Foundation seeds region with $5 million | SierraSun.com

Foundation seeds region with $5 million

Paul Raymore

Just over two years ago, the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation had stewarded more than $500,000 dollars to nonprofits throughout the region. At the time, the foundation’s board members were pleased that the three-year-old organization had been able to make such an impact.Two years later that impact has been magnified tenfold, as the foundation recently announced that it has passed the $5 million mark in distributing funds to nonprofit organizations in the Truckee/North Lake Tahoe area.”This is a milestone for us at the Community Foundation. We’ve helped steward over $5 million into the region over the past five to six years, and we think that’s noteworthy,” said Lisa Dobey, president of TTCF.Founded in 1998 with a $1 million donation from Hewlett-Packard co-founder William Hewlett, the foundation has quickly grown from just a dream in the minds of a couple local residents to a respected organization that distributed over $1 million within the local community during the last fiscal year.”We tapped into a need in the community and there were a lot of folks who saw the foundation as a vehicle they could steward their money through,” said Roger Kahn, a TTCF board member. “Especially the second homeowner community. Before we existed, it’s questionable how much money they put in here. So a lot of that money is new money that wouldn’t have come in if not for the community foundation.”$7.5 million strongTapping into the willing donors who are interested in local philanthropy has yielded an endowment of $7.5 million currently under management by the foundation. That’s important, according to Dobey, because the endowment ensures that money will always be available to respond to community needs, even if those needs change in the future.”We may not know 100 years from now what the issues and needs of this region will be, but we know that because people today care enough about the community to invest in it, there will be dollars available to respond to whatever needs might be there,” she said.Donors to the foundation can either establish a fund with foundation and then direct where the proceeds are used within the community, or they can choose to allow the foundation’s grants committee to select where their money goes. The grants committee is a group of volunteers trained to evaluate and help respond to the needs of local nonprofit organizations. According to Dobey, the committee’s knowledge of the community is one of the biggest draws for donors who may not know enough about local needs to be able to decide how best to spend their money. That, combined with the familiarity many second homeowners have with community foundations in the Bay Area or elsewhere, gives the foundation access to funding that otherwise would not be available.”I always liked the analogy of an hourglass,” said Phil McKenney, who chairs the committee. “You’ve got all these people who are willing to give funds to the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, and then we distribute it back out to the community. But if we weren’t here, if that link didn’t exist, particularly with the second homeowners and people who live in the Bay Area, these are funds that we would never see.”This $5 million dollars, we might have seen five percent of that if it hadn’t been for this foundation.”Spirit of cooperationGreater fundraising capability is one advantage the foundation brings to the community. Just as important, according to the organization’s staff and the nonprofit organizations they work with, is the spirit of cooperation that exists among the different groups.Seana Doherty, one of the founding members of Truckee’s KidZone Museum, summed up the KidZone’s relationship with the community foundation: “They don’t just fund programs for us, they’ve been more of a partner.””Just knowing that they were there for our support, both moral and financial, really helped us out in the beginning,” she said.That sentiment was echoed by Melanie Kauffman, the executive director of the Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council, which focuses on raising awareness of seniors’ issues in the Lake Tahoe-Truckee region.The Seniors Council was formed in July 2001, when the provider of the local Meals on Wheels program abruptly pulled out of their contract. Facing a crisis situation where seniors in Truckee and Tahoe City were left without food, the community foundation stepped in to support the formation of the Seniors Council. The council took over the Meals on Wheels program and helped the fledgling nonprofit secure its first critical grant funding.”They are a part of the community. They understand the dynamics that make up our region – the demographics, the issues,” Kauffman said. “I feel comfortable calling them and getting honest, supportive feedback.”That support doesn’t always take the form of grant money, according to Kahn.”We often run into instances where a nonprofit will make a [funding] request, and we’ll go back to them and say ‘We don’t feel comfortable funding you because your board is not strong enough at this point in time,'” he said. “But then we go to the next step and say ‘Here’s how we can help you form a stronger board.'”That kind of support has helped the KidZone grow from an inexperienced start-up into the Truckee-Donner Chamber of Commerce’s Nonprofit of the Year last year.Calling all volunteersThat same spirit of providing a broad range of assistance to local nonprofits underlies the foundation’s latest effort – the Tahoe Truckee Volunteer Connection. The new entity strives to match willing volunteers with nonprofits in the region who need their skills.Response to the Volunteer Connection effort has been good so far, Dobey said, in large part because many people in the community who may not have the financial means to donate still want to make a difference.Overall, those involved with the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation have been pleasantly surprised with the amount of money they’ve been able to raise and distribute to worthy causes throughout the region.It’s the difference between charity and philanthropy, said Dobey, summarizing Breeze Cross’s remarks at a recent foundation advisory meeting.”This region has always been very generous in charity – in writing out the $50 check for whatever. But what the Community Foundation is bringing to the region is philanthropy, and really helping people understand how you can use resources to benefit the community on a large-scale, comprehensive way.”For more information on the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, see their Web site at http://www.ttcf.net.Statistics:Dollars awarded to local organizations: $5,318,955Total number of grants awarded: 606Number of organizations that have received grants: 219Dollars stewarded to organizations outside the region: $49,888 Dollars granted to organizations outside the country: $2,500Immediate goals of the TTCF: Meet a $500,000 match pledge from Fred and Barbara Ilfeld to establish a Nature Fund that will support hands-on projects to improve the local environment (e.g. stream restoration, etc.). Establish a network of volunteers willing to donate their time and expertise to local nonprofits through the TTCF’s Volunteer Connection program.