By Tim Hunt
3 Valleys Foundation strives to serve our areaUploaded: Nov 23, 2021
John Sensiba has led organizations significant to the valley for many years.
He was the catalyst that led ValleyCare to join Stanford Health, a move that saved the local hospital as well as bringing a desperately needed capital infusion and access to the depth of Stanford specialists.
Then, he served as the first chair of the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group that just partnered with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute on its Vision 2040.
One of the 24 recommended actions is the creation of a local foundation. Are you surprised that Sensiba is serving as chair of the Three Valleys Foundation that launched Nov. 1? He’s partnered with Susan Houghton, the driving force behind Sunflower Hill who he described as “the motor that drives the thing…a dynamo.” I agree.
They have been working on the foundation for about a year and have done plenty of research. He also noted the hard work of Christine Wente who spearheaded the building of the website that was ready to go on Nov. 1. It was a hands-on effort by a person who already was very busy.
Sensiba pointed out there’s about 350 non-profit organizations in the San Ramon and Livermore valleys, many operating way below the public radar screen. Based on their research, they determined that when there’s a strong community foundation the entire non-profit community benefits.
During this start-up phase, 3 Valleys has partnered with the Community Foundation of San Joaquin. Originally, they thought that San Joaquin would be the fiscal sponsor before 3 Valleys received its IRS non-profit designation. Somehow the team at the Hoge Fenton law firm got that done in a month so San Joaquin is providing all of the back office services for 3 Valleys on a very reasonable contract basis and looking forward to launching it on its own. Sensiba could not praise Moses Zapien, the president and CEO, enough.
Sensiba, an accountant by trade, believes that a local foundation will make a difference to local business people who have hit a home run financially and want to share with their non-profits. Big financial services firms offer donor advised funds for charity with the same tax advantage as a community foundation, but they lack the focused resources and understanding of local non-profits.
“There’s a more efficient use of charitable capital,” Sensiba said. “We will hold donor-advised funds at 3 Valleys, but we are going to encourage our philanthropists to put their money to work.”
Foundation officers can suggest local non-profits that meet donor’s goals.
Sensiba laid out three priorities over the next few months:
1. Build out the board. He currently has six members and plans to grow it to 11 that covers all three valleys. He’s focused on directors living in the San Ramon Valley and also would like to find a younger person (25-35) to lend that perspective to the board.
2. Raise $500,000 in funding for operating funds for the next two years. Covering the start-up costs is critical to the foundation’s future. A strong start will put the foundation in place to flourish going forward and serving donors and organizations effectively.
3. Recruit a strong executive director who will be the face of the organization. This ties directly to No. 2 so there’s the capital in place that the executive can hit the ground running.
The foundation has received political backing already along with dollars. Alameda County Supervisors David Haubert (Dublin and Livermore) and Nate Miley (Pleasanton) have committed funding while the Dublin City Council directed the city manager to move ahead with an agreement and funding for the foundation.
Two guiding principles are the North Star for the foundation: transparency and building trust with everyone they encounter.
The foundation announcement this month coincides with the launch of the Pleasanton Weekly Holiday Fund. The foundation will be the fiscal sponsor at no cost so all contributions will go directly to the non-profits.