Still Time for Last Minute Gifts

 Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Hugh Ralston


On behalf of the Fresno Regional Foundation’s board and staff, we wish each of you a holiday filled with family, friends and the blessings of the season. We are privileged to work with so many to find ways to invest in a stronger community in the months, and years ahead.

Our offices will be open next week from Monday, December 29th through Wednesday, December 31st to assist with any year end gifts and/or donations. We will be closed January 1st and 2nd, and reopen for the new year on Monday, January 5th. Have a happy New Year’s weekend.

Best Regards,
Hugh J. Ralston

President and CEO

Amid the year end flurries...

 Monday, December 22, 2014
Hugh Ralston


The snow-capped mountains beckon, the stores have reached their full throated appeal for holiday sales and the plans for family arriving are becoming real. The lights are on, the music resonates, and each of us is finding a way to make this special time of the year reflect the blessings we have received, the meaning we find in our work and our lives, and the richness of the communities we belong to.

Yet before we descend fully into the seasonal festivities and celebrations, we want to take a moment to share some news, and some thanks.

Congress has passed, and we expect the president to sign, legislation that permits IRA charitable rollovers – if completed prior to December 31st, 2014. The legislation did not permit distribution to donor advised funds but does permit distribution to a qualified public charity, which includes the foundation itself, and its agency endowments, field of interest and designated funds. Please consult your tax advisor to make sure the tax consequences and implications of your end gifts are clear. We will be open next week to answer any questions.

As we look at the year-end, there is a growing pile of appeals to encourage gifts, renew memberships and invest in causes that matter to each of us. One of my favorite activities before the year closes is to review the past 12 months and be reminded of the good work, fellowship and impact from many of our treasured institutions. They, too, have become part of the fabric of our lives, and have enriched us in many ways.

In addition to supporting the many organizations that build and nurture community across our region, year-end donations to the Fresno Regional Foundation can extend your philanthropy through a gift to the

Veterans of Central Valley Fund, which supports veterans by giving grants to locally based skilled services that often make the difference for returning veterans and their families

Central Valley Drought Relief Fund, supporting local agencies dealing with consequences of the drought

Arts & Cultural Advancement Fund, providing grants for local arts and cultural organizations

Community Education and Leadership Fund, which will support projects that sustain the importance of community leadership 

African American Education Fund, helping local African American students in workforce training and their dreams for higher education 

Board Fund for the Common Good, which provides support to local projects with priority or special need, giving the FRF board flexibility to respond to changing needs; 

FUND for the San Joaquin Valley, an endowment fund whose distributions will focus on the highest priority needs in our region. Its current focus is on strengthening families with children 0-8 as an effective way out of poverty.

In addition to these field of interest funds, we have a series of scholarship funds that support students heading to college, agency endowments that keep missions alive and programs working, and funds that sustain and extend the work of the foundation itself, whether it is our grantmaking priorities of preventing teen pregnancy, strengthening families with 0-8 children, expanding opportunity for youth, supporting smart growth projects or expanding arts and cultural organization’s abilities to share the rich stories of our diverse history, or the operations of the foundation itself.

We would be happy to explore how your specific interests could be matched with funds already established here at the foundation.

These options reflect the many ways that donors have partnered with the regional foundation to support causes that matter across the central San Joaquin Valley. Each provides a way for those who want to partner with us to contribute and leverage their charitable gifts to make a difference, locally, now and in the future.

Over the past ten years, over $125 million of Central Valley charitable dollars were invested with the foundation, in donor advised, donor directed, field of interest, scholarship and grantmaking funds, or through our support organizations, many of them distributing badly needed funds to local agencies. As we end another year of this good work, we are grateful for the trust donors have given us to make their work more effective, more focused and, in the cases of permanent endowments, more lasting.

