Three Rivers Community Foundation promotes philanthropy and planned giving
Behind the success of every great nonprofit is a passionate community leader fighting for a worthwhile cause. And behind every nonprofit leader is an organization helping to make that happen. In the Tri-Cities, that organization is the Three Rivers Community Foundation.
[blockquote quote=”We don’t only support them with funds, but we also support them with education and infrastructure.” source=”Carrie Green, executive director at Three Rivers Community Foundation” align=”right” max_width=”300px”]
Since 1999, 3RCF has made its mission improving the quality of life in Benton and Franklin counties by promoting philanthropy and supporting local nonprofits.
By definition, a community foundation is a community of donors and passionate philanthropists that create a collection of many endowment funds established by individuals, families, and charitable organizations.
The funds are pooled by the community foundation and invested and the income from these investments is distributed back into the community of nonprofit organizations. The community foundation currently has $2.8 million invested and managed.
“The advantage of doing that is that instead of having $1,000 on your own to invest, since we have such a large pool of funds, we get access to some maybe better performing investment managers. It’s diversified so maybe you can ride the bumps a little better,” said Carrie Green, executive director at 3RCF.
The Three Rivers Community Foundation has a three-pronged approach to meet its goals: working with individuals and charitable organizations, working with nonprofits, and addressing the immediate needs of the community.
Grants are awarded annually in December through the foundation’s annual grant ceremony. Applications are accepted through Sept. 15.
In 2015, 41 nonprofits were approved for grant funding totaling an amount of $151,399. Individual donors and endowment fund holders distributed an additional $146,699 to support nonprofit organizations and provide scholarships as directed. Since 2004, they have given over $2 million back to the community.
The Foundation also offers seminars for nonprofits like board member training, marketing and social media, and insurance for nonprofits; some of the seminars she said are intimate and personalized.
“We don’t only support them with funds, but we also support them with education and infrastructure,” she said. As nonprofits become more recognized, they are encouraged to seek diversified funding streams, Green added.
3RCF also provides a variety of administrative services to donors and nonprofits including investment management, gift accounting and receipting, filing of tax and legal documents, grant making, vetting and interviewing potential grantees.
Establishing a fund at the Foundation allows donors to achieve their charitable goals without the overhead, costs, tax disincentives, federal compliance difficulties and administrative hassles that accompany private foundations. A donor can fund an endowment with a number of different assets, not just cash. The average annual fee for an endowed fund is 1.5 percent. This means that more than $98 of every $100 goes directly to the nonprofit.
Instead of donating directly to a non-profit, individual donors work directly with 3RCF to manage their assets and appropriate the money where it will have a bigger impact, said Green.
Donors can also specify the causes they feel passionate about — like homelessness, or education and 3RCF will take care of the rest.
The majority of nonprofits do not have the capabilities and resources to handle gifts of non-cash assets, nor do they have the ability to set up planned gifts such as charitable gift annuities or remainder trusts — work often handled by lawyers.
The biggest challenge, said Green, is increasing awareness about the technical and financial component of the work the foundation does.
“Our biggest challenge in the Tri-Cities is awareness. A lot of work we do is in planned giving. This is a relatively young community, so talking and educating people on estate planning is really a challenge,” she said.
The nonprofits funded by 3RCF and the causes they care about vary widely, like the arts, education, health and human services, and youth services, even animal welfare and wildlife. Green said the 3RCF prefers to fund projects and organization that develop individuals and eliminate the root cause of the problem rather than relieving a crisis. Homelessness is a good example of that.
“The Union Gospel Mission is thinking about that,” she said. “With their capital campaign, they are thinking of ways to integrate counseling and career counseling for homeless women so five years down the road they don’t need them.”
They’re also keen on noticing emerging trends for gaps in social services and making sure the immediate needs of the community are met.
“When we do the grant applications every year, we see emerging trends and we see where the biggest needs are, and we reach out to the community about that,” she said. “This past year we saw a lot of organizations trying to augment what is being done in the schools with programs in-school and after-school programs. We’re also seeing a need for programs working to strengthen parent-child relationships.”
These are programs that are needed to improve attendance and high school graduation rates, she said.
They also fund organizations that foster arts and culture in the Tri-Cities. In 2015, they awarded grants to Camerata Music, Mid-Columbia Symphony, Mid-Columbia Ballet, and Cavalcade of Authors.