Twenty Years After Launch, The Community Foundation at $22 Million
February 17, 2018
Twenty years after launch, Fredericksburg region's Community Foundation managing $22 million in charitable funds
The Free Lance-Star
In 1997, a small group of community members got together with the goal of establishing a savings account for the Fredericksburg region.
"They thought, 'Where are we going to be in 20 years if we don't do this today?'" said Teri McNally, executive director of The Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region.
Today, as it wraps up its 20th anniversary year, The Community Foundation manages $22 million in charitable funds dedicated to the betterment of the area. That surpasses a goal of $20 million in 20 years—but that doesn't mean its work is over.
"We're making progress," McNally said. "We're building for the future."
The foundation is a nonprofit that manages and distributes charitable giving in the Fredericksburg region. It oversees 149 active funds that were established by individuals, families, businesses and organizations to benefit local initiatives.
"Our goal is always just to get one more [fund]," McNally said.
Collectively, these funds have given more than $9 million back to the Fredericksburg region over the past two decades in the form of grants and scholarships.
"This is your savings," McNally said. "Our way of spending it is to grant it away."
The foundation's model is a national one—there are more than 700 independent community foundations in the country and 28 in Virginia.
The foundation can help prospective donors focus their charitable giving by pointing them towards organizations that are doing things the donors are passionate about.
"We'll inform and educate," McNally said. "We do guide donors to areas of need."
Those who don't feel they have the financial means to establish their own fund can make donations to the Community Fund, which is an unrestricted account established for the good of the community and directed by the foundation's board of governors.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the foundation awarded four "visionary grants" of $20,000 each in four categories—environment, education, health and human services and arts.
"We wanted to show that we are not just focused on one area but many," said Board of Governors President Christine Repp, "to send the message that there is a wide variety of needs to be met. And we wanted these grants to benefit the community as a whole."
Applicants were asked to describe how their organization would impact the community over the next 20 years and write a proposal for a grant that would help them secure that vision.
Friends of the Rappahannock received the first visionary grant in the area of environment to create a River Report Card. In the education category, Germanna Community College received a grant to create to study the use of "meta-majors" to improve student completion of a two-year degree program.
The Lloyd Moss Free Clinic received the third visionary grant in support of a partnership with Legal Aid Works to ensure that low-income people do not face illegal barriers that affect their health.
"So if a person is treated for asthma at the clinic, but then has to keep dealing with mold at home, they could be paired with a legal team to fix the issue," Repp said.
The fourth grant was awarded to the Arts and Cultural Council of the Rappahannock to support an online database of artists and arts resources, a community cultural calendar and other collaborative programming.
The award was a surprise for each recipient, Repp said.
"Some people cried," Repp said. "Each organization was so touched to be given this money. Organizations rarely get funding to promote their entire vision.
"It will be so fun watching these organizations achieve their goals." she continued.
The foundation also manages the Women and Girls Fund, which is both a fund and a local movement to involve women in philanthropy.
"The idea is to get 1,000 women to contribute $1,000 each to build a $1 million endowment for programs that support women and girls," McNally said.
The fund has just under 300 members now and McNally said she would like to see it grow. Since it was established in 2008, it has made grants to Germanna for a video promoting awareness of relationship violence, to Hugh Mercer Elementary School for a "Stemgirls" program, to Aikido in Fredericksburg for a program for at-risk high school girls and to Healthy Families Rappahannock Area to support new mothers who have exhibited risk factors for child abuse or neglect, among many others.
"It's women-to-women, women helping women, which can be really powerful," McNally said.
McNally said it's "neat" to be on the other side of the 20 years the founding board members saw in front of them. She said her goal for the next 20 years is to make it as easy for the board members and staff of the future as the founders made it for the present board and staff.
"The structure is in place—the goals, mission and model for success," she said. "I can promise there will still be board engagement and great passion for the region."
"We're forever building—not just maintaining, but getting better."