We believe that the work of community philanthropy is about gathering those people and resources together to be more effective, more strategic and more generous than any of us can do by ourselves, to sustain those legacies that matter most deeply to our donors and to deploy these charitable dollars as effectively as we can. Like our donors, we care deeply about this place, and about its future, and it remains a great privilege to work with so many who are looking for ways to invest hard earned philanthropic dollars into a better future for our families, our communities and this rich and fertile valley. Come join us in this good work and let us know how we can help.

On behalf of the FRF Board of directors and my staff colleagues, we send best wishes for the holidays, and all the promise of a new year.

Best Regards,

Hugh J. Ralston

President and CEO

Thanks for your leadership, care and work. It matters!

 Monday, December 15, 2014
Hugh Ralston


At our annual board meeting, we take the time to say thank you to departing board members, often in the form of a unanimous resolution highlighting service and contributions to the organization's mission and programs. It is a gesture that is rooted in respect and regard for the individual, for their service over the years as a volunteer, and for their belief in the mission.

This past week at our December board meeting, we thanked departing FRF board member Desa Belyea for six years of leadership, committee service and her family's generosity, partnering with the community foundation in its mission to strengthen community across the San Joaquin Valley. Each is important but what underscores our appreciation is a profound thanks for the willingness of volunteers to step up and provide their contributions to the collective leadership of our sector's vital organizations.

I have been privileged to serve for over two decades on a number of boards, a service I have been proud to donate because I believe in their missions, and in how staff carry that mission into our communities. I have learned so much from my board colleagues, their perspectives and passions, and their willingness to keep pushing forward. From supporting the arts, education and expanding opportunity, to providing oversight to leadership, philanthropic effectiveness and workforce training, my own work has been enriched not only by the things I have learned and the people I have met, but also the ways that I can be a stronger partner. My board service has made me a better CEO, and helped strengthen our work, effectiveness and outreach.

We should never undervalue the contributions volunteers provide to our community benefit organizations, above and beyond the tangible ways they invest in the work. Independent Sector has valued volunteer contributions at $22.55/hour, a significant donation beyond their direct contribution.

Collectively, our board members hold in their hands the mission and potential for a significant piece of the local economy, a platform for helping those in need and for knitting together lives that are on the edge, stressed and/or damaged. By the decisions these boards make, organizations thrive or decline, succeed in helping thousands or struggle to meet growing demands, and strengthen community or provide critical leadership. They serve as ambassadors and advocates, open doors and challenge practices, allow us to plan and dream, and keep our feet firmly planted on the ground.

As I have taught in board leadership courses, the board collectively owns the enterprise, and that responsibility is vital to the success of this sector, and of our communities.

Every year, hundreds of volunteers step into strategic planning and investment committees, finance and administration challenges, fundraising and donor engagement plans, oversight and program management, each of them meeting in person and/or over the phone. They read lots of reports and charts, ask questions, and give their approval to programs and budgets that touch thousands every year. They provide the insight, perspective and context that keep missions focused, staff engaged, donors supportive and organizations healthy. They are vital to our work, and to our credibility.

We owe them a debt of gratitude for their patience and faith, for their generosity and time, and - perhaps most important - for their belief that this work can change conditions on the ground, and chart a different future, that keeps faith with the past and yet shapes the future to be more effective, more engaging and more successful.

We are lucky to have their hearts engaged, ready to put this effort to good work. As we said to our own departing board member - with respect, affection, regard and gratitude -- the two most important words in the nonprofit lexicon: thank you!

Best Regards,

Hugh J. Ralston

President and CEO

100 Year Legacy of Building Community

 Monday, December 08, 2014
Hugh Ralston


Even standing in the winter rain to get through security couldn't dampen the enthusiasm last week as community foundation leaders from across the country gathered at the White House for a special convening in honor of the field’s 100th anniversary. It was a rare treat, and a reminder that community philanthropy plays an important role in this republic's efforts to build a more perfect union.

