One San Diego, the charity Kevin Faulconer helped launch soon after he was elected San Diego mayor, substantially increased its revenue last year as spending on events and programs plummeted.
According to the nonprofit’s 2017 tax filing, One San Diego collected just under $452,000 for the year, a boost of almost 22 percent or more than $80,000 over the prior year.
In the same period, the organization spent $103,000 on events and programs, a decline of more than $60,000 or 37 percent from 2016. One San Diego also reported fundraising expenses of nearly $52,000, a 58 percent increase over the previous year, records show.
Executive Director Dena DeSarro, an independent contractor who was paid $60,000 last year, said the charity is dedicated to promoting business and building community throughout the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
“One San Diego supports the interests of neighborhoods citywide by expanding educational opportunities for local youth, empowering small business and entrepreneurs to succeed and supporting programs that create stronger neighborhoods through community engagement and beautification of public spaces,” she said in a statement.
Another cause the charity remains committed to is directly supporting the Mayor’s Office, the tax filing notes.
The designation is notable because Faulconer continues to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the nonprofit from donors, many of whom have business relationships with the city.
DeSarro said the charity recognizes that public agencies have limited resources, so One San Diego works to support those efforts through donation drives and philanthropic giving to support such needs as temporary shelters for the homeless.
“For example, the Mayor’s Office spearheaded the temporary bridge shelters, but with the need for homeless services being so great, One San Diego stepped in with a donation drive to provide hygienic items and other materials to homeless men and women using the shelter,” she said.
Last year, Faulconer reported $418,000 in solicited donations to One San Diego, according to public disclosures. Through July of this year, he reported $275,000 in additional contributions, which are known as behested payments.
Since Faulconer took over the Mayor’s Office in 2014, he has solicited almost $2.5 million in behested payments from dozens of sources, including San Diego Gas & Electric, Walmart, Wells Fargo, Sycuan and Bosa Development.
Nearly half of that has been earmarked for One San Diego, records show.
Mayoral spokesman Greg Block said Faulconer focuses most of his charitable fundraising on One San Diego because it promotes job fairs in underserved neighborhoods, provides backpacks to needy students, laptops to after-school programs and Thanksgiving turkeys to hungry families, among other activities.
“Mayor Faulconer is thankful for the donor contributions that have made these community investments possible,” Block said in a statement. “The mayor plans to continue to encourage individuals and companies to support worthy causes that improve our city.”
Carl Luna, who teaches political science at Mesa College, said charitable donations, like their political counterparts, are generally made by people with specific purpose in mind.
“People give money to make themselves feel good, but they also give money to gain something — status in the community, to make yourself feel good, but also because it puts you in the right group of people, which can help you in business and in politics,” he said.
The rise in behested payments solicited by Faulconer “tell me that class and money still help you gain greater access to power in San Diego in 2018,” Luna said.
The One San Diego tax filing states part of its mission is “supporting the organization of the Mayor’s Office.” The group’s founding documents say it may spend donations on polling, receptions, furniture, search firms and employee training and development.
“The corporation will be closely related to the city of San Diego, insofar as one of the corporation’s purposes is to relieve the city of the costs and burden of conducting activities on behalf of the Office of the Mayor,” the documents state.
One San Diego has made a significant financial turnaround due to the escalating donations.
In 2016, the nonprofit spent almost $14,000 more than it took in and closed out the year with barely $2,700 in assets. By the end of last year, expenses had been cut by more than $70,000 and the organization ended the year with assets of $137,000.
While fundraising expenses climbed significantly, other spending was more conservative.
Legal costs, for example, sank from more than $11,000 in 2016 to less than $1,500, according to the latest tax filing. Office expenses dropped from $3,346 to just $484 and bank fees dipped from about $1,800 to $884.
In 2016, the charity donated $65,000 — $25,000 to the La Jolla Playhouse and $40,000 to Saved in America, an Oceanside nonprofit that helps track down missing children.
Last year, One San Diego donated $69,388, including $30,000 to the local Girl Scouts chapter and $26,888 to the San Diego Parks and Recreation Department. The rest was not required to be disclosed because they were donated increments below $5,000.
The nonprofit board includes Lani Lutar, a lobbyist and former president of the local taxpayers association; Ruben Barrales, a political consultant and former chamber of commerce president; media executive Margarita Wilder and accountant Delores Chavez.
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