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Foundation spreads funds through foothills

By: Jenifer Gee, Journal Staff Writer
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The Placer Community Foundation is the philanthropic bank that gives help for a lifetime. At least that's how Veronica Blake, the foundation's executive director, sees it. The foundation recently became a public charity and has since been using $10,000-plus donations from a variety of donors to aid needy groups in the area. The foundation administers donations from private foundations and donors. Its board then doles the money out to nonprofit organizations, community projects and community convening. Donors can designate their money for specific uses or leave it as an endowment to the foundation. When this happens, the initial investment is pooled for investment purposes with the foundation's other assets. Money accrued from the interest of that investment is then used each year to fund a community project the foundation board identifies as a worthy one. What we really do best is legacy giving, Blake said. People say as a part of their estate plan, ˜I want to give back to the community.' We help establish a way for them to leave a lasting legacy in our community. Donations through the foundation have supported a plethora of community projects, Blake said. One of those projects included a $3,000 grant to bring the private nonprofit organization Child Abuse Prevention Council Placer into the 21st century, as the council's executive director DeAnne Thornton put it. The council received the grant last year. Prior to receiving the grant, the council had no internal computer system for the four offices it has in Placer County. A lot of times people make the assumption that the nonprofit community is technically savvy when in fact that's not the case, Thornton said. We're feeling like we're getting into the 21st century and that's great. With the grant money, the council hired a technology consultant who did a review of the nonprofit's aging and inefficient technology systems. The council now has a more efficient operating system. Indirectly the foundation has helped us prevent child abuse because now we're able to serve more families because we're more efficient, Thornton said. The ability to help groups such as the council and a variety of other charitable causes in the county is one of the reasons foundation board member Tom Propp encourages donors to consider leaving money to the foundation. We give (donors) opportunities to give to multiple charities, Propp said. We're not so much focused on wanting people's money as much as we are trying to meet their philanthropic intent. Other benefits of donating through the foundation include having funds professionally managed with an organization that has connections to larger resources, he said. That is one reason why the Protect American River Canyons nonprofit organization has the foundation manage its endowment fund. The organization's board recently approved establishing a $25,000 fund. The fund will help with the group's efforts to promote public education about the American River and its canyons, according to Tim Woodall, president of Protect American River Canyons. Because they're experts at this type of thing, they have the time and resources to devote to responsible fiscal management of a fund of this nature, Woodall said. He added that the foundation has also provided two to three small grants to help with the annual American River Confluence Festival the organization hosts free of charge to the public. The grants have helped cover the cost of the event, which can be up to $10,000 each year. The foundation charges a 1 percent to 2 percent administrative fee to the funds it manages. Some of the grants or money it manages is also earmarked to cover some of the foundation's operation expenses, Blake said. Blake said her job entails working with both the people who want to enhance the community and those groups that benefit from the help. And for her, that's the best of both worlds. It's a real privilege to get paid to do this, Blake said. In a way, the community foundation has become a community asset. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com.