Laguna Beach is a philanthropic focal point in Southern California, making it easy to get involved and give locally. – By Carina Calhoun
Orange County’s coastal gem and second oldest city, Laguna Beach, has an extraordinary number of nonprofit organizations. The Internal Revenue Service lists indicate approximately 200 distinct 501(c)(3) nonprofits in Laguna Beach. This number is easily more than the average city in the U.S. The extraordinary efforts and momentum proves that the locals not only view giving back to the community as a passion and commitment, but as major priority.
Laguna Beach has always been a community with a spirit and willingness to serve and help where needed. Now a major player in local giving, the Laguna Beach Community Foundation (LBCF) was launched in May 2009 to encourage philanthropy in the greater Laguna Beach area. The role of the LBCF is to assist charitable organizations by utilizing local knowledge and leadership to support community philanthropy, develop endowments, create donor advised funds and other donor services. To help strengthen local nonprofits, the foundation provides information and assistance in other areas of need, such as tax, compliance, governance, board development and fundraising support. In 2011, the LBCF distributed more than $1.2 million to charitable organizations.
Mary Fegraus, founder and secretary of LBCF and Laguna Beach resident since 1973, says, “The idea that drove the four founding trustees to create the Laguna Beach Community Foundation was to reach out to Laguna Beach residents who are not yet involved with philanthropic activities.”
Darrcy Loveland, president and CEO of the LBCF who has more than 25 years experience with corporate, nonprofit, association and government organizations, says, “Laguna’s nonprofits provide a wealth of programs and resources to our community, which benefits the locals and our visitors.”
A Wealth of Programs
As examples of the breadth and depth of Laguna’s nonprofits, health services and screenings are provided by organizations such as the Laguna Beach Community Clinic and Heartfelt Cardiac Projects. The Glennwood House is raising funds for the capital campaign to create a unique housing community in Laguna for young adults with developmental disabilities. Youth can participate in educational and social programs at the local Boys and Girls Clubs, through Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts and at Crystal Cove. Laguna Beach Seniors offers a wide variety of classes and social services that help seniors to live it up at the Susi Q senior center.
The Friendship Shelter offers services to help homeless adults achieve self-sufficiency. In the same arena, the Laguna Resource Center, which operates the Laguna Food Pantry on Laguna Canyon Road, has a mission to alleviate homelessness and hunger by operating a food pantry for an ever-increasing portion of at-risk families in Laguna Beach and surrounding communities.
Andy Siegenfeld, chairman of the Laguna Resource Center, says, “Currently, we are providing free groceries to between 200 and 250 families and individuals weekly. Our all-volunteer staff also delivers breakfasts and lunches weekdays to our 60 neighbors at the homeless shelter.” The Laguna Resource Center betters our community by actively demonstrating compassion for those less fortunate among us. The free food program provides a crucial safety net for those struggling to survive difficult economic times.
Environmental nonprofits, such as the Laguna Canyon Foundation, One World One Ocean Foundation, Laguna Greenbelt, Zero Trash and Hortense Miller Garden, help make the coastal resort city a beautiful and special place to live.
Ann Christoph, a member of the South Laguna Civic Association (SLCA), explains, “We are an active organization that promotes and fosters on-the-ground improvements in our community, and works to preserve the community quality of life by monitoring planning proposals and proposing beneficial plans for the future.”
Some of the organization’s projects include the South Laguna Village Green, the South Laguna General Plan and the preserved hillside open space and trails, the streetscape improvements, planted medians along Coast Highway and the South Laguna Community Garden. “None of these projects would have happened without SLCA,” Ann says.
Additionally, there are the longstanding arts organizations, such as the Laguna Art Museum and Festival of Arts. The city has always had an esteemed reputation for supporting the arts and local artists. Keeping residents culturally informed and entertained, each summer many locals attend the Pageant of the Masters, the Sawdust Art Festival and Art-A-Fair. With an emphasis on art education, Laguna College of Art & Design was founded in 1961, and the town is also home to organizations such as Laguna Outreach for Community Arts.
