Endowment is now more than $10 M

Published in the September 7 – 20, 2016 issue of Gilroy Life

By Marty Cheek

Photo courtesy Gilroy Foundation Donna Pray and Event Coordinator Yesenia Gonzalez take a break from volunteering.

Photo courtesy Gilroy Foundation
Donna Pray and Event Coordinator Yesenia Gonzalez take a break from volunteering.

For Donna Pray, serving as the executive director of the Gilroy Foundation is “the best job in the world.” The nonprofit organization was founded in 1980 to help meet the needs of the community with financial support for health, education, recreation, culture, civic services and technology benefits.

With assets of about $12 million, the foundation awards annual grants to nonprofit organizations engaged in vital programs and services as well as scholarships to local students. It makes a difference, Pray said.

“I get to talk to people who want to do good things for our community and residents with their donated dollars,” she said. “When we come up with a plan for them, they always leave with a satisfied smile on their faces. Then I get to turn around and watch those dollars truly make a difference in our community. It’s a win-win!”

Among the many local organizations that have been helped is the Gilroy Arts Alliance, the nonprofit that operates the Gilroy Center for the Arts. It recently received $20,000 from the foundation through the Julie Hayes Rising Star Performing Arts Grant that’s awarded to programs contributing to dance, music, opera, theater, musical theater, stagecraft and costume/makeup.

The center has a performance area used by the resident theater company, Limelight Actors Theater, said Kevin Heath, executive director for the alliance. The grant is being used to add a door that creates an exit to the back room of the center, new lighting/electrical, storage and a video monitoring system with a live feed from the stage to a monitor backstage.

“The Gilroy Foundation does so much important work in our community,” Heath said. “One of the special things, to me, is the support of the arts. Everyone who works at, and with, the foundation are supporters of the arts.”
To help keep the arts and other community benefits going, the Gilroy Foundation receives funds from residents and businesses based here, Pray said.

“I once received a donation in memory of someone’s dear friend and the letter apologized for only being able to afford $5,” she said. “I wrote back and explained that any amount helps when it’s added to our general endowment fund.”

Dollars are always welcomed — but people’s talents are also appreciated, she said. People can volunteer at one of the foundation’s fundraisers. Or they can become an ambassador and serve on committees.

The Gilroy Foundation was started 36 years by a group of residents who felt recent tax cuts would have a negative effect on the city, Pray said. They wanted to start an endowment that would support programs in the areas of the arts, education, health and recreation. In 1988 these volunteers wanted to bring more exposure to the mission of the group, so they decided to have an “event” and invite the public. Foundation board members Patty Filice and Pray created “A Day in the Country” wine auction.

“When the board decided they needed a staff person in 1995, and offered me the position, I jumped at the chance to help them grow and continue to do good work,” Pray said.

In 1995, the foundation had an endowment of little more than $200,000. It has now about $10 million. Besides the original general endowment, it offers people the opportunity to recognize loved ones through individual-named funds by families and groups. There is a $10,000 minimum to have a named fund and it can be created to support grants program, to support a particular charity on an annual basis, or the donor can choose their charity to support each year. To help people who might not be able to provide $10,000 for a fund, the foundation has annual membership levels that start at $100.

The funds are invested with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which has assets in excess of $5 billion. Pooling the funds with such a large philanthropic organization enables the Gilroy Foundation to maximize the return.

The foundation will hold its 27th annual A Day in the Country fundraiser Oct. 1 at the Gilroy Elks Lodge on the Hill. This year, the theme is the “Great Gatsby,” based on the Jazz Age.

“I’m sure it will be another sell-out and a great time,” Pray said. “It is through these fundraisers that we pull our operating income. We like to have donated dollars not used for operations, but for grant-making and scholarships. Since 1980, we have awarded grants and scholarships totaling $1.4 million.”

HOW TO HELP

Visit: www.gilroyfoundation.org