How The Martin County Community Foundation Is Working To Benefit Local Nonprofits, Thanks To A Generous Gift
After nearly three decades of cultivating the growth of charitable causes, the Martin County Community Foundation is ready to “make it rain” for a select few non-profits.
You’re wealthy. Fabulously wealthy. With more money than you can possibly spend. But, you don’t want to spend it all. You want to give some of it away. A lot of it, in fact.
Not to just anyone, however. To an organization whose mission you admire, whose efforts remain relevant and bold, yet attainable, and whose history demonstrates solvency and reliability. Whether quietly or to carry forward your legacy, you want to give big. But responsibly and with purpose. It’s what you truly believe is right. And you’re in the blessed position to do so.
Or maybe, that’s not you. Maybe you’re the professional heading a non-profit. With experience, training, dedication and some significant social concern—undoubtedly and uniquely serving an unmet need. You’re making a major difference, but you’re also encumbered with financial concerns.
Still, what your organization does is exactly what a wealthy philanthropist wants to support—if only she knew you existed.
So, how do the two find one another? It’s not like there’s a Cupid whose arrows unite the hearts of donors and their dream non-profits
Or is there?
Enter community foundations. More specifically, the Martin County Community Foundation, which, as the recent recipient of a generous gift, is poised to invigorate a yet-to-be-selected few Martin County non-profit organizations. Even the unchosen can celebrate. Thanks to its creative and accompanying new initiative, every non-profit in the county will have a chance to enhance its operations and performance. Talk about matchmaking.
Generally speaking, community foundations work with individuals—as well as their attorneys and wealth advisers—seeking to endow funds for legacy impact. Although not uncommon, community foundations are far from ubiquitous. The Martin County Community Foundation is one of only 29 in the state and 750 nationwide.
“The largest is the Silicon Valley Community Foundation,” says Elizabeth Barbella, executive director of the Martin County Community Foundation. “They all tend to take on a flavor of their community.”
Although it has facilitated philanthropy for 29 years, the foundation’s relatively low profile bears comparison to “sleeping giant,” Barbella says. But that giant is stirring and its yawn will soon resound like a roar across the non-profit world.
“We’re blossoming from what would be a relatively small community foundation,” Barbella says. “Today, we have 37 different funds in house—most recently we were gifted the remaining assets from the Frances Langford Foundation.”
The gift totals $8.1 million.
“We were certainly very pleased, but we were also very honored that the Langford trustees would have the faith and trust in us to take the money and be good stewards for the community,” says Kenneth Norman, chair of the board of directors and an attorney with McCarthy, Summers, Bobko, Wood, Norman, Bass & Melby, P.A.
The Martin County Community Foundation was started by Bud Jordan, a senior wealth adviser with the Jordan McGovern Group, a Merrill Lynch financial advisory team. Today, he serves on the community foundation’s emeritus board of directors.
“The impetus was I had a client die, and he left money to 15 different organizations,” Jordan remembers. “At least half, if not more, had no idea what to do with the money. With many organizations, the money is for those who are running the program, and there’s little to no impact.”
Prior to the foundation coming online, Jordan noticed a trend when a wealthy, seasonal resident who harbored great fondness for Martin County would die. Their estate would get divided among out-of-area charities that failed to reflect the deceased’s desire to endow funds for local charities.
“The money was leaving, that’s what was happening,” Jordan says.
After the creation of the community foundation, donors gained professional guidance for giving to the charities and causes in line with their views and values—if not precisely to a specific non-profit. Some of those donors includes Gary and Judie Price, who established a fund in memory of their daughter, Christen M. Price; Katherine Dunscombe, who established a scholarship fund for young people hoping to go to college; and the Brogan family, who established two scholarship funds in memory of Mary J. Brogan and Treva Brogan.
“If you give money to the foundation, you cannot absolutely direct where it goes,” Jordan says, “but you can tell what you’re interested in and the board will take a good hard look at that.”
WHAT TO EXPECT
At 10 a.m. on Oct. 14 at the Dolphin Bar in Jensen Beach, the leaders of local non-profits and their grant writers can find out how to apply to the community foundation for funding from the Langford Foundation’s gift.
“To carry on the work Frances Langford was passionate about,” Barbella says the trustees are focusing on non-profits that emphasize four areas: arts and culture; health and well-being; education and literacy; and environment and sustainability.
In order to apply, Barbella says the non-profits must provide services in Martin County—a stipulation unique to this fund.
Afterward, the grants committee will review submitted letters of intent. If a charity is selected to apply for a grant, the committee will do an in-depth review, likely conducting a site visit before making recommendations. Three modest grants and one large grant will be awarded, with the announcement coming in spring.
“We’ve got some very experienced people on the grants committee,” Norman says. “They will be coming up with the criteria and recommendations, and coming up with a process to make sure it’s open and fair, and that all the non-profits have a chance to compete.
“We won’t be able to make everybody happy,” he adds. “But we have to be able to make some judgments on what are good projects. We’re looking at things that could really have an impact on the community.”
Less—at least in number of recipients—means more, Barbella says.
“High-dollar amounts,” she says, “to a lesser number of organizations really allow for a high impact.”
Despite only offering four grants, the community foundation is launching an initiative that’s sure to strengthen a host of non-profits. The foundation is creating an “institution” replete with detailed training sessions and other insights that better position non-profits for sustained success.
After gathering input from non-profit leaders, the institution—aimed at opening in January—will provide board training and executive leadership training.
“We’ll evaluate every year what the work of the institute will be,” Barbella says. “We know it will be powerful and helpful based on what we’ve seen in other communities. Much like you see in the private sector, it’s really going from a good to great place.”
Perhaps most importantly, the training remains open to every non-profit, with the community foundation planning to underwrite the cost, Barbella says.
“[With] so many of these organizations, when they had to pull back on their budgets, the first thing to go was dollars for training,” she says. “Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with every non-profit to help them become as strong and sustainable as can be.”
In the executive director’s position of the community foundation for a year, Barbella knows Martin County well. She attended middle school and high school here. After graduating from Florida State University, she worked for Children’s Services Council of Martin County for 15 years and served as CEO of House of Hope. Her diversity of non-profit experience—working for an advocacy and public policy group as well as a charitable organization—attunes her to the obstacles, opportunities and ordeals local non-profits contend with.
“Our core mission for us is really always about creating legacy, but with that core mission is that link to having a healthy, strong not-for-profit network,” she says. “We want to be a partner in that effort.”
There’s little doubt the Martin County Community Foundation will soon find more than a few willing partners.