Fulfilling Donor Intent and Stewarding Legacy

In 2014 the Community Foundation gave out approximately $10 million dollars in grants on behalf of our donors. About 80% of that amount was given through the generosity of individual donors and 20% was distributed from legacy gifts through Community Foundations’ grants programs.

While you’re already familiar with the work of your Philanthropic Planning team, you might not know as much about the Community Foundation’s grants programs. The Programs department holds the great honor of stewarding the charitable legacy of donors who entrusted the Community Foundation, as experts in our local community, to address issues and support effective nonprofits on their behalf.

Nearly all of our funds came to us with certain language from the donor defining how they would like the funds to be spent. In some cases the intent is broad, such as wanting to support homelessness; in other cases the donors are passionate about a very specific issue, such as providing services for people with breast cancer. After carefully reviewing the intent of each fund, similar funds are grouped into the broad categories that form our five fields of interest: Arts and Culture, Animal Welfare, Health and Human Services, Environment, and Education.

The Programs team then seeks to maximize the impact of our donors’ funds by aligning them with the appropriate type of grantmaking, either competitive or initiative.

Our competitive grants programs include Basic Human Needs, Arts Education, Small Grants for the Arts, and Environmental Education. With these programs, a federally-designated, charitable organization whose mission and services align with Community Foundation priorities submits a funding application to one of our grant programs. The application is evaluated by our Programs staff and Community Investment Committee, whose recommendations are approved by our board. We seek to create grants processes that are right-sized for both nonprofits and the Community Foundation, so we create a competitive grants program when we have funding sufficiently large enough that the effort of applying is appropriate to the amount available to award.

When the intent of a donor’s fund is very specific or the Community Foundation is engaged in an initiative, we will invite organizations to apply for grants. In this way the Community Foundation provides leadership in more effectively resolving community issues through convening and partnering with organizations, field experts, community groups, and civic leaders. We have been involved in many initiatives over our thirty year history; here are a few recent examples:

“Love Me Fix Me” Animal Welfare Program: Thanks to the generous bequest of Victor Salatko in 2003, the Community Foundation was able to create a new field of interest for Animal Welfare. We convened the leaders of animal welfare agencies in Sonoma County to identify the most pressing needs to support animals in our community. Collectively, these agencies recommended supporting a spay/neuter program for dogs and cats. Through the Salatko Animal Welfare Fund, the Community Foundation has supported the development and implementation of the large-scale and highly effective Love Me/Fix Me initiative for low-income families to spay/neuter their beloved pets. This program has created a new level of collaboration among the agencies, who are now working closely together for the benefit of our animal population in Sonoma County.

Early Childhood Education Initiative: In 2014 Community Foundation Sonoma County launched a three-year Early Childhood Education Initiative focused on parent engagement in early literacy. This initiative supports the countywide collective impact initiative Cradle to Career’s Goal Area 1: Every child enters kindergarten ready to succeed. Community Foundation is the lead agency of the Cradle to Career Parent Engagement working group, and we are investing in three key areas: increasing families’ access to books, dual-generation early childhood education programs, and raising awareness about the importance of reading to children through our literacy campaign.

Fresh Food Initiative: In the midst of the Great Recession, more and more Sonoma County residents needed help to meet their most basic needs –like feeding their families. In response, Community Foundation Sonoma County launched a five-year initiative to bolster the capacity of our local food bank to supply produce to food pantries and agencies throughout the county. A combination of Community Foundation grants and challenge grants from Donor Advised Funds enabled the Redwood Empire Food Bank to purchase and distribute several million pounds of additional fresh food each year to more than 175 member agencies, at no charge. During this time the Food Bank also launched a capital campaign to build new facilities, and Community Foundation donors provided $1.4 million dollars toward the effort. This partnering of programmatic and capital campaign support significantly strengthened the Food Bank’s core capacity to supply fresh, healthy food to the county’s neediest residents. This seven-year initiative ends in 2016.

All grantees submit final reports to the Community Foundation, which are carefully reviewed by the Programs staff. Our team frequently conducts site visits to deepen our knowledge of our grantees’ work, and ensure that the funds are being stewarded in alignment with their proposal and the donor’s intent. To learn more about the Community Foundation’s grants programs, please contact our Vice President for Programs, Karin Demarest at 707-303-9621.

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