We are on the move

 Monday, June 22, 2015
Hugh Ralston


Fresno Regional Foundation is in the final stages of moving to new offices, with a scheduled date around July 10th for the physical move. We are not going far, but to larger quarters in the adjoining building across the fountain courtyard in our current location in the Fig Garden Financial Center.

Our purpose is twofold – to provide additional office space for anticipated additions to staff in asset development and communications/marketing areas, as well as to accommodate additional support staff, interns and consultants, including local partners such as the Fresno Business Council and various community initiatives.

We have also incorporated into our new offices space for community engagement and meetings, a “Center for Community” that will include dedicated meeting spaces, conference and meeting rooms, as well as access to research and online databases, all platforms for our commitment to assist the local nonprofit sector to thrive and grow in capacity to meet the challenges that only the sector can address.

We hope that this Center for Community will be a visible expression of the Foundation’s belief that working together can create new capacity for our region to shape a better future. We hope that providing dedicated space where groups can meet for free, and where people can learn from and with each, we are deepening the impact of our mission as well. Our schedule for meetings will likely be ready in August, with meeting spaces available for use beginning in September. Our plan is to offer these spaces to community and nonprofit groups for free during regular business hours.

We also look forward to developing a curriculum for workshops and trainings – for effective board leadership, strengthening executive and staff leadership for area agencies, deepening skills in marketing, communication, fund development, endowment and planned giving, program evaluation and strategic planning – and all the tools necessary for well functioning and effective agencies to do their important work. Sessions will be held in the Center for Community on a regular basis, beginning in the fall.

With the full support of the FRF board of directors, each of whom has committed personally to support this expansion, the Foundation is poised to move forward this summer with its plans to develop a strategic plan to focus its ambitions for our region, to engage across our six county region in ways that promote and expand community philanthropy, to deepen our communications about the value and importance of our donors’ passion for this place and the effective impact of our work, to highlight opportunities to partner within the region on important community priorities and strategies, and to move into our 50th anniversary celebrations confident that the Foundation can play its unique role in building a better future for this region.

Our board’s commitment to this work is generating energy and traction, and our additions to our experienced and dedicated staff will help deliver this agenda more effectively and cogently, demonstrating both our commitment to providing valued service to our donors and a platform for local nonprofit and public agencies to work together on the issues that will shape our future.

Stay tuned for details, and for the new contact information as we complete our planning and start packing the moving boxes. We look forward to welcoming you in our, and your, new home later this summer.

Best Regards,

Hugh J. Ralston
President and CEO 
(559) 226-5600 ext. 101 

Celebrating the local landscape of art

 Monday, June 15, 2015
Hugh Ralston


It was a sunny afternoon in downtown Fresno, warm not only in the good feelings from within our arts community gathering to celebrate each other’s work, but from the onset of summer. Hosted by Arte Americas in its public bandstand and park, the Fresno Regional Foundation’s Arts & Culture grants reception celebrated not only the artistic ties that bind us together but also the richness of the arts that shapes our region.

We could not have asked for more from this year’s cycle, supporting our local arts organizations, the capacity of new art to reach new audiences, and the deep and rich breadth of traditions that make up our Central Valley.

In working with the Irvine Foundation’s arts regranting program, we had a chance to invest in the Visalia Opera Company’s new version of Carmen, and the Bachrun LoMele’s Hide Out/Confidence Booth, both innovative projects that extend art with new audiences and new venues.

Our goals to fund this year were broad but linked: supporting culturally relevant art forms that reflect and serve our Valley’s underserved communities, arts and cultural activities that strengthen academic success, and innovative projects that engage new audiences or those organizations that capture the rich histories across our region.

And what a feast of options recommended by our grants committee, and approved by our board! From supporting research on a 19th Century altar from Fresno’s Chinatown to interpretative tools for Shinzen’s role as a Japanese garden with its expanded bonsai collection, from the stories telling of the 40th anniversary of the Hmong arrival in our valley to extending the rich traditions of the Dia De Los Muertos to Visalia and Hanford, we were able to help fund deepening these unique elements of our cultural landscape.

There were unexpected opportunities as well, from a program modeled on El Sistema in West Fresno with the Youth Orchestra of Fresno to Break the Barriers helping veterans learn how to ballroom dance. A program designed to bring the history of farmworkers through productions to rural communities sustains a history in risk of being lost, in the same way that students can learn how science and art can be pictured on murals in Sanger. Capturing the murals of Fresno on a digitized map expands access to site placed art, much as the Center for Lao Studies brings to Fresno its travelling exhibition project and its unique voices to a wider audience. Arts really can connect communities.

The arts can be as much about capturing the distinctive voice of the artist, and a project of the Beat Within engages sixty incarcerated youth, helping them learn they too have something to say – and that others are interested in hearing what that is. From expanding jazz workshops to the Boys & Girls Club teaching students to create Alebrijes, creatures formed from the stories of their youth – creating figures that embody hopes, fears, dreams and expectations, the programs demonstrate that deepest expressions of the human spirit remains one of the greatest gifts of the arts.

