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New name, new director, new digs for foundation
If good news comes in threes, then the Sequim Community Foundation is in luck. A first-time director, a street presence and a revitalized name change are how the foundation begins its new year, and that good news is something the seven-member board is excited to share with the community they serve.
Finding a name that is more geographically definitive has been a goal for more than a year, said Jennifer Puff, who took over as board president after longtime board member Tom Mix retired. In that light, the Sequim Community Foundation, as it has been called since 2000, will now be known as the Olympic View Community Foundation.
“The foundation serves more than just Sequim; we were looking for a more encompassing name,” Puff said. After struggling for a time, “It just came to us.”
Hiring a director for the foundation became a reality after the organization was awarded a two-year grant from the Benjamin N. Phillips Memorial Fund. Sue Ellen Riesau, former publisher of the Sequim Gazette and a member of the SCF since its inception, has been hired as the foundation’s first director.
“It was really important to have an executive director for our organization,” Puff said of the hire, “to be the face of the organization.”
The $40,000 grant allowed not only for the director’s stipend, but also for office space at 720 E. Washington St., Suite 111, Sequim.
Puff said she is excited about the street presence.
“It’s our very first office,” she said. "It’s important we not be tucked away; it’s our time to come out and shine.”
The Sequim Community Foundation was incorporated in September 2000. It evolved from the Sequim 2000 committee, which initially was formed in 1997. The funds raised were for the beautification of Sequim, which, at the time was undergoing a downtown renovation. The Sequim Community Foundation was created to provide a formal process for awarding local grants.
From 1997 through 2011, the foundation has given 114 grants to 42 organizations, totaling $303,205.
The funding for the foundation’s community grants comes primarily from Sound Community Bank’s Sequim 2000 Visa credit card. The bank gives 1 percent of each transaction to the foundation for grants to local nonprofit groups. In 2011, the bank celebrated its donation of more than $300,000 to the Sequim community through the SCF.
Laurie Stewart, president and CEO of Sound Community Bank, said this is one of about two dozen such card programs in the nation. The card has been renewed for another five years.
In January 2011, SCF met national standards for U.S. community foundations and was awarded certification by the National Council on Foundations. It was no easy task, said Mix, who did most of the legwork to earn certification.
The Council on Foundations is an organization that supports grantmakers in various aspects of foundation management. Developed in the spirit of accountability, transparency and self-improvement, the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations are philanthropy’s most rigorous standards. Since 2005, hundreds of community foundations have been confirmed in compliance with National Standards.
The standards serve as a blueprint for internal organizational development and a tangible set of benchmarks for operational excellence in areas such as mission, resource development, stewardship and accountability, community leadership and donor relations.
Two years and sorting through stacks of documents later, the Sequim foundation became certified and now proudly displays the National Standards seal.
“Once we were certified nationally, we knew we needed to go to the next level,” Mix said, “specifically, hiring a director and obtaining office space.”
Community foundations defined
In the United States, community foundations serve tens of thousands of donors, administer more than $40 billion in charitable funds and address the concerns of hundreds of communities.
Community foundations are independent registered philanthropic institutions serving a geographically defined territory. The broadly defined mission is to improve the quality of life in a community, mostly by giving grants to support local projects. Foundations are supported by private as well as public donors and seek contributions primarily from inside the community.
Indeed, the Olympic View Foundation sees these parameters as a steppingstone to supporting the Sequim community and its environs. Its core mission is to promote and apply philanthropic contributions that improve and enhance the community’s quality of life, now and for future generations,
“It is important we become a leading example for the community, that we give people an opportunity to expand their philanthropic horizons through the foundation and its commission to serve the community,” said Puff, who has been a board member for several years and has 30 years of nonprofit experience.
Grants and goals
The foundation’s grants typically support nonprofit organizations in the areas of arts and culture, animal welfare, education, conservation and environment. Historically it has supported the community with a variety of grants, providing books for children, meals for seniors, homes and care for animals, improved local arts and theater venues, programs for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and upgraded computer systems at the Sequim Senior Activity Center.
Future goals are to continue to support this community in the same way; that is, to find sources of funding to support the operation of the foundation.
“One basic goal is to be an umbrella to other nonprofits in the area,” Riesau said. “We will be meeting with other executive directors to best determine how to make sure the needs of the community are met.”
Puff sees the hire of Riesau as integral to that goal.
“Sue Ellen is a founding board member and has a deep connection and experience in this community,” she said. “We are incredibly lucky to have her as our director.”
Riesau said she is excited to take on the responsibility of directing the foundation and most important, to make its goals and commitments more visible to local citizens.
“We are more than a grantmaker,” she said. “We are about building community. That is a platform from which I managed the (Sequim) Gazette. I see this as an opportunity to do the same thing by supporting our community through the foundation.”
For more information, including grant cycles, the community credit card program and foundation news, visit www.sequimfoundation.org, or call 360-797-1338.