Transformative Times

 Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Hugh Ralston


This week I have been mulling the impact of the transformations underway, both in the nonprofit sector and in our own San Joaquin Valley.

A recent branding discussion in our marketing committee stopped for a moment to consider the word itself, powerful and evocative in its signaling of significant and not always welcomed change. We had used the tag line Engage. Learn. Transform for Ventura County Community Foundation’s Center for Nonprofit Leadership, laying out a cycle of engaging colleagues & ideas, learning from peers and content experts, all focused on building skills to transform the sector.

Nonprofit leaders often feel they are redesigning the airplane while still in flight, as the community and donors transform around them, the tools of managing and delivering services evolve with the economy and technological innovation, organizational and leadership capacity, and the needs seem to increase, often exponentially beyond approved funding or budget levels.

Many believe they are in the transformation business by design – either transforming the circumstances so those in need can be helped, transforming communities to change realities on the ground, or transforming individuals to step into new paradigms. It can be lonely, balanced by those working in common cause with those resistant to change.

Communities are always being transformed – with new neighbors, changing economies, evolving business and residential platforms, sometimes within a generation that traditionally provides them roots, character and identity. They change due to powerful market forces, government policies and changing tastes – as anyone driving through shopping malls, older neighborhoods and new housing developments can see in an instant. Few communities are static – it is hardly the American way.

And yet some things do remain constant – institutions like churches and schools, universities and communal organizations, multigenerational family businesses and cultural/artistic organizations, many of whom anchor the very identity we seek and respect in our community.

The idea of community transformations was brought to mind in two connections this week, the first at a session at the Center for Community Transformation at Fresno Pacific University’s seminary. Its’ intentional efforts to transform communities reflects its vision of a stronger commonweal – transformations that come from teaching leadership skills to those in rural faith communities, from inculcating the ideas of social business and economic opportunity in faith communities serving the disadvantaged struggling to make ends meet, and sparking the imagination of the entrepreneur with a shark tank-like program that celebrates new business ventures in poor neighborhoods. Here transformation is the objective, aligned with the belief in a more abundant community, one by its very definition includes valued space and opportunity for all.

And the second was a feisty and thoughtful address, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Fresno’s own Economic Opportunities Commission. Georgia Congressman John Lewis not only talked about the value of community transformation, he embodied it. Literally.

The last surviving member of the leadership team that organized the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama - recently revisited in the film Selma, Lewis is a human talisman of the transformation within this country over the past fifty years, which he acknowledged was remarkable - to himself and to many others. For many, this work is still unfinished, as we Americans continue to struggle to form that more perfect union.

Significant challenges remain, yet progress has been tangible for many. How and what we transform, and who benefits, is the deeply embedded narrative in the American story. At FRF, we believe community philanthropy can continue to play a role as we are challenged - as Lincoln reminded us the depth of our greatest national crisis - to think anew.

As we sit on the cusp of our 50th anniversary as a community foundation, and look at what the next fifty years will bring to this rich, fertile and vibrant valley, we know transformations will be guided by those whose visions of that future will be deeply embedded in their love for this place.

That there are so many willing to do this work – in our nonprofits, in our businesses, in our faith communities, in our neighborhoods, and in our civic institutions and schools -- sometimes one person at a time, often together in groups - remains another vote of encouragement that our prospects remain bright. Come join us in this good work.

Best Regards,

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

The power of a floating lantern

 Monday, August 17, 2015
Hugh Ralston


The power of a single candle can be deeply moving, particularly when it is tied to the memory of someone much beloved.

Last week, my wife and I were privileged to participate in one of Fresno’s annual rituals: the lantern lighting near the Shinzen Garden at Woodward Park. Lodged deeply in the Japanese tradition of Tora Nagashi, and embraced locally by a broad array of residents, it was an evening marked by the sonorous listing of names, each marked by the quiet ritual of a bell chiming, and a long line of lit lanterns bobbing in the lake, set forth by those who wished to keep these names – in a sense – still alive.

