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.
Miller, a 1973 graduate of Hoover High School, worked in downtown Los Angeles for four years after receiving a bachelor’s degree in marketing at USC, but eventually decided to seek his career in the city he grew up in.
In 18 months with the foundation, Miller has quickly increased its visibility in Glendale by attending almost every public gathering, from an election-night victory party to a motorcycle shop opening. He said his presence at these events is intended to advertise the foundation to potential grant applicants and to identify future donors.
One of the other suggestions from Jansson that has been implemented is the addition of seven new donor options designed to take advantage of new tax laws and to appeal to Glendale’s increasing number of upper-income residents.
The foundation also set up what it calls a shield plan, allowing a large donor to give money without having to deal directly with applicants.
As an alternative, Jansson suggested that the foundation could combine its assets with those of the California Community Foundation. Scanlan said the option to combine assets is always available should Glendale’s foundation be unable to reach its growth goal.
“But we decided to stay on our own because it would be best to keep the foundation focused in Glendale and help our own groups, which has proved very worthwhile,” Doll said.
Scanlan concurred that there are probably persuasive reasons for the Glendale group to continue its own operation.
“The issue of overlap is difficult in the greater Los Angeles area and communities within it,” Scanlan said. “To say the needs of the poor in Glendale aren’t the same as the poor elsewhere in Los Angeles is a tough thing to say, but I can see it happening when Glendale is perceived as an affluent community.”
Because Glendale has its own charity, groups that otherwise might have to approach a large, distant institution such as United Way or spend days scouring grant-writing manuals now simply have to look up Miller.
The two principal ways that donor monies are granted to various community organizations are through unrestricted giving--when the foundation’s board decides on the use of funds--and restricted giving--when donors either advise which groups the foundation should fund or specify which groups will receive the funds they’ve donated.
Miller said the $1.5 million in assets now allows the foundation to make grants from unrestricted funds that range from $40,000 to $60,000 per year. In addition, in 1990 the foundation awarded $150,000 in donor-advised grants. The restricted grants included an anonymous contribution of $100,000 to help the Salvation Army with the purchase of the Booth House, a transitional facility for homeless families.
Miller said the unusually large grant was made at the request of a donor who asked that a portion of funds he contributed be allocated to the Salvation Army.
Most often, Miller said, grants of donor-advised funds can range from $100 to $10,000 while unrestricted grants can be as large as $5,000. Many grants are awarded over a period of two or more years to meet the organization’s needs on a continuing basis.
The foundation continues its original principle of giving relatively small grants for equipment to expand the capacities of small to medium-sized organizations.
Glendale area groups that receive funds from the foundation include Glendale Community College, the Salvation Army, the Glendale YWCA and YMCA, the Red Cross and local churches and community centers.
Last month, the foundation awarded grants of $3,500 to Glendale Community College for the purchase of computer equipment for the High-tech Center for Disabled Students and $3,000 to the Foothill Youth Services Project, also for computer equipment.
As time goes on, the foundation’s ability to assist more organizations with more and larger grants tends to increase its influence in the community, foundation professionals said.
Scanlan said the purpose of a community foundation is not just tied up in grant making. One priority, she said, should be to take a leadership role in the community.
After evaluating the foundation in 1989, Jansson concluded that it still had not achieved the level of credibility necessary to establish a position of primary influence in a community the size of Glendale.
“Many foundations have bigger populations and strong community identities,” Jansson said. “Glendale is not as strong in this regard as some communities that I can think of.”
Those serving the foundation, however, say there has been significant progress over the past five years.
“We now have the tools to effectively serve the community,” Whyte said. “We have both credibility and variety and it all goes to a good cause, the Glendale community.”
In the past five years, Miller said, donations have reflected the growing credibility the foundation has worked to establish. In 1986, a single donor contributed $388,000. Other contributions included another 1986 bequest for $150,000 and one for $200,000 in 1989.
Miller believes that the foundation’s future growth will enable it to anticipate the needs of organizations in Glendale, giving it a more active role in the community.
“Right now the foundation is in a reactive position,” Miller said. “Groups come to us for help. As we continue to grow, we’ll take on a pro-active position where we can anticipate needs before they become problems.”