As a community foundation, FRF holds precious the legacies entrusted to our care, investing for the long term funds that can distribute that legacy every year. A portion of this year’s grants budget comes from the Gundelfinger Fund, established in 1991 to honor the late successful entrepreneur, visionary philanthropist and community activist. This fund is focused in part on making living in Fresno an enjoyable experience by encouraging and fostering the establishment and development of musical organizations and parks.

The arts are an important cultural and human asset to any community, and we have all seen the data about their contribution to economic growth, creativity and to developing the skills needed to succeed in this fast paced and increasingly complex economy. We know the arts, and the artists behind them, attract residents, businesses and communities, and they provide indelible contributions to our communities, our businesses and our skills here in the rechristened (according to Atlantic Magazine) “California’s Bohemia”. They provide the bridge that connects us, from past to present, from community to neighboring community, and often across that deepest barrier, that between people.

These projects reconfirm our belief that there is extraordinary and talented work being done here, available to those who want to be intentional about experiencing, participating in and owning their share of the arts. From the narrative of our histor(ies), to the visions and voices of today, art such as these connects us to, and in, a community that reflects the potential and power of the human condition, its voice and its spirit.

I think the Gundelfingers would agree that the Fresno of today is not only enjoyable but includes opportunities to engage in community among those lucky enough to live here. That is why others will join us, not just for the quality of the work we do and the strength of the communities we build, but for the chance to embrace the arts that makes us what we are, and what we can become.

And all this in a week we can justly celebrate the welcome news that America’s newest poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera - is one of our own: raised in Fowler and a longstanding faculty member at Fresno State, whose poetry is a testament to the power of art to describe, transcend and inspire.

The arts are alive and well in our valley, and we are proud to be partners with so many whose talents shape our world, and the possibilities ahead. Come join us in this good work.

Best Regards,

Hugh J. Ralston
President and CEO 
(559) 226-5600 ext. 101 

NextGen awards grants

 Monday, June 08, 2015
Rico Guerrero Dear Friends of the Foundation,

Every community is focusing on how the next generation can step into their responsibilities and leadership, for our institutions and nonprofits especially. Fresno Regional Foundation is delighted to be working so closely with NextGen Philanthropy - a committed group of local leaders, bringing the benefit of a broad experience across a variety of business sectors to their passion for our community. Over the past year, these dedicated young professionals have been engaged in serious discussions about how their philanthropy can be an effective investment in a better future for our town.

The NextGen Philanthropy program, supported by the Fresno Regional Foundation, was created last year, and is directed by young professionals along with emerging leaders living and working in the Fresno/Clovis community – each of whom has a vision to connect, cultivate, and inspire their generation of philanthropists to take action in their community. Each member contributed $1,000, engaged in monthly meetings and served on a grant committee to determine where best those funds could be invested.

Throughout the year long effort, the 20 member group met with local leaders to learn more about the work happening in and around Fresno related to the two specific areas of concentration the group had determined for their inaugural grant funding: Entrepreneurial Programs for Youth and Fresno Revitalization. Members engaged with each other in a supportive learning environment that culminated in thoughtful and informed grantmaking. 

This past week we concluded this first year with the NextGen Philanthropy members awarding two grants, each $7500 – one to Junior Achievement of Northern California for JA Social Innovation Camp (SIC), supporting a student-led experience that fosters community awareness and involvement, entrepreneurship, and leadership and the second to the Downtown Fresno Association ‘Restaurant Makeover’ efforts, which aims to provide one business with tools necessary to ensure its long-term success while contributing to economic growth in downtown. The grant reception included words from Justin Vartanian, NGP founder, Renee Rees, Fresno Revitalization Committee Chair and Brett Richesin, Entrepreneurial Programs for Youth Committee Chair. They each expressed the excitement for the program and shared their passion to be involved in making our community a better place for future generations.

At the reception, our President & CEO noted the foundation’s pride and respect at the work of this inaugural group in launching this effort. “Community foundations are not just about place, and this San Joaquin Valley in particular, but they are also about the people in them, who value their communities, who raise their families here and whose life work is deeply embedded in this region”, noted Hugh Ralston. “Some of these NextGen members are new to the region, some are the third and fourth generation of their families to work here – all have a stake in a future for themselves and their families for this to be a better place. We are proud to partner with you in developing ways that your philanthropy can help shape that better future.”

We are now excited to enter year two with over 30 members, that includes returning member and new members. We look forward to working with them in the coming years, and to building this next generation of community and philanthropic leadership to advance our mission as a community foundation to strengthen and promote philanthropy.

Call or email me to learn more about NextGen Philanthropy.

Best regards,

Rico Guerrero
Donor Relations Coordinator 
(559) 226-5600 ext. 110 
[email protected]

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