The head of the Fresno Regional Foundation, who led the philanthropic organization through a rebirth to become a leader in community grant-giving and donations, has announced that he will retire next year.
Dan DeSantis notified the board of directors about his desire to reduce his responsibilities and work schedule by spring 2014, the foundation said Wednesday in a news release.
"This coming April, I'll be 65-years-old," DeSantis said. "I was hired April 1, 2005. It will be my nine-year anniversary. That's a long time."
The retirement will allow DeSantis to spend more time with his family, he said. His wife, Kathy, retired earlier this year as the managing attorney in the Fifth District Court of Appeal. Their son Angelo and his wife, Molly -- who live in Davis -- are expecting their second child.
The board is putting together a search committee for a new chief executive. DeSantis said he has agreed to stay until the position is filled, and will work part-time after the new CEO is hired to continue strengthening the foundation's relationships with donors.
Connecting with the community is what DeSantis has always done best, board members say.
"He's always been excellent at promoting the vision of the foundation to various groups throughout the community," said Joan Eaton of Guarantee Real Estate, who was on the board of directors for six years. "He's been tireless. He's very high energy and devoted with a big heart for the community."
DeSantis spent 12 years as the chief executive officer of Sierra Kings District Hospital in Reedley before he was hired by Fresno County Superior Court in 1999 to create and run its first mediation program.
In 2005, the Fresno Regional Foundation hired DeSantis as its first chief executive to guide the failing organization in a new direction.
The foundation was established in 1966 to improve the quality of life in the San Joaquin Valley through philanthropy. When DeSantis was hired, the foundation had only about $15 million in assets and gave out less than $50,000 worth of grants to a handful of organizations, DeSantis said.
A research firm found that the foundation was in an area of great need, but was largely unknown in the community and was growing slowly compared to other community foundations.
DeSantis said he was under strict orders to turn the organization around. He brought high-profile Valley business people onto the board of directors and educated individual and corporate donors about investing their money in endowments with the foundation.
He also made sure the foundation was accredited, which was important for people to have trust in what the organization did, said board chairwoman Carole Anderson.
The foundation now has $57 million in assets, according to its 2012 financial report. Last year, it gave $1.2 million in competitive grants and $2 million in donor-guided funds to organizations from Merced and Mariposa counties in the north to Kings and Tulare counties in the south.
While DeSantis is proud of the financial growth of the foundation, he measures success a little differently.
"You don't measure success in dollar figures, but in the lives you affect," he said.
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