making the case for our strategic plan.
The board has a vision and now we have a CEO to implement it. We have already begun but the pace will change on January 16, 2017.

Dr. Alan Pierrot
Board Chair
[email protected]

Effective Philanthropy: Providing Local Perspectives around Larger Issues

 Monday, August 15, 2016

As we consider ways to promote effective philanthropy and increase impact, we are exploring alternative approaches to support organizations in the Central Valley. Our goal is to identify strategic investments that leverage our philanthropy and promote long-term sustainability. One method of doing this includes providing both grantmaking support and capacity building assistance to the community benefit organizations / nonprofits who are working in this region. This year, the focus of our efforts will be on the follow-up to the recommendations listed in the drought report we produced in 2015. “Beyond Almonds and Blond Lawns” was created in partnership with the California Endowment and the Kern Community Foundation. The report examines the impacts of the ongoing drought on nonprofit organizations that have been at the forefront of helping struggling individuals, families and communities.
The San Joaquin Valley has been particularly hard-hit, and rural and low-income communities have been especially hurt by the drought. Long-term changes in the agricultural economy, historically low economic development, poor infrastructure and a frayed social safety net are real issues in much of our region. Since nonprofits have not been the focus of previous studies, and because these organizations provide the critical link between philanthropic strategy and lasting social impact, our report is illuminating.  
The recommendations provide guidance on how foundations and other funders can assist CBOs. With the drought report recommendations in mind we will be working in these areas:

  • Three cohorts of twenty leaders from the Central Valley whose work intersects with the drought will participate in a series of convenings to build collaboration, increase leadership skills and continue to take the pulse of the impacts of the drought.
  • Two cohorts of eight organizations will participate in a series of capacity building workshops based on areas of need indicated in the Beyond Almonds report. 
  • We will work with artists from the Central Valley to commission 2-3 art projects that help "take the story of the drought outside of the Central Valley”.   
  • We will provide grant dollars to support the leaders and organizations participating in this work via an "emergent" model of grantmaking, driven by collaboration and partnership with the leaders and organizations in the cohorts described above.
CVCF has been selected by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, through the Community Foundation Water Cohort, to receive funding for our efforts. Stephen D. Bechtel Jr., the former Chairman and CEO of the Bechtel Corporation, a major global engineering and construction company. In 1957 he created the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation as a personal commitment to the prosperity he envisioned and desired for California. Mr. Bechtel directed the Foundation’s primary investments toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and the environment. Because we are in the unique position to offer a local perspective, backed by  the drought report, we are able to play an important role in directing the Bechtel philanthropic investments. The drought continues to cause significant disruption and distress for rural and low-income communities and the nonprofits serving them. We are proud to partner with the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation in finding short and long-term solutions.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me: [email protected]

To read the drought report, please click here.

Making the Most of Our Center for Community

 Monday, August 08, 2016

It has been a year since we opened our Center for Community (C4C) and by all measures it has been a successful endeavor. To date 58 outside organizations have used the C4C for meetings, presentations or workshops with a total of 2,750 people attending these gatherings. The CVCF monthly “Community Conversations” have been well received, each time the room has been at, or near capacity. Topics have included arts and culture, planned giving, next generation philanthropy and welcoming veterans home. Participants have enjoyed lively discussions and interesting exchanges of ideas and perspectives. The C4C offers not only a place to meet and learn, it is also a hub for networking and collaboration. We are working to put together a monthly gathering that provides local community benefit organization leaders an opportunity to network, share, and collaborate. The CBO Network is off to a good start and we look forward to increasing the number of participants and working with them to strengthen their organizations.
As part of our name change and new branding we moved to larger quarters in Fig Garden in north Fresno. The Center for Community is located in our expanded office space and is integral to achieving the goal we set forth in our new tag line—“Effective Philanthropy. Stronger Communities.”  In a nutshell, CVCF is about increasing the amount of philanthropic dollars at work across our region and making those dollars as effective as possible. We want to continue to provide grant money to organizations who are making a difference in the Valley and also support those organizations in building capacity and increasing impact. And we want to do this in the most collaborative way possible. In the coming months our efforts will be focused on building out the CBO network and together designing the best uses for the C4C. The working title is C4C 4U. As the name suggests, the project is about engaging and connecting people and working together to achieve a higher level of effectiveness, leadership and funding across the sector. At the Community Foundation we know that grants alone will never solve the issues we face. By providing space for convening and opportunities for skill building, while fostering collaboration and promoting collective impact, we are making an investment in the future of the sector as never before. It is a great time to be a part of CVCF, we appreciate all those who are working with us and encourage everyone to join in making the C4C all that it can be.   

