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S2E9 Los Altos Community Foundation – Non Profit Startup Incubator


Here in Silicon Valley we have a vibrant
entrepreneurial investor community. I recently learned about another type of
community that functions as an incubator for a wide range of social innovations.
My name is Jim Connor, welcome to Game Changers Silicon Valley my guests
are Joel Eyer, Executive Director of the Los Altos Community Foundation and Vickey Amon-Higa, Co-founder and chairperson of the Animal Assisted Happiness
organization. Joe pleasure to see you again I really enjoyed our conversation
over at your office in Los Altos at the Community Foundation Center I was very
impressed with the number of services you’re doing as I said in the opening, this being Silicon Valley, it’s an Innovation Center an investor center for bringing out new
ideas, finding those ideas and developing those ideas and I was
impressed to see that you guys at a nonprofit community have actually been very innovative in the way that you incubate some startup ideas to make sure, or give
people a chance to see if they’re going to work or not. So maybe I’ll let you
give us an overview of the overall foundations, functions and services and
then we will start drill down into those. Sure, well everybody is a philanthropist in
one way or another, they throw coins in the guitar case of a musician, they volunteer
their child’s school or they might write a check for the
nonprofit at the front door. What we do is we allow residents and businesses to
come together and be more effective as strategic philanthorpists so they can pool their resources and accomplished more than any one
individual could by themselves. In addition, we also are a matchmaker
between donors and nonprofits and needs in the community. So, these are two unique features about a Community Foundation a compared to ordinary profits. And we
serve a very small geographic area, we serve Los Altos Los Altos Hills. But you
also our grant-making organization to But you are also a grant-making organization too, correct? Oh, that’s true. For 25 years
we’ve been grant-making to the community. We’ve given over eight million dollars
in grants to many many nonprofits including the Vicky’s organization Annimal Assisted Happiness. Just last month, we granted out a $100,000 to a number of nonprofits. A hundred thousand last month,
that’s good. Is that a difficult decision making process, I have to ask you that? Well we try to balance it, we look between different fields of interest like youth, education, seniors,
vulnerable populations ,arts and culture. So we try to do some balance there and
then we really look at the needs and will our grants make a difference. Some organizations are rather large and our relatively small grants are not going to make much of a difference. And then
we also look for opportunities to stimulate something that’s new, it’s going to change the paradigm, really
make a difference. Is that where the incubation part came from, that you outlined to me, where a person who’s thinking about maybe doing a nonprofit, come in, sign up
for the organization, get the 501-C3 tax free status, raise money, you cover the
insurance, you cover all this stuff, the accounting functionality and let them go see if they got a viable non-profit? The incubation of new start-up
nonprofits is very complimentary to the grant-making so just as you explain a
local person has an idea for addressing a community need we can extend our 501-C3 umbrella to them and they can more less become an instant nonprofit. We
provide grants, funds and other resources and this is in contrast to
them applying to the IRS waiting to be designated which could take months and
by then they have lost their passion and ran out of steam. So we can someone hit
the ground running go after their mission and not worry
about all the administrative details of running a non-profit. I have had friends who have gone the nonprofit route, who have suffered through a year and a half, eighteen months, waiting approval and of
course what happens and we will explain this to our audience, when you want to be a non-proift, you start out as a for-profit company and you apply to the IRS for non-profit status never
knowing if it’s goning be granted or not hoping, and if it’s was granted then all the
people who may have given you money get a tax deduction and if it’s not
granted, too bad, no tax deduction, so it’s a big disappointment to a lot of people. So I like this instant non-profit program, this is pretty good your AR nonprofit you been around seven
years as you’re trying to me in you were grant recipient problem at Los
Altos Community Foundation maybe give us an overview about your program ok so
animal-assisted happiness is a nonprofit that was founded in los Altos Hills kind
of our dining room table with ourselves on our four children to help children
with special needs and experiences smiles and the idea is that animals are
kind they don’t judge they just let you be who you are and the interaction with
an animal just makes you feel better so the good news is I the chance to speak
to you earlier and I really kind of job down a couple days so you work with
special needs children but in a very big umbrella umbrella but it’s also kind of
extensive immunoblots a special needs children out there and you bring them
and experience of having a friendship or interaction with domesticated animals we
have a little barnyard in Sunnyvale and that barnyard includes many horses
alpaca goats sheep pot-bellied pigs rabbits guinea pigs chickens in an
aviary and we offer mobile barnyard visits where we take animals than
miniature goats rabbits guinea pigs and chickens into hospitals programs for
children with special needs and two schools so named a public school that
has a special it classroom and most likely were there because we visit 54
different programs Monday through Friday we also provide barnyard visits for
families and their children at the barnyard and then we have a vocational
education program for children with special needs and this is all done
through volunteers so I was talking to Joe earlier that we’re seven years and
we have over nine hundred and thirty-five registered volunteers and we
we can’t smiles our mission is to create smiles we’re all free of charge for
their services and we’ve created twenty five thousand one hundred and
seventy-four smiles to date with what happens when a child interacts with an
animal and animals not judgmental doesn’t have any problems being a normal
animal I can use that what happens it’s it’s just magic so the magic is we have
a little boy Dakota who comes about once a month to the farm to code is 14 years
old and nonverbal and he loves the pics and so all Dakota wants to do is come to
the farm and sit in the up in with the pigs and he listens to
their noiseless and smiles and told him it’s magical time for him she did not go
through your commission program that’s where we would have known we would have
what is a scenario I mean how long to give me an example what works how many
example what doesn’t work out i mean it’s good to know if you have a non
