Meet Tamara Gurney

Tamara is the President and CEO of Mission Valley Bank, and has worked with the Community Foundation of the Valleys for ten years. Learn more about how she inspires generosity in the Valleys!

Why did you choose to open a donor advised fund with CFV?

I chose to do that for a few reasons, I was trying to market the Community Foundation to business owners as a way to be philanthropic and keep their money local. To me, it was a way to carve out some funds toward philanthropy without making an immediate decision as to where the money  would go, but to build up financial resources to ultimately over time distribute money.

At that time the foundation was young, and in need of operating funds, so to put a DAF there, it was going to earn interest that was going to continue growing and be part of the resources for the foundation to continue its work.

What are your charitable interests, or specific nonprofits that you’re passionate about?

I was a single mother many, many years ago. There was not an organization at that time that I was aware of that helped young girls in that situation. Single Mothers Outreach is one that I have supported. My interest, from a charitable standpoint, usually centers around children and children’s services. I have been very active with the Boys and Girls Club both in Santa Clarita and in the West Valley. I also have contributed to Hope in the Valley and to MEND. That’s for the most part where my passions lie.

What do you think are the important qualities of giving local, specifically to the San Fernando and the Santa Clarita Valleys?

Having lived here almost my entire life, this is an area I am very passionate about. I am very tuned in to the fact that the San Fernando Valley is a region where there is wealth that’s been generated, and it’s going to be passed down. We’re at a point where a lot of wealth is going to be transitioned to the next generation, and what I commonly see is that even people who work and live in the San Fernando Valley tend to donate to charities that are not local. They will support, for example, a women’s center on the west side, and they raised over a million dollars. A women’s facility or women’s shelter in the San Fernando Valley would struggle to even get $100,000. It just seemed to me that we pay our taxes and it seems like a lot of our tax money is going to the west side to make their roads pristine and we have potholes. My message to business owners is that your tax money is not going to create an environment where you want to raise a family, where you want to work, where you want to play. You’re going to have to take some responsibility and ownership, and the way to do that, in my opinion, is to put your money here locally in the Valley to support nonprofits that strengthen the quality of life here. 

As a business owner, can you talk about the importance, or the special position that business owners might be in to see and support their community through  a specific lens? 

Business owners sometimes tend to see problems with their environment and not relate them to their business. What I try to do is to translate these issues, so for example, if you’re running a business and there’s a homeless encampment in front of your facilities, it could detract from your company’s ability to continue operation or to be financially successful. So then it becomes a business issue, not just a personal or a community issue, necessarily. It’s not just a cause that you might want to donate a few dollars to, it’s actually something that you have to have resolved or your business isn’t going to be successful. 

Also, when business owners transition, I try to reach out to accountants and financial planners to let them know, when you have a client who’s selling their business, their mindset is “how do I avoid paying a lot of taxes?” Well, why don’t we educate them that there’s a way to do that and be philanthropic at the same time. It can make you feel good on two fronts. I really feel like the core importance of CFV to me is to connect both individuals and businesses that have the financial wherewithal to be philanthropic and to educate them on why it’s important to support nonprofits.  It’s really a conduit to connect them together so that we can build a better environment together.

What hopes do you have for your neighborhood and the Valleys as a whole?

A big drive for me is that the San Fernando Valley gets the financial recognition that it deserves because it is certainly an engine of economic vitality for the entire region. It’s an area that is very vital and important, but the nonprofit sector suffers from a lack of resources. It’s a disparate distribution of money to create a better environment. I would love to walk out the door and not see homeless people in my parking lot, and not worry about my staff walking out after hours. I don’t know if this homeless person that’s here has a mental health issue. I would love to see good things happen where those folks have treatment and housing opportunities. Another kind of sticking point for me is teaching them skills so they are self-sustaining. So we’ve got to have a holistic approach to this, and that’s just part of the educational process. That’s what I’d like to see when I walk out the door, is this community thriving and flourishing with people who have an opportunity to continue to live, thrive in the environment and give back.