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Foundation Tries to Keep Pace With Glendale : Giving: The charity promotes the idea of residents donating to meet needs in their own community.

March 14, 1991|ROD WADE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In 1956, as part of the celebration of Glendale's 50th anniversary, several members of the city's prominent women's group, the Tuesday Afternoon Club, conceived of a new charity.

Starting with a $3,000 endowment, they hoped to weave their charitable spirit into the fabric of the community by disbursing the interest each year to worthy organizations for such small capital needs as desks and telephone equipment.

For the next 30 years, trustees of the Glendale Community Foundation slowly built upon that initial $3,000 by talking up the virtues of Glendale people giving to Glendale needs.

By early 1986, the foundation had accumulated $600,000 in principal, enabling it to distribute $45,000 to local groups each year.

Yet, although their word-of-mouth campaign had already brought in a single bequest of $115,000, and other large sums were promised in the wills of some of the city's leading citizens, the foundation trustees that year realized that they were facing a crisis:

With the city's population and social needs growing at an unprecedented pace, the leverage of the foundation's still-small endowment was losing ground.

"The city was changing then, but the foundation wasn't," said then-trustee John Lawson Jr., son of the founder of Valley National Bank.

Since then, the foundation has been on a fund-raising treadmill, growing at an ever-increasing pace as the job it is trying to do grows almost as quickly.

Lawson said directors at one point considered simply folding up the foundation and transferring its assets to the larger California Community Foundation in Los Angeles. Instead, they concluded that without its own charity, Glendale--because of its perceived status as a wealthy community--would lose out in the regionwide competition for charity money.

The 15-member board of trustees decided in 1986 to turn the onetime women's club charity into a professionally administered agency. They set a goal of increasing its donated assets to $5 million by 1999, enough to support almost $500,000 in grants annually for Glendale area organizations.

In the five years since that decision, the foundation has more than doubled its endowment to $1.5 million and seems well on its way to its goal, said Tom Miller, the agency's executive director.

Even so, experts on community foundations who have been advising the Glendale organization since 1989 are still not satisfied that its future is secure.

"It may sound strange, but until you reach a level of $3 million to $5 million in assets, trustees are too busy focusing on fund raising to implement plans that might actually help them increase their assets," said Joanne Scanlan, director of community foundation services for the Council on Foundations in Washington. She said the Glendale foundation's grant-making ability will continue on a small scale until its current endowment at least doubles.

A significant problem the foundation has always faced was establishing its identity as unique compared to other charitable organizations.

Frances Doll, former co-owner of Doll Electric, was a founding member of the foundation and its president from 1965 to 1967. She said the organization's original goal was to establish a foundation that would provide Glendale's citizens with an opportunity to become involved in philanthropy on any scale.

"It's true that when we first started it was hard to get people involved without them knowing what we were doing," Doll said. "Another problem was getting men in the community interested in something started primarily by women."

Lawson said the board members took it as a personal challenge in 1986 to familiarize the Glendale community with the foundation's work. Editha Edwards, wife of retired GlenFed Inc. chairman Ray Edwards, and Page Whyte, president of Broadmore Financial Services and the current foundation president, led the effort.

"Editha really took it upon herself to head this drive," Lawson said. "And Page is just a dynamic person. He couldn't stand the fact that things were stagnant, so he grabbed hold of the changes suggested by the board and implemented them."

By 1989, the foundation's assets surpassed $1 million, but the trustees were still dissatisfied with the organization's growth and requested help from the Council on Foundations.

The council sent Doug Jansson, executive director of the Rhode Island Community Foundation, to Glendale as part of its on-site consulting program. The program is designed to assist foundations that face serious problems furthering their growth.

Jansson's recommendations to the trustees included developing a wider range of donor plans and hiring a full-time executive director to oversee the foundation's fund-raising efforts and community relations.

In September, 1989, the board of trustees hired Tom Miller, assistant vice president of corporate communications for Glendale Federal Bank. It is Miller's job to guide the foundation's growth toward its $5-million goal.

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