Opinion Columns & Blogs

Dennis Haines: Call it fundraising or fund development, it’s all for Merced County

I had an opportunity to meet with Valerie Bender, the new president and publisher of the Merced Sun-Star, and Managing Editor David Hill to discuss the Community Foundation of Merced County. After describing what the Community Foundation does, I was taken aback when Bender said, “Oh, you do fundraising.”

I have never considered myself a fundraiser. Since the Community Foundation’s inception in 2007, in my mind and heart I thought I was developing relationships with individuals to give to the foundation, so, I always considered it “fund development.”

So, I have done some digging to prove to Bender and Hill that I was not a fundraiser. And, after researching and reading all the material I have accumulated over the last 25-plus years in nonprofit work, I can tell you that ... yes, I am a fundraiser.

But along the way, it’s inevitable that we will have established some relationships in the sense of seeking common goals. One of those is giving back to the community we live in and making a difference in someone’s life. Whether it is providing opportunities for young girls to learn about the resources around them or helping to build a structure or services that benefit a whole community, you can see and feel the difference in people’s faces, attitudes and spirits.

By “spirit,” I mean knowing someone cared enough to see your dream become a reality by giving financially. My role on the board is to raise funds. To explain the difference between fundraising and fund development: Fundraising is what you do after you’ve done the fund developing, and that involves preparation, planning, evaluation, measurement and renewal (according to the textbooks).

That said, I am happy to announce that in 2013 the foundation raised more than $1.2 million in donations to help build its asset base to more than $1.6 million. In the past seven years, the Community Foundation of Merced County has raised more than $750,000 and granted those funds back to nonprofits in Merced County. We have a fund development goal to raise $5 million to $7 million over the next three to five years in endowed and advised funds.

With an average of 5 percent return on investment, that would bring $250,000 to $350,000 back into Merced County every year for the next 100 years. I recently had a conversation with a friend who said the IRS gets a big chunk of his hard-earned money. I suggested he contact his accountant to see about giving to the Community Foundation to help offset taxes.

Another important feature about the Community Foundation is that the funds stay here in Merced County and assist in the overall economic well-being of our residents.