Martha’s Place: Supporting Child Safety in SLO County

One in ten children suffers from child abuse, and since there are 50,000 children living in San Luis Obispo County, there are roughly 5,000 children in SLO County who might be struggling from child abuse and a lack in safety. Programs that promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families are crucial to the security of our community. 

The Center for Family Strengthening strives to make positive systemic changes in the lives of families, understanding stronger families will bring up kids who are healthier and more resilient.

Bob and Pat Barlow understood how important early intervention is for children at risk for behavioral and mental health issues and their families, so in 2021 they set out to support a local children’s assessment center. The James Robert (Bob) and Patricia Barlow Fund for Strong Families and Communities – held at The Community Foundation –  awarded Martha’s Place Children’s Center with a grant through the Center for Family Strengthening in order to help strengthen families, prevent child abuse, and provide essential resources to support families in need within our community. Martha’s Place Children’s Assessment and Treatment Center allows children in SLO County to reach their full potential, to be loved, to be emotionally well developed and to enter school ready and able to learn. They give the most vulnerable young children a voice and a safe, stable environment in which to thrive. 

How do they do it?

Martha’s Place offers expert, multidisciplinary assessment of infants and young children who exhibit extreme behavioral concerns, developmental delays, and known prenatal substance exposure. Case Managers and Family Advocates guide families through the stressful process of accessing appropriate services, linking them to other recommended services, and providing additional information and support and generally navigate the complex mental and behavioral health systems. By working with the family and partnering with family support organizations throughout SLO County, they help families in need access appropriate services for their child, protect children from abuse, and ensure that strong families are a community priority. 

The Community Foundation is proud to serve as the connector between the James Robert (Bob) and Patricia Barlow Fund for Strong Families and Communities and Martha’s Place as they strive to make SLO County safe for all children. 

Welcome New Board Members

The Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County is proud to welcome two new members to its Board of Directors. Rick Williams and Rob Garcia both have extensive experience giving back to the community and serving on nonprofit boards.

Rick Williams

Rick Williams is the former CEO of the Sobrato Family Foundation and the founder and President of Realize Consulting Group. Rick also previously served as the Director of the Asset Funders Network and the National Programs Director of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. Additionally, Rick previously served as the Deputy Director of the Santa Clara County Mental Health Department and as an executive in several nonprofit organizations. 

Rick has served on many nonprofit boards and is currently the Vice Chair of Third Sector Capital Partners.  He also serves as a board member of the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County and Pivotal, the largest foster youth-serving organization in Silicon Valley.  Previously, Rick served as the Board Chair of Archbishop Mitty High School, and as a Board Member of Northern California Grantmakers, the National Council of Family Philanthropy, Fresh Lifelines for Youth, Silicon Valley Law Foundation, and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. 

Rick holds a master’s and bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University and Washington State University. He resides on the Central Coast of California with his wife of 36 years, Barb. He has a daughter who is working and living in Pittsburg and a son who is working and living in Silicon Valley.

Rob Garcia

Rob is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and has earned the Accredited Investment Fiduciary® professional designation from Fiduciary 360, receiving formal training in investment fiduciary responsibility. He also obtained a Certificate in Financial Planning from Boston University and holds FINRA Series 65 certification.

Rob graduated cum laude from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 1997 with a degree in Business Administration concentrating in Financial Management. Rob believes in giving back to the
community. He currently serves on the Cuesta College Foundation Board as well as their Finance Committee, the French Hospital Medical Center Foundation Finance Committee, and on the Board of Directors for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, CAPSLO. As a veteran, he has been a member of the American Legion Post 66 for
over 20 years.

Rob lives in Templeton, with his beautiful wife, Deb, his two sons, Brandon and Jakeb, and their golden-doodle, Jack. The Garcia family is often found on the tennis court, as all four enjoy the game, or headed out for a camping trip.

We thank outgoing Board members Mary Verdin and Jim Brabeck for their decade of service.