buyable thought we will start with early-stage nonprofits meeting somebody
just starting walks you know from the beginning and so we’ve had examples like
we have one program called the MPLA scholars that has been with us for
several years and they raise scholarship money for children who are going to
college typical personae family to go to college
and that program has really blossomed have a couple of really great strong
leaders a building advisory board and they are raising a lot of money and
expanding the program that’s a great example yeah what is the most important
two or three ideas when you’re going to start a nonprofit that you advise
somebody to get under their belt ever get a grip on well the first thing is to
be very clear what problem you’re trying to solve and some people come up with
ideas that are really duplicating what’s already been done so I’m not about
proliferating duplicating non-profit so make sure its unique ideas much like a
unique differentiator idea of this really make a difference in the
community so that’s the first thing second of all you know building
resources building volunteers building partners in building a board that can
help help you in that effort and you know the reality is you have to work on
the finances in the end it has to be viable financially over family wants to
come and see you has some special needs you don’t run or
one or two or group today call you up to their web page on our webpage they
submit a request for a visit they sign up and then we get back to them and
schedule a time all using Google does your web page it’s www animal-assisted
happiness dot O R G around the foundation for 300 what led you to make
this decision I spoke to your professional you worked in the tech
sector here you know prominent guy very successful
career with what happened I mean it’s a good thing I feel very tired I did you
try to retire yet right I didn’t retire from tech in 2009 but you know I started
volunteering in the community I feel very strongly about what I call
community philanthropy where people pitching in work together at the
grassroots level to make the community better and so I did volunteering with different
organizations I actually started one of the fiscal fiscally sponsored programs
that were now now operating in Los Altos forward and then I started to realize
what the Foundation does and the impact it has on the community and realize that
in this role I could have a much bigger problem for doing good things for the
community that’s that’s what got me the ball that you have a budget you also
have to go out race yes do you have a long-term benefactors for that matter we
have a pretty good condition repeat rate about 70 75% our donors repeat each year
and you know that’s that’s a really good sign that they feel like they’re
investing in the community that’s one of the things that matter which I was
surprised about so there’s a number of people here in Silicon Valley and has
had good success bit longer to whatever you want to call that but you have also
program where if they feel strongly about some some discipline or some type
of thing with its history or whatever you can’t help them set up so many
foundation correctly armor charitable funds and
there’s several flavors of those there’s what’s called donor advised funds which
are effectively like a mini Foundation a charitable deduction and granddaughter
overtime to any nonprofit around the USA and existing unprofor including ones
under your umbrella exhibition I mean we suggest those charged owners but we
certainly don’t strong-armed and person to do it they can grant
anyone they also have designated funds which are set up to benefit one or more
now profits and we also offer scholarships so dry it thanks to our
people are being more philanthropic so now if the audience has kind of
encountered some had had a hit on something you said I had my interest
what’s the best way for them to follow up with you well the easiest way to become your
website loads up the CFDA org you can email your email what is the americas
we’ll put our gates jodie uyire Los Altos doctorate level to that great what
do we think I’ll go back to you what do you think you’re going through what
we’ll see in the future from los Altos community foundation of
any programs you expect to roll out that a relatively new well we’re continuing to her trying our
programs that we talked about a min ago to make this more impactful and more
beneficial to the community I want to increase the amount of grant making
we’re doing to nonprofits around the community and also with you some more
innovative grant-making for example right now we’re working on a carpet of
effort with several nonprofits school districts press center of innovation
around summer learning trying to get more kids to go to the summer learning
programs we found out last year that some of the nonprofit SAT empty seats
and at the same time some of the kids should be going to these summer learning
programs work so this year we are working together and trying to change
the paradigm little bit so that things are improving so it’s not just
operational grants but it’s improving things outside of the los Altos Los
Altos Hills city limits or mountain view this is the public television station
Mountain View you and it’s a nonprofit has programs
and summer here where they teach kids how to work the video and audio formats
don’t like that yeah yeah so game became withdrawn be eligible to apply for a
grant went well and we’ll have to do something good for them and so you know
that’s one thing the just helping people better and understand community
philanthropy importance of it and then probably work on building an endowment
which would be a long-term resource for the community in terms of providing
grants in funding to address community needs a great great I think we should
look for from your organization thinking well we are in conversations in the
permitting process to build the animals listed happiness smile fire at Baylands
park in Sunnyvale a little over two acre destination site so local farm in
Sunnyvale for children with special needs and all of our volunteers both of
you for coming and I really enjoyed it I enjoyed meeting you in learning so much
about the loss of community and as I had no idea you were so had so many programs
going on in your a testimonial to what what the grants can help do and help
happen because frankly I I think the story about children committing animals
is fascinating and especially kids have real difficulties doing that so when I
recognize both of you for your work and thank you for coming in tonight and wish
you every success going forward thank you very much for having us and
thank you for your support for this Jim Connor thank you for joining us for this
week’s episode the game changers Silicon Valley each week will address an area of
innovation that may be merged as a game-changer up tomorrow you can follow
us on our website game-changers that TV on Facebook or
Twitter we look forward to your continued interest in upcoming shows

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