Challenges Ahead for Pasadena Nonprofits Along Defunct Freeway Route, Who Must Raise Big Money to Stay Put

Fundraising takes a new turn for six local nonprofits

Published : Friday, April 12, 2019 | 5:30 AM

Ryan McDaniel, director of advancement at the Sequoyah School in Pasadena, faces a new and arguably unique challenge. Courtesy Photo

Ryan McDaniel, director of advancement at the Sequoyah School in Pasadena, faces a new and arguably unique challenge.

A veteran in educational fundraising, McDaniel has run many capital campaigns in his career. But for the first time, he’s raising an unknown sum of money with no set goal and an uncertain timeline, in order for his school to remain at a campus it’s already inhabited for 60 years.

A proposed California law, SB 7, which passed a state Senate committee Tuesday, would allow nonprofits Sequoyah School, Ronald McDonald House, Cottage Co-Op Nursery School, Waverly School Organic Garden and the Arlington Garden to purchase their properties from Caltrans along the now defunct 710 Freeway extension route for below current market rate and to continue in place.

“It’s important that after 60 years we stay here,” McDaniel said. “But we’re trying to raise money without knowing what the final number is going to be. Other campaigns I’ve done before have always had solid goals.”

It’s a tricky situation for all the nonprofits located near the stub of the 710 Freeway in Pasadena.

The new bill is another in a series of steps to kill any plan to extend the freeway through Pasadena and governs the disposition of land taken by Caltrans through eminent domain decades ago.

Written by Pasadena-area representative State Senator Anthony Portantino, SB 7 would enable nonprofit organizations to have the opportunity to buy the land they inhabit for a discounted price.

But so far no one has any idea of when or for how much.

The fact that Sequoyah School has historic buildings and has been in the same location for six decades is an important factor in a fundraising campaign that takes a preemptive stance.

“We celebrated our 60th anniversary in February, so we had a big party and it lined up perfectly with the opportunity to buy the campus,” McDaniel said. “Everyone’s really excited, and for me to come in this year with all this happening is pretty exciting.”

Representatives of Pasadena nonprofits flew to Sacramento this week and pose with State Senator Anthony Portantino (third from right) as a legislature committee considered SB 7, which would allow the nonprofits to purchase the property they occupy and stay in place. Photo courtesy of Sequoyah School

McDaniel is a second-generation education fundraiser. His father is head of a school back East and McDaniel said he’s admittedly a “faculty kid.” It’s his first year at Sequoyah School, where he’s been working for 10 months, and he, too, is getting an education.

“We’re going public with a goal that’s $6 million-plus,” he said. “And the ‘plus’ is the most important thing. Because we don’t know what the final price will be, we have to choose a goal and try and raise as much as we can. The reason the ‘plus’ is there is because we’re doing a unique campaign where we truly don’t know how much money we’re going to need to raise.”

McDaniel said in a case like this, where the nonprofits are blessed with an opportunity, but one that is so far hazy on details, it’s important to plan for additional costs beyond buying the building, such as deferred maintenance.

He said most private schools and non-profit organizations have challenges covering expenses and underscore the need for reaching out to the community for financial assistance.

“I have to make sure that the annual fund makes up the difference the tuition cannot cover,” he said. “And for this specifically, this would be to run a capital campaign to raise money to purchase the campus once Caltrans puts it up for sale. ”

He said nobody can be sure $6 million will cover the purchase cost, but the school is going to do everything it can to buy the campus. He said the right of first refusal which the nonprofits have been granted with SB 7 is important and he like the other organizations’ representatives says he is grateful to Sen. Anthony Portantino for his advocacy.

Sequoyah School isn’t letting any grass grow in its effort to continue in its long-standing home. The school already launched its capital campaign and fundraising efforts.

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