Crossroads of history and future
From its vantage point in northeastern Greene County, the Fair Grove community has watched the Springfield metro area grow primarily to the west and south. Lisa Bernet, founding president of the Fair Grove Area Community Foundation, considers the town something of a well-kept secret, retaining its small-town charm with the handsome Wommack Mill as its focal point.
“The city is only two square miles, but our school district and fire district cover four counties,” said Bernet, who sees prime opportunity to leverage local philanthropy for both donors and nonprofits in the area. The FGACF completed initial fundraising for its community grantmaking endowment in April.
Through her work with the Foundation of Fair Grove Public Schools, Bernet saw the advantage of affiliating with the CFO. “To me, it’s like a restaurant — the CFO runs the back of the house,” Bernet said, referring to the back-office support provided by the CFO to school partners, agency partners and affiliate foundations. “I like being out talking to the customers but I don’t want to necessarily make the food!”
While the school foundation helped warm the community up to the idea of philanthropy, “there are other kinds of giving, support for other nonprofits, that we’ll be able to speak on broader terms through the community foundation,” Bernet said. “We’ll be able to be the constant resource to make endowed gifts or create designated funds.”
Bernet echoed the sentiments of other new affiliate presidents in having the right members of the community on the founding board. “The agricultural heritage of this community is really important, and if you don’t acknowledge or represent it in your plans, it’s just not going to fly.” To guarantee that agricultural perspective, Bernet recruited Matt Crutcher to the board. “He’s our Future Farmers of America teacher and has been here for so many years that his students are now adults and have farms of their own.”
With the business of establishing the FGACF out of the way, its board is now focused on supporting the collective vision for the community. Bernet notes that both the City of Fair Grove and the school district already have visioning plans in place. Taking the next steps, with the beneficial presence of an affiliate foundation, will be crucial.
“How do you become the best bedroom community out there and maintain that heritage?” Bernet ponders. “That’s kind of the trick for our community for where we go — the place where people really want to live and raise their kids.”
This story is featured in the summer 2021 edition of Passion & Purpose: The CFO Magazine.
Learn more about Affiliate Foundations