I have a vague recollection of having once had a rabbit as a child, though I do not know whatever became of it. Family legend is that I had a knack for carrying cats around by the neck and they eventually ran away... maybe that was the unfortunate rabbit’s fate too.
However, I do have many a tale to share on many, many rabbit trails taken. Some of them ended in wasted time in the weeds searching for something or doing something entirely different than what I set out to do.
You have been there too, right? You head to your office to get a particular item, get distracted by an email or piece of literature, and end up on a completely different path. You are now cleaning out your infamous junk drawer or are reorganizing your documents, adding to your to-do list, or otherwise. Two hours later (or maybe days), you can’t remember why you went to your desk in the first place. Ahh yes, you were on a rabbit trail.
In most cases it seems, a rabbit trail leads nowhere in particular but on a rare occasion it leads you to a glorious carrot. This was the case last week in the SOREDI office. And it is really quite wonderful, timely, and relevant news for this week’s writing.
Nearly three years ago under the direction of then Board President Aaron Ausland, we set out to form a 501c3 non-profit and we scribbled out our map to guide the process (pictured) on our white board. The objective was to complement SOREDI’s primary scope of work as a regional economic development agency, a 501c4 non-profit, with a charitable sister foundation specifically focused on educational and entrepreneurial endeavors.
The primary difference and added benefit with a 501c3 designation is the opportunity to solicit and accept IRS-recognized charitable donations from foundations, interested partners, and the general public. We have actually missed out on a couple of opportunities to receive such charitable contributions over the years only due to our IRS filing status.
Last year, we used our partner economic development district CCD Business Corp to serve as our fiscal pass-through agent so that we could receive certain grant funding for our regular economic development activities. This included a $50,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation in June 2020. Currently, we are working again with CCD to receive a national grant from Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC). Both grants have provided SOREDI additional capacity in response to the pandemic with 90% of the first grant also being passed through to local chambers and businesses in the form of small grants.
As happens frequently for all of us, priorities shift, and we divert our attention to more critical activities. While we started our discussion about creating a foundation in 2018, it was not until early 2019 that we registered our SOREDI Foundation with the Secretary of State – fully intending of course to see it through a bit more quickly.
With an immediate ramp up shortly thereafter to work on our updated One Rogue Valley comprehensive strategy, we were at a rabbit crossing and our foundation efforts were temporarily set aside. Then in early 2020 with the strategy complete and a restructured staff, we were happily hopping back down the original path. However, the arrival of the pandemic became our next rabbit crossing. Nonetheless in mid-2020 we filed for the 501c3 status and put on our “patiently waiting” hats.
You may have thought that was the extent of this particular rabbit trail. But wait, there is more!
Last week we were looking for an IRS document related to SOREDI’s 501c4 IRS status. In what seemed like a deep-woods rabbit trail, we came across another IRS document that had been tucked away somehow without notice, probably while we were eating carrots in the break room.
I think I read that document three or four times to be certain it was indeed what I thought it was: a big, glorious carrot at the end of the trail.
Jumpin’ Jack Rabbits!
Dated November 20, 2020, I was looking at the official IRS notification that our SOREDI Foundation was approved for the 501c3 status!
We were hopping with glee to have happened across this important document that was inadvertently missed. We may have been slightly distracted last November in our flurry of grant administration activities, but no matter now … what a find!
Moral of this story: rabbit trails are not always a waste of time. This one led to a long awaited carrot and hope going forward for more opportunities to support timely economic development, educational, and entrepreneurial activities with charitable donations.
Ears up for more news to come on how you can participate in our fire relief fund for businesses impacted by the wildfires with your charitable IRS recognized contribution. Let’s make carrot soup!
Sincerely, Colleen Padilla