Over 275 lanterns were launched, each tied to a loved one, a treasured partner or friend, departed family members, a number of “Japanese American internees” as well as well those whose lives were being noted as valued, and precious. Each lantern contained a single candle, which illuminated the six paper panels; each had the name of the one being honored attached.

After a brief prayer by a Buddhist priest and the lighting of incense on a small altar covered by a beautiful embroidered brocade cloth, the names were read aloud by a member of the Garden’s board. Each name called forth a lantern carried by one or two, a family or collection of friends; the lanterns were placed gently on the lake, with the donors kneeling on pillows at the shore. A helping hand was welcomed by those whose bodies no longer easily crouch down or where the joints were a bit stiff.

Several hundred visitors stood under the colorful paper globes hanging in the trees surrounding the lake. Families and friends sat together, holding their lanterns, sharing both remembrances and, in some cases, simply the silence of their memories. A solemn and respectful quiet, buoyed by the great affection and regard for the evening’s purpose and fellowship, was punctuated occasionally by other park events, but led back consistently by the litany of names. A tear, a sob or grasped hands marked the deep emotion as each lantern was launched.

As the roll call of names moved through the alphabet, a flotilla of illuminated lanterns stretched across the lake, first in groups together and then, as the evening breezes picked up, in a long line beneath the trees, stretching across the lake to the Shinzen garden on the far shore.

From our vantage point, we could see ducks bobbing among the lanterns and geese on the banks, occasionally honking. Birds dipped across the lake, and a squadron of geese, in a perfect V formation, provided an honor guard of respect as they swooped over the string of lanterns. As the sun faded, the lanterns themselves provided shadows on the water, lighting the reflections of the trees above and, in their very scale, of the cumulative power of memory.

We understand the power of legacies at the community foundation, and the potential for lives which mattered to donors to be carried forth in the future, through supporting a cause or institution, seeding a scholarship for a new generation or sustaining a community asset like a park, library or school.

Philanthropy is often deeply personal, reflecting the ideas, causes, people and organizations that matter the most to us as donors. We all bring to this work the summation of experiences and passions that mark us as individuals, that stand also as testaments to lives lived and to hopes yet realized. The power of effective philanthropy is as much in the benefits given back to the philanthropist as it is in the outcomes driven by gifts, grants and donations. It is often at its most powerful when creating legacies that extend beyond life itself.

The testaments of hundreds floated across the lake last weekend, illuminating not only the power of remembrance but also the enduring legacy that lives on within those who have been touched so warmly by others. That floating candle, like candles set aside in churches across the world, is a beacon that invites respect and nurtures hope.

It is a great privilege to work with so many to translate these beacons into the multiple ways that community philanthropy makes a difference in our region and how it, and we together, can shape a better future. Come join us in this good work.

Best Regards,

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

Seeking impact makes the difference

 Monday, August 10, 2015
Hugh Ralston


One thing is clear - innovation has come to the world of philanthropy, as our sector thinks about ways to raise new capital to tackle tough issues. From the largest funder to the crowdsourced contributor, new options are making community change not only needed, but possible.

A two day conference earlier this summer at the Presidio Institute in San Francisco brought together investors, nonprofit and community leaders, philanthropists and business leaders to ponder the possibilities of “impact investing”. In sessions broken up by walks with the exemplary vistas of San Francisco bay and the nearby Golden Gate Bridge, a place once hallowed as a military fortress becomes a platform for thinking anew about community.

Two definitions resonate for me: ways to invest in systems change that are measurable, trackable and point to a specific end (or impact), and a way of investing in creating change tied to specific outcomes. It is an evolution in how we can think about investing in community change, particularly as traditional sources of funding (government, private industry, even philanthropy) are pulled to multiple priorities.