David Johnson
Interim CEO
[email protected]

A Vision for Sustainability and Impact

 Monday, August 01, 2016

As a new board member last year, I was surprised to learn that, as a general rule, the community foundation model becomes financially stable when it reaches an asset size of about $150 million. That is, the fees generated from asset management do not cover the overhead costs of foundations managing less than $150 million. The asset size of Central Valley Community Foundation is approximately $65 million. Of the 29 foundations in the League of California Community Foundations, only ten have assets of $150 million or more. The majority of California’s foundations clearly face the same annual challenge we do, that of supplementing fee-generated revenue to cover our overhead costs.
Although CVCF has access to board discretionary funds to cover the shortfall, we have adopted a strategic plan whose central focus is the achievement of a more stable business model. That means growing assets to the $150 million threshold and carefully monitoring expenses during the pursuit. We have chosen a target of seven years to grow our assets to $150 million, all the while meeting or exceeding the present level of services to the community and maintaining prudent reserves.
Success will require the leadership of a talented, savvy CEO with superior fundraising and organizational skills armed with a clear, compelling vision, a carefully vetted strategy and an organization whose day-to-day execution and service are superb. The CVCF board understands these points and is committed to working on all simultaneously. The CEO search has begun and in the meantime the staff and board are refining the steps to a superior customer service culture. There is much to do but the potential community benefits are vast and compelling. 
Imagine the possibilities if our Community Foundation asset size matched the $150 million of Sonoma County, or the $320 million of Santa Barbara or the $636 million of San Diego. Not only would our business model be stable, our communities would have millions more for social innovation and charitable services.  That is a dream worthy of pursuit and I am proud that the CVCF board has accepted the challenge.

Dr. Alan Pierrot
Board Chair
[email protected]

CVCF Grantee to be Honored at the White House

 Monday, July 25, 2016

Susana De Anda received a Champion for Change 
Award at the White House on July 15 

In January, Central Valley Community Foundation awarded environmental grants in the areas of smart growth and river restoration. The smart growth grants were directed toward projects that advance public health, social equity, support environmental sustainability and economic growth. The river restoration grants were awarded to projects that support the restoration of the San Joaquin River. Eight organizations received grants totaling $250,000.

 Smart Growth Grantees:
Fresno County Bicycle Coalition
Leadership for Jobs and a New Economy
Self-Help Enterprises
Community Water Center
Fresno Food Commons Trust
Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability
River Restoration Grantees:
San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust
San Joaquin River Stewardship Program, Inc.

Community Water Center, with offices in Visalia, has received smart growth grant awards for the past two years. The grants are helping CWC engage local stakeholders to advocate for improved local planning to address and mitigate the effects of the drought. Over 1,900 Central Valley homes currently have dry wells, and more homes will run out of water as the drought continues. Community Water Center is working collaboratively to ensure drought-impacted residents receive not only the emergency assistance they need in the short-term, but also lasting solutions that will leave them more resilient to future droughts.

We were delighted to receive word that Susana De Anda, co-Founder and co-Executive Director of Community Water Center, was recognized as one of ten “White House Champions for Change for Climate Equity.” Susana has dedicated the past decade to ensuring that every Californian has access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. During California’s drought, she has been working alongside the rural, low-income communities that have been hit hardest by dry wells and increasingly contaminated drinking water supplies. Much of her work has been focused in small communities located in Tulare and Fresno Counties.
Through four years of persistent drought, communities across the state have learned that our environment is more fragile than we may have once believed.  At the Community Foundation we know that there are many highly knowledgeable and talented leaders working to make a difference in the Valley. Susana De Anda and Community Water Center are finding solutions by ensuring that the most vulnerable among us have access to clean and safe drinking water. We are proud to be part of these efforts.
For more information please go to White House Champions of Change for Climate Equity and

Effective Philanthropy and Stronger Communities - NextGen Leading the Way

 Monday, July 18, 2016

The Next Generation Philanthropy Fund at the Central Valley Community Foundation was created by young professionals and emerging leaders living and working in the Fresno/Clovis community. Building on CVCF’s expertise and reputation, members have established their own approach to supporting our community. Next Generation Philanthropy (NGP) has a vision to connect, cultivate, and inspire the next generation of philanthropists to take action in their communities. NGP’s mission is to become the premier training program for the next generation of board members, civic leaders, and community activists in the Central Valley.
Requirements for Participation:

  • Contribute a minimum of $1,000 per individual / $1,500 per couple to the fund
  • Attend monthly lunch meetings on the third Wednesday from 12:00pm – 1:30pm (NGP has a strict attendance policy for all members who wish to maintain voting rights)
  • Participate in a service learning project with a cause or organization determined by NGP
  • Serve on one grant committee

