Foundations create community legacies

By Brian Lazzuri

Every organization is looking for a helping hand and a community foundation is one way to meet fundraising needs now and forever said Linda Hart during the Georgetown Conference Rural Redefined. Hart spoke about community foundations during the conference’s rural community builders’ circles Oct. 5.

The former executive director of the Beautiful Plains Community Foundation (BPCF) in Neepawa, M.B. said foundations allow donors to give to registered charity, builds endowment funds, distributes grants and provides leadership in a community.

“In a small community every little amount helps,” Hart said. “Maybe this little bit of money allows an organization to get through a down year and then the next year and the years after that they are fine.”

Donations to a community foundation can be designated for specific charity such as a hospital or museum, or be given to support organizations in the wider community. The donations are invested with earnings being given out as grants.

In Neepawa, the community foundation began in 1995 with $28,000 and has grown to $2.8 million in 2013. More than $1.3 million in grants have been given throughout the years. This year designated funds provided more than $45,000 in grants while undesignated funds distributed $35,000. Designated funds receive grants each year while community groups can apply for grants from undesignated funds.

“The reason the foundation started was that the government grants were getting to be less and less,” Hart said. “Foundations allow a community to have its own source of funds to help organizations.”

Hart said the foundation benefits the entire community because they supplement grants available, charities with designated funds receive annual support and they serve as a local source of funding that gives grants only in the Neepawa area.

The BPCF is just one of 190 community foundations that exist in Canada. While Manitoba has 50 such organizations, Atlantic Canada has far fewer with New Brunswick leading the way with six. Nova Scotia has two while Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island have just one each. Community Foundations of Canada serves as an umbrella organization for these groups which distribute more than $154 million annually.

Hart said the BPCF also teaches youth about philanthropy. Each year the foundation gives a grant of $2,500 to its youth advisory committee. These high school students give grants to organizations they want to support.

Establishing a community foundation takes a lot of work but is well worth the effort Hart said. Having a strong board willing to approach wealthy individuals, organizations willing to establish designated funds, service groups willing to hold fundraisers and businesses offering continued support are all important factors.

“You have to get money coming into the endowment fund,” Hart said. “A key thing is to let people know money given to a foundation means you are giving a gift in perpetuity. It is about leaving a legacy.”

While structures may vary from province to province and from group to group, foundations usually have a grants committee which evaluates applications and an investment committee looking after the endowments funds in a fiscally responsible way.

Many foundations use a wealth management company which charge nominal fees to oversee the funds. With a strong investment policy, Hart said most endowments are able to earn interest and give back to community each year.

“We are supporting the community organizations that cannot do it on their own,” Hart said. “The community knows there is a source of funding for the projects they think are important.”