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Tigard man hopes to revive library foundation

A Tualatin woman hopes to create a foundation for the newly remodeled library there

TUALATIN - Years of 'neighborhood nepotism' almost killed the Tigard Public Library Foundation.

And if Gene Clair, a retired professional fund-raiser of 40 years and president of the Tigard library foundation, could offer one bit of advice to Tualatin residents interested in creating their own foundation, he'd say, 'Think big.'

It was at a meeting when Tigard Public Library Foundation board members started talking about change jars for a fund-raiser that red flags went up for Clair.

A foundation, in his mind, was meant to raise big money not spare change. Then he noticed that the foundation often seemed to be in direct competition with the Friends of the Tigard Public Library, another nonprofit group with the goal of raising small amounts of money to benefit the library.

The set up was all wrong, Clair said. And once members tried to correct the course of the foundation, it ultimately fell. By-laws that were in the beginning 'store bought' were then tailored for the group. The night the amended by-laws were adopted, which included a stipulation that board members must be yearly donators of record for the library, the foundation lost two members.

Then came the talks about the need for financial consultants, a business plan and goals for large fund-raising efforts. Clair said the response wasn't good.

'We were losing board members,' he said. 'Once we laid out what we needed to do to be a foundation, they (board members) just weren't interested.'

Member fallout started about two years ago. Last year, the Tigard Public Library Foundation became inactive.

Clair said the issue of the struggling foundation was never money. The group still has more than $30,000 in the bank, and late last year Clair handed over a $16,000 check to the Tigard library.

'I never felt that there wasn't enough money (to satisfy fund-raising goals),' Clair said. 'What we lacked was good leadership.'

In May, Clair will try to jump start the nonprofit group again with an organizational meeting.

But for now Clair hopes that his words of warning sink in with Tualatin residents who will begin testing the waters next week for a Tualatin Public Library Foundation.

Tualatin Library Advisory Board Chairwoman Marge Congress said she'd be happy if 10 people showed up at the foundation organizational meeting Wednesday, March 22, at 7 p.m. at the Tualatin Heritage Center.

Talk about a Tualatin library foundation has been circulating for the last dozen years, said Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden. But with the September opening of the new Tualatin library, Ogden described the latest talks as engaged and energized.

'It seems to be more than just wishful thinking this time,' Ogden said.

And the biggest thing going for the foundation is probably Congress' clear vision of what the foundation should be, something Clair said the Tigard group wrestled with for years.

The foundation, if it is created, would be a 501 C3 nonprofit group dedicated to supporting the library similar to the Friends of the Tualatin Public Library. But the difference between the two groups, Congress said, is that the Friends will continue to benefit the library in small amounts. The foundation will have a goal to support the library in larger more expensive projects.

The foundation would ideally need $25,000 to start, Congress said, with that money to be invested with Oregon Community Foundation. Then the group could begin supporting library programs through interest earned.

The entire idea behind a library foundation, Congress said, is to give people a sense of security about their library's programs and to advocate more for the library in the community.

Clair said that was something else the Tigard library foundation lost sight of.

'We are here for one reason,' Clair said of library foundations. 'To interest people in being a part of the library.'

At a Glance

What: Tualatin library foundation organizational meeting

When: Wednesday, March 26, at 7 p.m.

Where: Tualatin Heritage Center, 8700 S.W. Sweek Drive