Jeff and Joan Buckingham of The Buckingham Family Charitable Fund

Jeff and Joan Buckingham have made SLO County their home and serve the community in a variety of meaningful ways that make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others. When Jeff Buckingham was a kid, he always dreamed of being a dairy farmer.  Luckily for him, Jeff found an enthusiastic partner in Joan and discovered that running a business and running a farm require the same traits of patience and stamina, knowing the landscape and helping others find their way. 

Jeff and Joan show their dedication to the community through random acts of kindness and direct involvement in community programs, projects, charitable contributions, and volunteering – including Jeff’s two-year term as president of The Community Foundation Board and his continued service as a Board member.  

Video courtesy of AMF Media Group SLO

The heart of the Buckingham’s commitment to serving those around them can be seen and felt in part of the family’s mission statement, “We are an inexhaustible source of contribution to our community and to our world.” With the Buckingham Family Charitable Fund, “we can look at our donations on an annual basis to make sure that our values match up with the donations.”

Jeff and Joan established The Buckingham Family Charitable Fund in 2021. As Jeff shared, “We decided to do this because we can take advantage of a larger charitable deduction by combining all of our giving over several years into a donor-advised fund.” As a member of the Board of The Community Foundation, having their own fund is also a way to learn more about the experience of Foundation donors. 

Jeff and Joan have two grown children and live off the grid on a ranch near Los Osos with an assortment of cows, dogs, cats, chickens, and many wild creatures.

5 Ways to Support Nonprofits

5 Ways to Support Nonprofits

The pandemic has been difficult on all organizations whether it be higher demand for services or having to close their doors. Over the past couple of years The Community Foundation has been asked by both donors and nonprofit leaders to share tips on how to support their favorite organizations. Below are following are five evergreen options for supporting nonprofits compiled by our very own Cassandra Wagner Kartashov, Director of Grants and Programs here at The Community Foundation.

1 Unrestricted Gifts 

Did you know that before the pandemic only 20% of funding for nonprofits in the United States had any degree of flexibility? Unrestricted gifts provide nonprofits with the ability to adapt to changing needs which has been more important than ever during the pandemic and will continue to be a need moving forward.

““…what we learned from the disaster was to trust the nonprofits to judge where they need to spend the funding” – Grantmaking Committee Member


2 Volunteer

Volunteerism is a tremendous resource as many nonprofits would not be able to conduct programs, raise funds or serve clients. Volunteering can also have positive impact on the volunteers mental health. If you are interested in volunteering you can contact your favorite nonprofit or check out Volunteer SLO for opportunities.



3 Give Grace

Nonprofits are usually understaffed even in the best of times. “The Great Resignation” has had a huge impact on local organizations. This may mean that your gift acknowledgement may not arrive in a timely manner or that the email you sent over a week ago has not been responded to. I recently heard from a beloved nonprofit leader that one of her donors decided to not make contributions to the organization any more after a new staff member failed to “properly greet” the donor. During these difficult times please remember to give a little extra grace.



4 Boost Morale

These past couple of years have been difficult on everyone. Our Board recently started provided treats for staff on multiple occasions which had a huge impact on staff morale and productivity. You’d be amazed by what a box of cupcakes can do to lift spirits.



5 Appreciation

I recently spoke with a nonprofit CEO who shared that she has one donor that writes a letter of appreciation with each gift they make to the organization. She shares the thank-you card with staff and then keeps them in a little box for days when she needs a pick-me-up. Letters of encouragement and thanks are validation of their hard work.

Donating to a charity using a qualified charitable distribution (QCD)

Note: The Community Foundation would like to thank Wayne Lewis, of Lewis Financial for providing the following article from the Fidelity Learning Center.

If you are looking to make a non-deductible donation to charity, you may want to consider a Qualified Charitable Distribution, or QCD.

If you are age 72 or older, IRS rules require you to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) each year from your tax-deferred retirement accounts.

A QCD is a direct transfer of funds from your IRA, payable directly to a qualified charity, as described in the QCD provision in the Internal Revenue Code. Amounts distributed as a QCD can be counted toward satisfying your RMD for the year, up to $100,000. The QCD is excluded from your taxable income. This is not the case with a regular withdrawal from an IRA, even if you use the money to make a charitable contribution later on. If you take a withdrawal, the funds would be counted as taxable income even if you later offset that income with the charitable contribution deduction.

