In 2012, the all-volunteer board at the Olympic View Community Foundation — then known as the Sequim Community Foundation — found themselves at a crossroad.
“It was either build it,” says Sue Ellen Riesau, the foundation’s executive director, “or make an exit plan.”
Since then, the Olympic View Community Foundation has been in the rebuilding process, restructuring its grant process, redesigning its website and logo, reconnecting with community partners and, most recently, rebranding and remarketing a credit card that helps restore funds to the community.
The foundation and Sound Community Bank are touting a credit card program that brings 1 percent of all purchases back to the Sequim community.
Started in 1997, the program has reinvested more than $335,000 to the Olympic Peninsula. The Olympic View Community Foundation has distributed that money to more than 45 local organizations via 115 grant awards, aiding such organizations as Sequim’s Boys & Girls Club, Dungeness Valley Health & Wellness Clinic, Friends of the Fields, Healthy Families of Clallam County, Master Gardeners, North Olympic Land Trust, Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, Serenity House of Clallam County, the Shipley Center, Sequim Senior Meals, Sequim Community Aid, Sequim Education Foundation, Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County and several Sequim schools, among others.
The foundation looks to fund nonprofits in specific areas of service: arts and culture, education and youth, environment and conservation, health and human services, and animal welfare.
“We’re not limited to education and family,” Riesau says, like other foundations. “We’re broad and inclusive.”
Foundation assets are invested with the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation in Tacoma. That foundation has a return rate of 8 percent in the past 10 years, according to the Olympic View Community Foundation website.
In late spring, Riesau says, the foundation will announce a new grant cycle.
While the card doesn’t feature the perks of other cards that gives users airline miles or discounts at large corporate chain stores, Riesau says the card has a fair variable interest rate and directly impacts the community with its 1 percent reinvestment feature.
The heart of the Olympic View Community Foundation, she says, is to support our nonprofits in as many ways as possible.
“Our nonprofits really struggle,” Riesau says. “The more the economy suffers, the greater the demands on our local non-profits.”
Card’s local ties
The credit card, as in the past, is managed by Sound Community Bank. While the institution has two offices in Seattle, one in Tacoma and one in Mountlake Terrace, its other two branches are on the Olympic Peninsula — one in Sequim, one in Port Angeles.
The bank has other local ties: CEO Laurie Stewart is a Sequim native who approved the credit card program’s creation. Even the credit card’s hallmark motto — “Leave your legacy one swipe at a time” — was written by Brady Robb, a Sequim High graduate who now works at one of Sound Community Bank’s Seattle offices.
The last time the credit card was marketed was 2004. The Sequim community still boasts 679 card holders, 472 of whom are active card-users.
Advertisements across the region include familiar faces, from Sequim Police Deputy Chief Sheri Crain and Detective Sgt. Sean Madison, to longtime community advocates and businesspeople Paul and Rochelle McHugh, from community activist Mary Lou Teitzel to business owners in the Schuenemann family.
The Olympic View Community Foundation is a nonprofit Washington corporation. Incorporated in September 2000, the foundation’s focus was the growth of organized philanthropy to encourage and enrich the quality of life in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley.
Originally named The Community Foundation of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley and later shortened to Sequim Community Foundation, the organization was formed as an outgrowth of the Sequim 2000 group which was formed in 1995 as a division of the Chamber of Commerce. The original purpose of the group was, according to the foundation’s website, to raise funds to support the beautification of Sequim, which was undergoing a downtown renaissance.
In 1997, a partnership was formed between Sound Community Bank, the City of Sequim and Sequim 2000. The idea was for a credit card that saw 1 percent of the cardholder’s purchases would be returned back to the community for downtown projects meeting the vision of Sequim 2000’s mission to make Sequim a “better place to live,” according to the website.
The City of Sequim was the funding “pass-through” for the first four years’ returns until the group incorporated and became a community foundation in 2000.
The foundation board secured a two-year grant through the Joy and Benjamin Phillips fund and The Seattle Foundation in the fall of 2012, one that aided them in hiring an executive director. They brought Riesau, former publisher of the Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, on at the beginning of 2013.
“2013 was my education year,” Riesau says.
Riesau and the board looked at ways to rebrand the foundation to the community, from changing its name to a new logo (formulated by Riesau and Troye Jarmuth, designed by Laurel Black) to getting the foundation out in the community via the mural project.
On the rise: Community foundations
With the national and regional growth of nonprofits, community foundations are growing in numbers as well. These foundations are tax-exempt, public charities supporting nonprofits working within their communities.
According to a 2010 Community Foundation Global Status Report, there are more than 900 community foundations in the nation, one of the fastest growing sectors of philanthropy.