NextGen Philanthropy Grants

  • Helped complete the Restaurant Makeover Project through the Downtown Partnership
  • Were the sole sponsor of a Social Innovation Camp with Junior Achievement
  • Helped expand a Leadership Development Program with Every Neighborhood Partnership
  • Helped expand a Recreational Afterschool Program for underprivileged youth through the Freewheel Project
  • Provided some of the initial capital funding to restore the oldest building in Fresno on the Fulton Mall through the Downtown Fresno Foundation. 
So you may be asking, why did I start Next Generation Philanthropy? The answer is quite simple; I was born and raised in Fresno and I am proud of my community. My goal and ambition is to make the Central Valley a better place for my friends and family. As a young professional, my colleagues and friends were always negative about our region. Rather than participate in the pessimism, I decided to promote a new narrative of positive change and hope for our future. As more and more people came to understand what NGP was trying to do, they joined the group’s efforts with a hope to improve the quality of life for their children and families.  
NGP was founded on the principles of giving our time, talent, and treasure collectively to make a larger impact. We have grown from 16 members in our first year to 43 members participating in the third year of the program.  Our short term goal is to start an Administrative Endowment to create a more sustainable model for the group’s efforts. We also have a long term goal to multiply our impact and leadership into new communities across the Central Valley.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about Next Generation Philanthropy please contact me: [email protected] or 559-490-7030
I would also like to invite you to next week’s CVCF Community Conversation, which will focus on Next Generation Philanthropy. Lunch will be served at 11:30am and the program begins at noon. I hope you can join us. Please RSVP to [email protected] or 559-226-5600.
Tuesday, July 19
NextGen Community Conversation
Central Valley Community Foundation, Center for Community
5260 N. Palm Ave. Suite 122
Fresno, CA 93704  

Justin Vartanian
Founder and President of Next Generation Philanthropy/Current CVCF Board Member
[email protected]

Community Conversations: Promoting effective philanthropy and stronger communities

 Monday, July 11, 2016

Next week on July 13th we will be hosting a Community Conversation on Veterans. This event is the second in a series titled “Welcoming Veterans Home” and is focused on community responses that leverage the experience and assets of returning vets. The conversation will take place at our Center for Community in our offices at 5260 N. Palm, Suite 122. Lunch will be served at 11:30am and the program begins at noon.
Since we launched the Center for Community last fall we have hosted monthly Community Conversations on a variety of topics. Our goal is to bring donors, organizations and professionals together to network and learn. Topics have included Arts and Culture, Planned Giving, Family Philanthropy and Teen Pregnancy Prevention. The conversations on veterans have been great examples of what we are hoping to achieve. Organizations and agencies that are working with vets have been able to meet one another, often for the first time, and share valuable information about where they see the most need and the solutions that are working. The professionals that we invite to present get the opportunity to be in front of an audience that is specifically interested in the information. And donors have the chance to learn about what is going on in the community and how they might invest their charitable dollars more effectively.
For fifty years we have been a partner in philanthropy in the Valley. As we begin our next chapter we want to expand our efforts and increase our impact. The goal is to increase the total number of philanthropic dollars at work and to make those dollars as effective as possible. One of the ways that we are working toward this goal is to use the Center for Community as a collaboration hub. The Center, and the Community Conversations held there, are a driving force in leveraging the potential and ultimately the impact of those who will shape the future of the Valley. If you have not yet had the chance to attend a Community Conversation here is a list of upcoming events. I hope to see you soon.
Community Conversations:

Welcoming Veterans Home Part 2 - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Next Generation Philanthropy - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Scholarships/Investing in Youth - Thursday, September 8, 2016

Impact Investing - Thursday, October 13, 2016

Veterans Part 3 - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Environmental Sustainability - Thursday, December 8, 2016

David Johnson
Interim CEO
[email protected]

A Long Term Partner for the Arts

 Tuesday, July 05, 2016

On June 9th we hosted our annual Arts and Culture Grants Reception. This year we distributed $54,000 in grants, supported by the Gundelfinger Fund. It was a wonderful opportunity for our grantees to meet one another and for all of us to learn more about the great work being done in our community.

Gundelfinger Fund

Established in 1991 by his daughter-¬≠in-law, Lulu Staburn Gundelfinger, this Fund honors one of Fresno’s leading entrepreneurs and civic leaders, Louis Gundelfinger. The purpose of the fund is to improve the quality of life in Fresno, with a focus on music and parks.

