Q&A With Matt Magallanes, Co-Founder of The Westhaven Foundation

Matt Magallanes is a co-founder and current President of the Westhaven Foundation. In this Q&A, he explains why they formed it and how the organization improves the quality of life for residents at Southern Land Company’s flagship community.

SLC: Why did you originally start the Westhaven Foundation?

MM: Two other residents and I wanted to prepare for when Southern Land Company exited the development. Southern Land Company was fostering and funding an active lifestyle, high standards of beauty and quality amenities. We had witnessed many communities drop their standards when the developers exited. Communities can abandon the original vision and lose HOA financial support for the fundamentals.  We believed a community foundation could maintain the vision by supporting a culture of involvement. That it is the responsibility of the homeowners to lead this effort separately from the developer and the HOA.

What types of community-building activities does the foundation support?

We fund the arts, life-long education, activities and volunteerism. One thing we do to make life better is promote key social events, such as the Memorial Day picnic, concerts and our amazing Halloween festival, Witchaven. Residents take responsibility for all the planning, volunteering, and expenses. The foundation provides the funds and promotes the events, which now come together organically without HOA staff support. This process keeps residents connected and promotes a culture of responsibility.

Does the foundation do other charitable work?

Yes. We are a catalyst organization that inspires volunteerism and community involvement that extends outside of the Westhaven community. We are substantial supporters of local public schools and other organizations located primarily in Williamson County. For example, in 2016 we will have donated about $15,000 to Williamson County Schools and the Franklin Special School District. We also donate about $100,000 per-year towards cancer research at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

What do you mean by a catalyst organization?

We want to nurture others to volunteer and donate.  We do this by encouraging and helping residents succeed in their own volunteering efforts. The Foundation provides a recognized platform upon which grass-roots fundraising efforts from within the community can build. We offer organizers a set of tools to improve their results.  First, we team as the legal non-profit entity and financial vehicle. We also provide essential tools, such as donor communications and web pages – all at no charge. For example, our local high school needed to raise funds for new band uniforms. In addition to a cash donation, we assisted in organizing a fundraising concert. We provided event consultation, helped rally donors and volunteers and helped arrange sponsorships and substantial matching funds.  They did most of the heavy lifting, but we helped them exceed their goal. It was a great success and lots of fun.

How have you structured the Foundation to be sustainable?

We thought about this long and hard. To start, Southern Land Company donated $20,000 for the legal fees, consulting and launch. We hired the Seaside Institute, a recognized community foundation consulting firm, to help define our mission and charter. They visited Westhaven and conducted resident visioning sessions and assisted in planning for the long term. By getting solid stakeholder input, we positioned the foundation for the long term.

We were fortunate the HOA documents already included terms to permit the creation of a community charitable foundation. This foresight provided a base level of funding from property transfer fees. However, the foundation raises the vast majority of funds from our fundraising events. Being a volunteer-led organization we spend only about 3% of annual revenues on administrative expenses.

One aspect I can’t stress enough is how important it is to be a certified 501(c) (3) non-profit that serves extensively outside of our own residential community. This gives our residents and others the confidence to donate and to get involved. The first step in building communities for the long term is to foster residents’ pride in the community.  Helping others is a great way to bring people together in the name of the community.  We believe this underpins the original vision for the future.