Why is this distinction important? If you take the RMD as income, instead of as a QCD, your RMD will count as taxable income. This additional taxable income may push you into a higher tax bracket and may also reduce your eligibility for certain tax credits and deductions. To eliminate or reduce the impact of RMD income, charitably inclined investors may want to consider making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD). 

For example, your taxable income helps determine the amount of your Social Security benefits that are subject to taxes. Keeping your taxable income level lower may also help reduce your potential exposure to the Medicare surtax.

Am I eligible for QCDs?

In prior years, the rules that permitted QCDs required reauthorization from Congress each year, and those decisions were sometimes made late in the calendar year. With passage of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015, the QCD provision is now a permanent part of the Internal Revenue Code. This means you can plan your charitable giving and begin reviewing your tax situation earlier each year.

Tip: With the 2020 tax law changes, there’s 1 additional factor to consider: you may take advantage of the higher standard deduction ($12,400 for single filers, $24,800 if married and filing jointly). This means that if you claim the standard deduction, you won’t be allowed to itemize things like charitable donations. However, since QCDs are not includable in income, the QCD is also not deductible. As such, the QCD can remain an option for your charitable giving, even if you claim the standard deduction in a given year.

The rules of QCDs

A QCD must adhere to the following requirements:

  • You must be at least 70½ years old at the time you request a QCD. If you process a distribution prior to reaching age 70½, the distribution will be treated as taxable income.
  • For a QCD to count toward your current year’s RMD, the funds must come out of your IRA by your RMD deadline, which is generally December 31 each year.
  • Funds must be transferred directly from your IRA custodian to the qualified charity. This is accomplished by requesting your IRA custodian issue a check from your IRA payable to the charity. You can then request that the check be mailed to the charity or forward the check directly to the charity yourself.

    Note: If a distribution check is made payable to you, the distribution would NOT qualify as a QCD and would be treated as taxable income.
  • The maximum annual distribution amount that can qualify for a QCD is $100,000. This limit would apply to the sum of QCDs made to one or more charities in a calendar year. If you’re a joint tax filer, both you and your spouse can make a $100,000 QCD from your own IRAs.
  • The account types that are eligible for QCDs include: 
    • Traditional IRAs
    • Inherited IRAs
    • SEP IRA (inactive plans only*)
    • SIMPLE IRA (inactive plans only*)
  • Under certain circumstances, QCDs may be made from a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are not subject to RMDs during your lifetime, and distributions are generally tax-free. Consult a tax advisor to determine if making a QCD from a Roth is appropriate for your situation.
  • Certain charities are not eligible to receive QCDs, including donor-advised funds, private foundations, and supporting organizations. You are not allowed to receive any benefit in return for your charitable donation. For example, if your donation covers your cost of playing in a charitable golf tournament, your gift would not qualify as a QCD.

    NOTE: Though a QCD may not be placed directly into your donor-advised fund, The Community Foundation can still accept the QCD, place it in a holding fund, and distribute qualified grants based on your recommendations. 
  • Contributing to an IRA may result in a reduction of the QCD amount you can deduct.*

Tax filing for QCDs

A QCD is reported by your IRA custodian as a normal distribution on IRS Form 1099-R for any non-Inherited IRAs. For Inherited IRAs or Inherited Roth IRAs, the QCD will be reported as a death distribution. You should keep an acknowledgement of the donation from the charity for your tax records. Please consult a tax advisor to learn more.

For a better understanding of how QCDs can affect your taxable income, let’s consider a few hypothetical scenarios. Phil has been taking RMDs for the past few years, but this year he has decided to make a QCD. Phil did not make any non-deductible contributions to his IRA, so all of his distributions would be taxable:

If you are 72, own an IRA, and donate to charity, QCDs may make sense for you; consult a tax advisor regarding your specific situation.