The opportunity - in part - is to raise issues people care about with folks who want to focus on good returns, good outcomes and good work. Some nonprofits seek new funding for innovative programs that tackle deeply felt needs; some public sector elements seek more flexible and less constrained resources, and others are navigating within what is called the fourth sphere - where community, public, private and nonprofit all come together to solve problems.

As a former banker and now foundation CEO, it is always intriguing to think what solutions exist beyond the usual: more money or more people. These can always be put to work but sometimes we need to rethink the basics: what is the problem and what are the solutions. Sometimes, there really is a better mousetrap.

Change is constant, if not accelerating. Even as we move out of the ravages of a punishing economic contraction, we still face intractable problems, many resistant to change. Is it time to try something new? That is what we can explore here in Fresno, as - just to use one example - the Strive Together platform steps into a new opportunity to think about expanding opportunities for all our children to succeed - from cradle to career. How do we connect the multiple dots so our goals to help children succeed can demonstrate traction?

It is what can happen when experience meets the unexpected, and a level of trust allows people to explore ideas and try out new ways of understanding a problem, when data raises a different question or a new perspective changes a paradigm, or when an insight opens up a different way to build on something we share. Design thinking is not just for iPhones - but about the possibilities that drive a solution that works.

And there are many others already exploring these opportunities across the Central Valley.

Should we not bring these disciplines and expectations to how we invest our charitable dollars, how we allocate public funding and how we expect results? We can step into, and create, this future and - with measurable data - begin to see progress is not only possible, but actually achievable.

We should never underestimate the power of focused individuals pursuing change but we need to respect what potential exists if we worked to harness the power that comes from working together, from believing that we can accomplish more than what each of us can do alone.

This is a huge opportunity for community philanthropy - that our community can come together to raise the philanthropic capital to shape a better future, that we can link passions of donors who care about a place to ways these funds - in substantial, measurable, real change - can move us to a better place. Come join us in this good work.

Best Regards,

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

We learn best when we listen

 Monday, August 03, 2015
Hugh Ralston


Over the past two weeks, we have taken the time to listen in four sessions ranging from Bakersfield to Merced to the impact of the drought on the San Joaquin Valley, ranging from individual families to communities, nonprofits and the region itself.

As the final phase of a research study generously funded by the California Endowment, FRF is examining the drought's impact on our local nonprofit sector, both in the demand for services and in the ability of the sector to respond to this rolling, evolving crisis. Our goal is to identify ways that donors and funders can be effective in helping local agencies address the drought.

These four convenings offered us a chance to listen to folks on the front line, from both public and nonprofit agencies, and to dig deeper into questions that have been raised from online surveys, interviews and conversations with local leaders.

This four year drought has stressed communities and neighborhoods already grappling with systemic change -- evolution in our agricultural crops, public infrastructure struggling to cope with growth and increased demands, failure of private wells and government staff and departments adapting to both crisis and system demands. Water is a complex issue, and the drought’s impact is not surprisingly far reaching.

Needs are both immediate -- no water for some farmers, wells running dry, demand for services beyond food to needs like higher levels of family stress or abuse arising from economic disruptions or reduced wages, higher costs to access potable water to drink and use --- as well as structural and long term. Even when it rains this fall -- and it will rain again in California, the impact of the drought will continue to make its presence felt well into the future.

These convenings – in Fresno, Merced, Visalia and Bakersfield, where we are working with the Kern Community Foundation, have identified issues like how best to strengthen nonprofits in their ability to deliver their mission – not just to meet higher service demands but to be more effective in telling their story, to build collaboration between public agencies and local nonprofits so that clients understand what services are actually available, and what resources – a refrigerated truck or deeper technology platforms among others – are needed to sustain the work that only nonprofits can do.

We heard calls to tell the Valley’s story outside the Valley, which is always important, but also to help connect people in the Valley with each other, and to help those who are already doing important work sustain it. Some nonprofit staff helping those without water are themselves suffering from the same daily challenges.

