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To build a foundation: Colusa County Agriculture Association needed help to raise funds – and so a nonprofit was born
In 2011, California fairs were hit hard when $32 million in state general funds were eliminated from the state budget. Locally, that forced the Colusa County Fair 44th Agriculture Association to tap into reserves to make up for a $180,000 cut to its budget over the last two years.
The association needed help to make up for the shortfall, and it had people in the county who were willing to help, but its classification as a state agency complicated things.
"Being (as) they are a state agency, if you wanted to donate (money) toward any project, event, etc., it was not tax deductible. Many fairs have started forming foundations that are 501(c)(3), making donations (tax deductible)," said Patty Hickel, who has been a big part of the effort to remedy that situation.
Late in 2013, the Colusa County Fair got a nonprofit organization to call its own.
So began the Colusa County Fair Foundation — a nonprofit organization that aims to provide the fundraising boon the Colusa County Fair needs. Made up from citizens from throughout Colusa County, the Colusa County Fair Foundation is administered by an 11-person board, of which Hickel is one. In total, the Foundation Board consists of nine public representatives and two representatives from the Colusa County Fair Board.
"This board is just phenomenal," said Susan Clark, the CEO of the Colusa County Fair. "You look at the people that are on it — they're great."
At the top of the hierarchy is Ben Carter, the president of the Colusa County Fair Foundation.
"Our primary purpose is to ensure the viability and the financial liquidity of the fair and the community. This fair is seen by many in the county as a community resource — we are about supporting that," Carter said. "Now, it's up to the fair foundation to raise the capital to make up for that gap (in funding)."
The foundation is kicking off its fundraising efforts this month with a membership drive and has plans for upcoming events. Money raised by foundation will be allocated to events and activities that support Colusa County's heritage and assist in the repair and improvement of the publicly-owned fairgrounds, according to a press release from Hickel.
"We'd like to support the community, and in particular education — educating and sharing the agricultural and rural heritage of the community. We aren't there yet in terms of discussing ways (to benefit the community at large). We're primarily concerned with the fairgrounds because the needs are so great," Carter said.
What will it mean to be a member of the foundation?
"The benefits of membership are to give back to the community," Carter said.
In addition to that, each member will get a vote when board elections roll around. As such, the foundation encourages the participation of its members in its meetings and welcomes non-members to attend the meetings and participate as well.
The Colusa County Fair Foundation is still in its infancy as a nonprofit organization, but the initial response has been promising.
"The foundation is new, so we are trying to find our legs. We sent out an initial letter of introduction in early December. We got a very good response from that," Carter said. "I was pleased to see the community jump behind that with just a letter of introduction."
Carter said that only time will tell how viable the foundation is long-term.
"We're very hopeful. Newness is a big sell in terms of marketing. The proof will be in the pudding if we're around in 10 years," Carter said.
Individual Membership (18 years and older) – $100
Community Organization/Club – $150
Family – $250
Business – $500
A Lifetime membership is available for a one-time fee of $7,500.
Foundation board members
The Colusa County Fair Foundation meets on the fourth Wednesday of every month, typically at 4 p.m. in the Fair Board Room at the Colusa County Fairgrounds.
"We're just trying to let people know how they can get involved. We are trying to encourage them not to sit on the sidelines," Ben Carter, president of the Colusa County Fair Foundation, said.
Carter said that community members can get involved by contacting any board member, or by stopping by the Fair Office and speaking with Susan Clark. Donations may be delivered to the Foundation at the Fair Office, or mailed to the Colusa County Fair Foundation, PO Box 745, Colusa, CA 95932.