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Op/ed: A new home for Ventura County’s nonprofit community


By Hugh Ralston on July 27, 2012

As commercial real estate reporter Marlize van Romburgh wrote in the July 20 edition of the Business Times, the Ventura County Community Foundation has a real home for the first time in its nearly 25-year history.

I want to take a few words to explain why VCCF purchased the building in Camarillo next to the historic Camarillo Ranch House. And why we made an investment that is by design an expression of the foundation’s mission to promote and enable philanthropy to improve the community for good and forever.

Our new home will allow us to fulfill our mission in these ways:

• We will triple the workspace of the VCCF Center for Nonprofit Leadership, which last year offered more than 110 workshops in nonprofit management. This expansion allows the Center to add classrooms and increase the offerings of its Library for Nonprofit Research and expand its dedicated Technology Center’s computer lab.

• We will be able to lease office space to our fellow nonprofits at below-market rates in the 53,500-square-foot building.

• We will be able to provide to the community vastly increased conference spaces, including one large room that can can welcome up to 150 people.

• It will house the headquarters of VCCF, at the same square footage we now occupy at our current quarters off Central Avenue.

As an organization that invests Ventura County’s charitable capital for the long term, owning your own bit of dirt makes especially good sense. We believe we will generate returns for VCCF that meet, or exceed, expected returns from the investment strategy of our endowment portfolio we manage for donors and local nonprofits.

VCCF’s board has committed $3 million of our capital to this investment and is launching a capital campaign to ensure a sound financial structure for the facility, which — as with all nonprofit buildings — also means an operating endowment.

As with every new homeowner, we have big dreams. Built in 2008, our center has never been occupied. We are finishing the interior to accommodate not only the needs of a modern and professional work force but also flexible space for the Center for Nonprofit Leadership to accommodate more classrooms, an expanded dedicated technology center and meeting rooms for faculty, donors and nonprofit leaders.

We hope also to provide up-to-date technology platforms, which will permit teleconferences and remote feeds for events like training sessions, arts events and connecting to partners across boundaries both geographic and physical.

We are working to create gallery space to provide rotating exhibits by local artists. Art not only drives a significant portion of our nonprofit sector, it also enhances our work and teaching spaces. We know many nonprofits trace their roots to early days when a vision, a small staff and dedicated donors built the future, sometimes month to the month.

So we are exploring “incubator” space, focused on helping very small nonprofits emerge from start-up to a more substantial footing. We are having conversations with potential funding partners to see if this is a viable alternative for Ventura County.

So many already have made generous pro bono contributions to the center — including architects, board members, suppliers and partners — that we take this as an early indicator this community asset is something we all can value and sustain. We believe together we can do more than any one of us can do separately.

Whether it is engaging our nonprofit partners, the Center for Nonprofit Leadership or the Community Foundation itself, this new home reaffirms the benefits of working together to build community. Watch our new center take shape at And come join us in this very good work.

• Hugh Ralston is the president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation. Contact him at