Disadvantaged communities are just that -- suffering from shortfalls in infrastructure, less access to public, private or philanthropic resources, local institutions already on a short financial leash with little room for new staff, new programs, or new innovations to change the way business is done. Many have significant levels of poverty, lack of job skills in a changing economy, or little sense of opportunity that is more prevalent in larger communities.

The drought is one more thing on the wrong side of the scale.

We plan to digest these insights and observations into strategies that can shape solutions to both the short and long term issues. We plan to share these insights in September -- not only how the philanthropic community can make strategic investments in these communities across our region, but also how donors can work with the community foundation and local agencies to ensure the drought does not also include a shortage of community willing to work together.

We believe working with others to understand the needs locally, and expanding the ability of these agencies to deliver their mission effectively is an important step in making smart and effective philanthropy work in our region. Come join us in this good work.

Best Regards,

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

A night at the movies

 Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Hugh Ralston


It was a magical evening straight out of the pictures – clear skies, twinkling stars, gathering of friends at the family home, ice cream and a lovely breeze reminding us we were still weeks away from August’s furnace. And a movie screen that – despite its 21st century technology – was grounded by the family tractor.

It was a new documentary that brought us to the Masumoto family’s organic farm, some seventy years after Mas Masumoto’s father invested in San Joaquin Valley farmland for a better life. A movie that shares the narrative of a family’s love for the land, the will required to thrive, of the transitions of generations, and the unique experience of a Japanese American family adapting to new traditions, new stories, and new hopes.

The heart of the film rests around Mas’ observation and question, “how many harvests are there in a farmer's life?” As the family business transitions to daughter Nikiko, who has - like her father - returned to the farm, the question shifts to how many harvests are there now to share. And in the reminder of the hard physical labor it takes to produce such sublime peaches – pruning, shaping, watering, harvesting, packing, marketing and delivering, labor that is shared between and among the family and stretches through all four seasons.

At the Fresno Regional Foundation, we understand the dynamics of families, of legacies that carry meaning through generations, of finding inner strength to carry through the adversities of nature and life. We are privileged to have board members like Mas Masumoto, who brings his talents, passions and hopes for a future his children will help shape, to our work.

We raise strong people on this land, strong enough to thrive and to create the future. What a privilege to share the next cycle of that most human of stories: one generation staking the next, adjusting to changes that reflect values, and the hard work on the land to bring forth all its bounty, far richer than the sweetest of peaches we enjoyed during a night at the movies.

Best Regards,

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

Building Community and Preserving Culture

 Monday, July 13, 2015
Dear Friends of the Foundation,

In late June, HmongStory40--a joint effort from many people from throughout the state of California to preserve and celebrate Hmong history, heritage, and culture-- unveiled a preview of their work Southeast Fresno. The opening remarks reminded us that culture is a defining aspect of a person, a group, and an entire nation. It represents stories that have lasted through time and propels the legacy of our people into the future. HmongStory40 began with this idea and a fear that Hmong history - shared through oral tradition - is quickly fading and the next generation of youth are losing out on their culture, language, and history.

Hmongstory40 came about in 2015 with a group of 40 founding donors. Dr. Vicky Xiong-Lor shared how she became involved. As she came up to the stage, she pulled Kyle, her “other half”, to join her. Vicky is one of a handful of second generation professionals that is fluent in Hmong. She shared that many Hmong children speak very little Hmong now, but speak English perfectly. Children think that their family history, their roots, start at -- Clovis Community Hospital, where many are born. When Vicky heard of efforts to preserve their culture, she asked Kyle to attend the meeting. “I said to him, you to go to these meetings and if they ask you to raise your hand, you raise your hand”. They became two of 40 founding donors and contributed $1,000 towards these efforts.

Early in 2015, local leaders of the HmongStory40 group in Fresno approached Fresno Regional Foundation about funding opportunities. The inquiry aligned with a priority of FRF’s Arts and Culture grantmaking program aimed at capturing the rich history of the Central San Joaquin Valley. In May of this year, the FRF Board of Directors approved a $10,000 grant award to HmongStory40 to facilitate these efforts.