Each of the five grantees shared what the funding would allow them to do:


• The Boys & Girls Club of Fresno County will use music from a variety of ethnicities to help young boys and girls develop greater self knowledge, confidence and self-esteem. The program will culminate with three events at City Parks.

• The Art of Life Cancer Foundation will create an outdoor musical playscape in the Art of Life Healing Garden in Woodward Park. The playscape offers benefits to all without regard to age, ethnicity, gender or ability - everyone will have the opportunity to experience the power of music to soothe and heal.

• The Central Sierra Historical Society will create an app that will allow museum visitors  to engage with exhibits through the rich sounds and songs of the Sierra. For those who can’t visit in person the app will be available via download.

• Fresno State opera students will perform a newly commissioned opera, translating a favorite folk tale about weeds being transformed into poinsettias. The opera will be performed in schools and parks and provide children an opportunity to experience this ancient form of story telling.

• Fresno County Public Library will present a concert series featuring musical programs  celebrating Latino culture. The performances will be held in Malaga, Orange Cove, Kerman, Sanger and Fresno’s downtown Eaton Plaza. There will be interactive percussion instruments for kids to play and a mobile library where families can get library cards and borrow books and music CDs.


We are proud to foster the legacies of donors like the Gundelfinger family whose philanthropy continues to touch children and families in the Valley generation after generation.

Farewell to Sandra

Our Senior Program Officer, Sandra Flores, will be leaving us this week to take a new position as the Director of Fresno’s Preterm Birth Initiative. Sandra joined the Foundation in 2007 and has played a major role in our grant making efforts. We wish her all the best in her new role and look forward to the amazing work she will continue to do to help children and families in the Valley.

David Johnson 559-825-6187

[email protected]

A Note from Interim CEO David Johnson

 Monday, June 27, 2016

I first became involved with Central Valley Community Foundation when my wife Carolyn and I started our Family Advised Fund in 2000. I have lived here since 1984, Carolyn was born and raised here and we raised our children here. Giving back to the local community means a lot to us. The Community Foundation offered the most efficient and tax advantaged way for us to give back. Since we started our fund the Foundation has assisted us in directing our charitable dollars where they can do the most good. I see the Foundation as a unique center of philanthropy, connecting donors with organizations that are making a real difference in the lives of people right here in our Valley.

A couple of years ago I finished my 30 year career as an executive in the cotton business and I wanted to find a meaningful way to spend my time. I had joined the CVCF Board of Directors in 2012 and knew that I would enjoy being part of an organization that is making such a difference. For the past two years I have been working part-time at the Foundation as a consultant and analyst, looking for ways to make philanthropic dollars even more effective. When the board asked me to step in as the interim CEO (for the second time) I once again accepted the responsibility with humility.

50 Years Strong and Growing

The Central Valley Community Foundation has been operating for 50 years and done a tremendous amount of good. Last year we granted over $8 million dollars to a variety of organizations and programs. Our investments are helping children of all ages live healthy and successful lives, supporting a vibrant arts sector, assisting veterans as they return home and addressing the critical issues of smart growth and environmental sustainability. I am proud of the work that we are doing and know that my efforts are only a small part of our success.

Going forward I am confident that we will continue to thrive. We have a sound financial footing and are continually evaluating our performance. Our investment portfolio is managed by SEI, a global financial services company with $648 billion dollars in assets under management. Our staff includes Kerri Horn, Director of Finance, Investments and Operations, a CPA with 30 years of experience. We also have several board members with extensive experience in finance including - Carole Andersen, Accounting Management Director at Deloitte (Chair of the CVCF Finance Committee) and Rod Thornton, Financial Professional with Principal Financial Group (Chair of the CVCF Investment Committee). 

We have some exciting projects in the works including redesigning the website and developing a marketing campaign to share what we are doing with the larger community. We have so many great stories to tell. I know you will be as inspired as I am about the good work being done all over our region.

I appreciate the opportunity to lead the Foundation at this time and am happy to answer any questions. Please feel free to contact me.

David Johnson 559-825-6187

[email protected]

Leadership Change at the Central Valley Community Foundation

 Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I am writing to let you know that this week the Community Foundation and CEO Hugh Ralston parted ways. David Johnson, former CVCF Board Member and a current executive on the leadership team, will serve as interim CEO. The Board appreciates the work that Hugh did for the Foundation and we wish him every success in the future.
We will launch a formal search for a new CEO in the next few weeks and look forward to that process.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
Alan Pierrot: 
[email protected] 
David Johnson may be reached at:
[email protected] 


Giving through the Foundation

Fresno Regional Foundation helps donors achieve their charitable goals, and we serve as a bridge connecting philanthropy to community-based organizations that provide programs and services throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

Learn more about giving through the foundation.

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