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Scanning six figures for local nonprofits
by MATTHEW NASH
One credit card and $300,000 later, the Sequim Community Foundation and Sound Community Bank recently hit a donations milestone.
The Sequim 2000 Visa credit card, created in February 1997 for local beautification projects and now local nonprofit programs, has earned $306,448 from a rebate of 1 percent on each purchase.
“We didn’t get into this lightly,” said Laurie Stewart, president and CEO of Sound Community Bank. “The revenue stream the bank would get from this goes straight to the foundation.”
She recently renewed the card for another five years. It is one of about two dozen such card programs in the nation. “Banks see it as a diversion of their revenue stream,” Stewart said.
Originally, founding members of the Sequim 2000 committee —Trina Berg, Kathy Finnigan, Troy Jarmuth, Renate Melvey, Paula Schwab and Mary Lou Teitzel — designated the funds for beautification projects in and around the City of Sequim, the biggest being a number of murals in and around the downtown.
Their intent was to attract visitors into town because many local people feared businesses would suffer when the bypass at Sequim Avenue diverted traffic from the main drag to U.S. Highway 101. Some of the money went for projects like Heritage Park, Clallam Transit’s bus stop in front of the Co-op Farm & Garden and construction of the Sequim Skate Park.
The Sequim Community Foundation came into existence afterward, based on the credit union’s vision for a broader range of giving which would include more people and projects in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.
Tom Mix, president of the Sequim Community Foundation, said the biggest benefit to creating the foundation was changing the focus from two or three priorities to helping nonprofits serve a number of projects.
The card has provided 104 grants to 41 nonprofits in the categories of animal welfare, arts and culture, environment and conservation, education and youth, and health and human services.
Mix said the foundation can serve as an umbrella 501(c)(3) nonprofit for groups like the Gary Oaks Project and Sequim Dog Park Pals. As a foundation, it can receive donations, help seek and give grants and create endowment funds.
“It’s very flexible what we can do to help an agency,” Mix said.
The foundation recently met national standards for the U.S. Community Foundations certification. Mix said it took them two years to achieve the certification and the foundation is one of 14 in Washington to do so.
The group’s annual grant deadline applications are May 15 and Nov. 15, with checks issued five weeks afterward.
Mix said they receive six to 12 applications at a time. Not every group is successful, but they do have a high success rate. Last year, the foundation gave out $12,000, which Mix attributes to the poor economy. He remains optimistic that future giving will increase.
Mix said they have about 1,000 users taking advantage of the 1 percent donation and if more people got on board, it could make an even bigger difference.
“You really don’t have to be wealthy to leave a mark,” Mix said.
For more information, visit www.sequimfoundation.org for contact, report and application information, or write to Sequim Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1304, Sequim, WA 98382; call 582-0460; or e-mail email@example.com.
The Sequim 2000 credit card has no annual fee. The annual percentage rate is zero for the first six billing cycles and 10.99 percent to 21.99 percent afterward, based on creditworthiness. Stewart said people always can pay it off as soon as they can.
“If you are going to use a credit card, then why not do it for a good cause,” she said.
Stewart said Sequim’s Sound Community Bank, formerly Credit Union of the Pacific in Seattle, is the busiest branch of five with the most deposits. Sound Community Bank has about $335 million in assets.
Sequim 2000 applications are available at Sequim Sound Community Bank, 541 N. Fifth Ave. Call 683-2818 for more information.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.