This exhibit is the first of its kind in California showcasing clothing, artifacts, documents, and photography that capture a glimpse into the past. The group is also employing multi-media approaches to capture first-hand accounts of the struggles and heartbreaks of the Hmong people exodus from Laos. To date, they have raised over $150,000 and have plans to raise another $100,000 more towards this project. They continue to invite community partners to participate and join in support of this important work through contributions of talent, time, and financial support.

As the Program Officer for the Arts and Culture grant cycle, I was privileged to learn about the importance of this project and explore the many stories, documents, photos, and artifacts that have been collected. We are proud to support the efforts of HmongStory40 in this region. HmongStory40 will be on display at the Fresno Fairgrounds in December and will travel to other cities with strong Hmong communities including Merced and Sacramento in California, and Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota. For more information on this project go to 

Best regards,
Kelvin Alfaro
Program Officer
[email protected]
(559) 226-5600 ext. 105 

Celebrating the joy of life

 Monday, July 06, 2015
Hugh Ralston


As we celebrate the 4th of July, and the sacrifices that set our nation on its extraordinary journey, and pause to digest the remarkable events of the past ten days – shootings in Charleston, decisions by the Supreme Court, crises in the Eurozone, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the speed of change.

I want to pause and pay tribute to someone whose local philanthropy calls out for gratitude, respect and recognition. Peter Bennett passed away this past week at the venerable age of 92, leaving behind his belief in the promise of philanthropy and the impact of a remarkable family. He had a passion for the land, for photography and was someone whose sly sense of humor reflected lessons learned over many years; Peter didn’t miss much when it came to people.

For Peter Bennett, philanthropy was “the elixir vitas – the joy of life”. It was, as he noted, a ‘win-win situation to give’, where “reaching out to help others you help yourself.” Given the people he helped over the years, his joys must have been profound.

I had the pleasure of working with his sister a decade ago, whose philanthropic passions were dedicated to books and history; her generosity established the Berry Research Library at the Museum of Ventura County. Both DeDe and her brother were beneficiaries of the Berry oil fortune, a remarkable story captured in a recent book about the founder’s rise from a peach orchard in Selma, riches saved from the Klondike and reinvested in a Kern County oil fortune. It is, in abridged words from Peter, one of the great stories of the west - of personal fortitude, leadership, and stewardship.

Peter brought his own focus and discipline to this work. Philanthropy became his passion but there was an art to it; it was not easy. A former board member of the Fresno Regional Foundation, who established his fund here in 1998, he understood the value of being discerning about his giving, and he valued the insights, expertise and experience that working with our staff brought to his grantmaking. His priority was to give to those who help poor families and children overcome challenges, and achieve a better life – and he was generous: over $10 million invested in dozens of causes and organizations, with grants for scholarships, afterschool programs, operating support, historical societies and programs that ranged from body cameras for the Fresno police department to the food bank.

I was taken with the grant to Valley Children’s Hospital, to support a project started by an Eagle Scout who identified a need for students like him for a more accessible exercise space, to help disadvantaged students get more agile. Peter Bennett’s saw not only the need but the initiative of one young man who raised $4000 on his own. Peter’s grant made the new park a joyful reality when it opened this year.

The Berry family legacy of risk, luck, determination and perseverance has been burnished by the quiet, thoughtful and dedicated philanthropy of one named after the fortune’s founder, Clarence Berry. Peter redeployed that good fortune into making this community better for more. He found great peace in the outdoors, and in the view from a horse on his beloved Madera ranch. He saw the landscape and the people, and appreciated the opportunity to do good. He used to say, “it is great to help out and give back, but it feels even better to be smart about it”.

We were privileged to learn from Peter Bennett about how smart philanthropy can make this a better place and are all the better for having been part of his joy of life. That is the legacy we are proud to carry forth into the work that call us to be done.

Best Regards,

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

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]

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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