New CEO to join Community Foundation SLO County

clambert@thetribunenews.comMarch 20, 2014 

Heidi McPherson


One of the first tasks for the new chief executive officer of the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County is to help the nonprofit reassess needs in the community and increase opportunities for charitable giving.

To do so, Heidi McPherson, who starts May 5, will draw on her extensive experience as founding president of a Pennsylvania-based organization focused on philanthropic support for women and girls.

“I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to know the folks who are really committed to making a difference,” McPherson, 57, said in a phone interview.

McPherson will come to San Luis Obispo County from Lafayette, Calif., where she has been consulting with the Women’s Funding Network in San Francisco.

She previously served 16 years as founding president for the Fund for Women and Girls, a foundation that grew out of the Chester County Community Foundation in Pennsylvania.

In McPherson, directors with the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County found the qualities they were looking for — someone with a high level of integrity, energy and a vision for moving the organization forward, interim CEO Claire Clark said.

Established in 1998, the foundation has provided more than $26 million in grants to support arts and culture, education, and health and human services. The foundation also distributes annual scholarships. In 2012, it distributed 421 grants valued at nearly $5.8 million.

Its current strategic plan is more than five years old, said board President Ann Robinson, and board members feel it’s time to broaden the organization’s outreach in the community — though they still have to define what that means.

“We came to the point where it’s time to look a little broader about how we might take a little more leadership role in the community,” Robinson said. “And with her expertise in doing those things, it gives us an opportunity to step back and say what’s our next direction and how do we serve the community even better.”

Added Clark: “We believe she will give the board guidance to grow the foundation to the next level,” meaning growing its endowment from about $36 million — where it now stands — to $50 million.

McPherson succeeds former CEO Barry VanderKelen, who had been with the foundation since 2007 and saw its endowment grow by 40 percent under his leadership.

Clark declined to specify McPherson’s salary. But according to the foundation’s annual reporting return filed in 2012, VanderKelen earned $117,185 annually.

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