A History of Our Foundation.

from Your Friendly Neighborhood San Juan County Master Gardener Foundation

On our About page, you might have read a little about the San Juan County Master Gardener Foundation. So what is the SJCMGF anyway? We have been hearing a lot of questions and thought it a good time to describe the Foundation and hopefully provide some answers.

A Little Background.
The San Juan County Master Gardener Foundation (SJCMGF) is a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to raise funds to support the San Juan County Master Gardener Program of Washington State University (WSU). The Foundation is a separate and distinct organization from the master gardener program. Like all non-profit organizations, the SJCMGF has a board of directors that administers the Foundation’s tasks. The board sets policies, develops an annual budget, initiates fund raising efforts, disburses and monitors expenditures, is the liaison with the Washington State Master Gardener Foundation, files necessary tax information, and insures the Foundation’s adherence to state and federal regulations. (For a list of our current board of directors, please see here.) The board meets quarterly on the second Tuesday of January, April, July, and October, unless otherwise changed.

Active master gardeners, current year trainees, master gardeners emeritus, WSU Cooperative Extension staff, and other persons who enrich the objectives of the master gardener program are all eligible to become members of the Foundation. Foundation members may attend and participate in Board meetings and may vote on activities affecting the Foundation as a whole. (Note: WSU regulations prohibit the Foundation from automatically enrolling master gardeners as Foundation members; MGs as well as all potential members are required to complete a membership form.) Not every master gardener joins the SJCMGF but the organization could not function without the involvement of the master gardeners of San Juan County.

What We Do.
The SJCMGF primarily raises funds with two activities: the annual Native Plant Sale and the bi-annual Spring Gardening Workshop. The Foundation has also received grants from individuals and other non-profits. For example, the Demonstration Garden on San Juan Island could not have been developed without the generous support of individuals and the San Juan Community Foundation. Numerous master gardeners have donated items to the raffle held at the Spring Gardening Workshop and books to the master gardener library as well as materials needed for these two events.

The money raised by the Foundation is used exclusively to further the mission of the master gardener program in San Juan County. The general fund supports some administration costs of our local WSU master gardener office, the diagnostic clinic, the master gardener booth at the San Juan County Fair, scholarships for master gardeners to the annual Washington State Master Gardener Conference, community workshops and speakers, the Native Plant Sale, the Spring Gardening Workshop, and specific funds available to Orcas, Lopez, and San Juan Island master gardeners to spend locally for their respective activities.

Moving Forward.
The Foundation was formed in 2002 to organize the Spring Gardening Workshop because WSU regulations prevented the master gardener program from charging fees for the Workshop. The directors of the original Foundation board overlapped with the leadership of the master gardener program because there were so few master gardeners in San Juan County. This overlap created a lot of confusion about the dividing line between the Foundation and the master gardener program.

Historically the Foundation was a very informal organization. The board met as needed — which meant it met often when planning the Spring Gardening Workshop but rarely the rest of the year. There never was a general meeting of the membership. The budget was small and handled mostly via email with the treasurer. Things changed a bit in 2008 when the MG program assumed responsibility for the Native Plant Sale (which had previously been run by the San Juan County Conservation District). Suddenly there was more money in the budget. Things changed again when the San Juan County MGF became a dependent chapter of the Washington State Master Gardener Foundation in 2009; our accounting practices were sharpened and we could now accept donations directly rather than having to process them through WSU. And in recent years, the SJCMGF, led by the board of directors, has evolved into a more formal organization. Quarterly Board meetings are held. A new round of membership solicitation was done. The by-laws have been reviewed and a first round of revisions approved. With growing numbers of volunteers in the master gardener program and new directors on the board, the SJCMGF Board no longer overlaps with leadership in MG programs. A general membership meeting is scheduled in January, 2014.

One other change is in the future. The San Juan County Master Gardener Foundation will apply for incorporation as a WA state non-profit corporation and for 501(c)(3) exempt status with the IRS. We no longer qualify as a dependent chapter of the Washington State MGF because our gross income (not our net) has been over $10,000.00 the last three years. Our current Treasurer is leading a committee of board directors and Foundation members which will guide this process and the application.

If you’ve got questions about the SJCMGF or our Board, please contact Nancy Forker, the board liaison. She’ll relay your questions to the appropriate board member to answer. Thanks!

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