This one day session provided a chance to listen to colleagues from communities large and small about the impact and value of their work, and to talk with senior members of the President's domestic policy council about issues confronting the country, and how collaboration, partnership and engagement can help move the needle.

My lunch breakout group focused on the growing influence of impact investing, a new type of evidenced based investment to deliver better outcomes. With private funds partnering with proven techniques to deliver measureable results, this investing works across the seams of public and nonprofit activities with an explicit goal - measured over time - of improving the conditions on the ground. In an era of tight public budgets, calls for accountability and impatience for results, amid the recognition that complex problems require more than a simple solution, these innovative partnerships are becoming more compelling.

We know this type of collaboration is already working in the central San Joaquin Valley, where partnerships around teen pregnancy prevention and strengthening families with children 0-8 - to name just two - are drawing funders and local organizations into new ways of working together. Our foundation has been proud to play a role in these efforts. Discussions between public agencies, private donors, philanthropic funders and nonprofit partners are expanding ways to address a broad array of complex – and often intertwined - issues, including poverty, lack of opportunity and shortfalls in educational achievement, workforce training and healthy communities.

While seemingly slow, this work is paying off, both because the impact can be tangible and underscores how working together can accomplish more than working in silos.

Equally important, the impact demonstrates that hope is not a misplaced virtue. We really can find ways to address these complex problems that confront our communities, and engage a broad range of local stakeholders in developing the solutions that will work here.

Community foundations have a unique role in these efforts, because of the charitable capital we have been entrusted to invest and the ties we have in our local communities. Each community foundation is a bit different in its approach, but one thing is constant in each of them: this is our place, one we care about. Through our grantmaking, our ability to convene around local issues, our investment in skills building and expanding nonprofit capacity, in research and evaluation, in local organizations and local leaders, and perhaps most important of all, in strengthening the next generation, we seek ways to strengthen our present and future.

Working with donors to translate their passions into tangible and lasting legacies -- stronger river banks, healthier kids, effective schools, compelling arts organizations, smarter strategies, more opportunity, a stronger workforce -- we invest in all these elements of a healthy community. And that is a place where we not only work and raise our families but also a place where we create lives of value and meaning. A place that people care enough about to take up that most American of traits - let's fix the problems.

It is a privilege to be working with so many who want to harness charitable dollars and build a better community. I was reminded once again in our discussions in Washington of the power that comes from communities working together to perfect the dream, and of the unique vantage point community foundations have to work with others to make a difference and to shape a better future. After 100 years, we see it working all across America, and it is working here too. We believe it can happen because at this foundation we live it every day.

We are privileged to help shape the potential for our foundation to be a strong partner. We sustain the legacies that touch others, work with those who want to tackle the issues that confront us, and build community across this rich and fertile valley. Come join us in this good work.

Best Regards,

Hugh J. Ralston

President and CEO

Mariachi Opera Builds Community in Local Park

 Monday, December 01, 2014
Dear Friends of the Foundation,

Through a grant from the Fresno Regional Foundation, Visalia Opera Company developed a mariachi opera called, "El Bracero". The mariachi opera was shared with the public in Visalia’s Oval Park recently. Illustrating that the park, long plagued with a dubious reputation, can also be a space where people can safely gather, and share the rich cultures that exist throughout our region.

Reporter Ezra David Romero stated, “There are only a few towns in Central California with their own opera companies and even fewer creating new art forms.” Visalia native Rosalinda Verde wrote the story, drawing information from friends and family members.

Luis Hernandez of the Visalia –Times Delta wrote, “[It] tells the story of Mexican nationals who came to the United States as guest workers. With the U.S. involved in World War II, guest workers came in to take the place of the G.I.s going off to war”. It is a touching narrative that resonates not only with those who have a migrant background, but with people who are familiar with sacrifice, the love for family and the ties that bind.

We thank those involved for sharing such a wonderful experience with our community, and of expanding the power of the arts to gather people together. 

Best rgards,

Sandra Flores
Fresno Regional Foundation

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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