Giving Back to the Most Beautiful Place on Earth

Bob and Pat Barlow loved living in San Luis Obispo County. Though they faced many misfortunes that kept many of their dreams from being realized, through hard work and frugality, they were able to save enough to live comfortably and to create a legacy that survives them. Many conversations with trusted advisors and close friends facilitated the planning needed to have a positive  impact on the causes they cared about. 

Pat was a child of the Depression.  She was born in San Luis Obispo in 1928 into a family with no means. Her dream was to be the perfect wife, mother, and homemaker. Though at the time of her passing, she had no family close by, she did have wonderful friends and neighbors. One such person was the daughter of her close neighbors. They stayed close for decades as the daughter cared for her parents through their own decline.  A deep mutual admiration formed. When the neighbors’ daughter was in her twenties, the Barlows asked her to be an “executor of last resort” and she agreed. Besides, what were the odds that all of those ahead on the list would be gone by the time she was needed?

By 2015, it became clear that Pat’s decades of planning paid off. The Executor helped Pat find a fiduciary in SLO to serve as backup, a trusted financial advisor protected her and her assets, and her longtime estate attorney made small revisions to refine her last wishes. While The Community Foundation was always a beneficiary, Pat realized that rather than supporting large national organizations, she could create a more personally meaningful impact by supporting local agencies addressing issues that concerned her, rather than contributing to large national organizations. She wanted to help people in the place she loved, especially those who faced some of the same challenges. 

Pat and her Executor were attracted to the variety of options offered by The Community Foundation. They appreciated that a trusted local partner would evaluate the recipients and present the best choices based on local need and Pat’s intentions. Bob and Pat would be happy to know that the fruits of their hard work are making a difference in their community. And the Executor feels deeply honored to serve as a link between Bob and Pat and the programs being supported. Having known Pat for more than 50 years, it was an emotional moment when she was able to see the Barlows’ values given new life.

As the Executor shared, “The flexibility is tremendous, the fee structure is reasonable,  and the personalization and care with which [The Community Foundation] continues to engage with me, makes this a wonderful relationship, not just a transaction.”

A Passion for Music: Clif and Jane Swanson

Clif and Jane Swanson have been integral members of the arts community in San Luis Obispo since 1967.  They met as music majors at Pomona College and moved to SLO when Clif became a professor in the music department at Cal Poly. After 57 years of marriage, they are still making beautiful music together to the benefit of all of SLO County. 

At Cal Poly, Clif was chair of the music department for 19 years, taught Music History, Music Appreciation, Conducting and has generally served as a force for music here in SLO. He served as conductor of the SLO Symphony for 13 years and was a founder of the Mozart Festival, which is now known as Festival Mozaic. He was involved in the design of the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly, involved in the decisions regarding acoustics and recording, and influential in bringing a world class pipe organ to the project. He has also been involved in the San Luis Obispo Master Chorale as President of the Board of Directors. Since his “retirement,” Clif has remained involved with many arts organizations when not busy with woodworking and DIY projects around their home.

After moving to SLO, Jane became involved in bringing awareness to environmental causes. She also taught in elementary schools for over 20 years, and was a performing musician for more than 58 years, playing the French Horn in most local orchestras, sometimes under Clif’s baton. She continues to teach private lessons to students of the horn to this very day.

Together Clif and Jane raised two children and today enjoy seven grandchildren ranging in ages from 10 to 26.

Clif and Jane were brought to The Community Foundation by a local estate attorney and close friend who shared many mutual interests, including sitting on the Boards of the Foundation for the Performing Arts Center and Mozart Festival. Because of their unique inside view of the needs of nonprofit performing arts organizations, Clif and Jane were looking for a vehicle to make charitable distributions from their estate. They set up a Testamentary Fund in 2005 to receive a contribution from their estate that will continue their support for local music performances. In 2020, the Swanson’s also opened a Donor Advised Fund to facilitate larger gifts beyond their regular charitable contributions, for specific needs that may arise while they are alive.  

Through their charitable funds, Clif and Jane Swanson are able to continue their legacy of support, both today and in the future, for the lifelong passion for music that first brought them together.

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Heidi H. McPherson Chief Executive Officer (805) 543-2323