Money That Matters, Featuring VCCF CEO Vanessa Bechtel

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(Photo by T Christian Gapen) As president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, Vanessa Bechtel is working to bring together donors, nonprofits and people in need to find workable solutions to the issues facing our community.

Vanessa Bechtel steers the economic engine of charitable giving.

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Vanessa Bechtel loves the violin. She has played since she was a child, and it’s been a constant source of joy and inspiration to her. It was also her first introduction to philanthropy. “At two years old, I was gifted a violin and lessons,” she says, explaining that an anonymous donor paid for instruments and lessons for all the children at her preschool who, like Bechtel, came from low-income families. In many ways, that violin charted the course of her life. It helped her excel academically, acting as a “catalyst” for getting into college, where she earned her B.A. at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and later an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. It also helped her earn money busking on city streets or playing in restaurants. But that violin’s most profound impact, perhaps, was teaching Bechtel the power such a charitable gift can have. “Everything wonderful in my life came from learning to play the violin,” she says. “I’ve never stopped being grateful.”

Vanessa Bechtel

Playing the violin in downtown Ventura (on an instrument made in 1787), Bechtel recalls the busking days of her youth. A violin she was gifted as a child served as a catalyst for change. “It was a ticket to my future,” Bechtel says. “Everything wonderful in my life came from learning to play the violin.

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