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Foundation Will Finance Education, Arts, Science

October 29, 1987|DENISE HAMILTON | Times Staff Writer

Some of Ventura County's wealthiest ranchers, real-estate developers and other business people are organizing a community foundation that hopes to raise a $10-million endowment and begin donating about $1 million a year to local nonprofit groups.

The Ventura County Community Foundation will be an umbrella organization that accepts donations to finance programs in the arts, education, science, environment and public affairs. It will be spun off the California Community Foundation, a 72-year-old nonprofit organization that donates about $6 million each year to Southland charities but says it can no longer provide adequate support to fast-growing Ventura County.

Local philanthropists say that Ventura County's booming development, with its attendant need for more social and cultural programs, makes the area ripe for its own foundation. They note that United Way, the area's other large fund-raising organization, restricts its support to health and human-service groups.

"With the wealth that has continued to grow in this county . . . the influx of new people . . . the foundation would be a natural to meet community needs," said Alan Teague, four-time president of Ventura County's United Way chapter who is spearheading the plan.

Symphony, Art Support

"We have not matured to the point where we support symphonies and art very well," said Mike Milligan, a foundation director who is president of the Bank of A. Levy and of United Way of Ventura County. He said the new foundation could work on such programs.

Teague, a Santa Paula citrus rancher, said he has been meeting with local lawyers, bankers, corporate leaders and developers since last year to draw up foundation plans. He said a fund-raising drive is scheduled for early 1988. Interest from contributions then might become available as early as next fall, although foundation directors say it may take several years to amass the targeted $10 million.

"We're looking for people to make one-time gifts," Teague said.

Many who on the foundation's board are closely affiliated with the United Way of Ventura County and point to that group's financial success as a benchmark of how successful the Ventura County Community Foundation might become.

Because of aggressive organizing, Ventura County had the fastest-growing United Way chapter in the country from 1981 to 1985, averaging 24% increases in donations each year, according to United Way of America. In 1986, the Ventura chapter raised about $5 million.

Community Foundation leaders say they believe their broader-based fund-raising drive may bring in even better results.

"We're not going to go beating on doors," Teague said. "We're going to raise money by personal contacts--financial planners, our attorney friends, estate planners . . .. We've all known each other a long time."

Seed Money

Foundation leaders also dismiss suggestions that the foundation would siphon donations away from existing groups like the United Way. Teague, Milligan and others say they already support those groups and will continue to do so.

In fact, Jack Shakely, president of the California Community Foundation, has encouraged Ventura County philanthropic leaders to develop their own foundation. There are about two dozen others in California.

He said that, in the last 10 years, the California Foundation has provided grants to Ventura County causes of about $50,000 a year. But that's no longer enough.

"We cannot . . . give the Ventura community what it really needs" any more, Shakely said.

The California Community Foundation gave Ventura County $30,000 in seed money to hire staff and pay for technical assistance, Shakely said.

Board members say the Ventura County Community Foundation has filed for incorporation and is awaiting state and federal designation as a tax-exempt, nonprofit group.

Board members said they will probably set up a panel review, much like the one used by United Way, to determine who gets the money when it becomes available. Grant applicants might have to submit detailed proposals and financial information for evaluation, but details have not been completed.

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