Many locals have spearheaded important initiatives. Bob Whalen led the school bond effort to update school facilities; Cheryl Kinsman and Jane Egly worked quietly behind the scenes to keep a nonprofit hospital in Laguna Beach; Paul Freeman, Karyn Phillipsen, Sam Goldstein and Claes Anderson created the Business Improvement District to ensure the sustainability of the local arts scene and economy; and members of the local architecture community all chipped in after the fire and flood to help residents rebuild after their devastating losses. Of course, the standout individuals and organizations are too numerous to mention all by name.
Residents form nonprofits to address various issues, offer programs of assistance and resources and perform a variety of services in Laguna Beach and throughout the world. However, forming a nonprofit isn’t always necessary. According to Darrcy, not every new idea requires a new nonprofit. “We encourage those considering forming new nonprofits to do research first and collaborate and work with the existing community nonprofits when possible,” she says. The ingredients for a successful nonprofit are a well-funded organization providing needed services to the community with a passionate, committed board directed by a strong leader.
Participating in a local nonprofit can be an intimidating task, and many people may not know where to begin or how to make a difference. “So often donors think that because they don’t have millions to give they shouldn’t be charitable,” Mary says. This is a common misconception, and for many local nonprofits, a gift of any size is more than welcome. Nonprofits are always looking for volunteers to assist in providing services and programs or to serve on their committees as well. If you’re looking to get involved, call the nonprofit whose mission appeals to you to find out what types of volunteer and committee skills are needed.
Former mayor and current city council member, Elizabeth Pearson, has been involved in Laguna Beach nonprofits for 28 years. “Laguna attracts—and welcomes—all types of people to the community. Many of our residents and business operators are tolerant, open-minded, creative and generous. Once people move to the community and ‘get it’ they want to be a part of it,” she says. “Nothing feels better than to give and to make a difference. Our community is enriched because of the diversity of gifts that the various community members bring to the table.”
Elizabeth notes that one doesn’t have to join an organization to get involved or make a difference. “We have unsung heroes, such as Tony Ciabattoni, Don Crevier, Ann Quilter, David Wilson, Morris Skenderian and others who always show up after a disaster—with resources, talent or organizational skills that were offered at the pivotal time that they were needed,” she comments.
The impact and importance that nonprofit organizations have locally offers a feeling of unity and opportunity for growth as a committed community. This family-like quality is what makes Laguna Beach a symbol for giving what you have, where you live. Darrcy says, “Our local nonprofits help make Laguna Beach an extra special place to live and enjoy life.” LBM
The Board of Trustees of the Laguna Beach Community Foundation (LBCF) has considerable expertise in charitable giving. The organization is available to both educate and assist others in areas of specific giving, such as estate planning, wills, living trusts, retirement plans, charitable remainder annuity trusts and gift annuities, among others. LBCF will also assist other charitable groups with information on important tax and compliance matters with respect to the governance of their own organization and structure.
The LBCF assists donors with the establishment and management of charitable funds as needed. LBCF consults with individuals and, if their scenario requires it, refers them to professional advisors for additional assistance in making tax advantageous decisions regarding their current charitable donations and those made as legacy gifts.
Donors considering establishing a foundation should instead consider a donor advised fund, which provides significant tax advantages without the administrative burdens.
“I often say that cash is the ‘worst’ asset to contribute, from the donor’s standpoint,” explains Laura Tarbox, chair of the Laguna Beach Community Foundation. “If you have assets such as stocks, mutual funds or real estate that have increased in value, you can leverage your tax benefits by contributing them. That’s because in addition to getting the tax deduction, you avoid the capital gains taxes you would have paid upon sale.” The foundation can help donors facilitate these types of gifts. (lagunabeachcf.org)