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Philanthropy’s New Territory: New affiliates build on heritage

by Aaron Scott

Three new affiliates overcome pandemic fundraising challenges

People, history and location. Those are three common distinctions for essentially all of the CFO’s regional affiliate foundations. But the Nevada/Vernon County Community Foundation, the Cabool Community Foundation and the Fair Grove Area Community Foundation will forever be defined by two other characteristics: determination, for raising at least $30,000, in the midst of a pandemic, for community grantmaking endowments; and entrepreneurial, for making the most of special matching grants during those initial fundraising campaigns.

Alice Wingo, the CFO’s vice president of affiliates, credits the CFO’s growing relationship with Missouri Foundation for Health for spurring the surge in new affiliate foundations. Over the last few years, the St. Louis-based funder has partnered with the CFO on the Rural Ozarks Health Initiative and COVID-19 response grantmaking.

“MFH wanted to expand its support for the rural communities in our shared service area, and our affiliate network has helped achieve those goals,” Wingo said. “After the success of ROHI, these matching grants served as a way to connect with even more communities.”

To help the CFO encourage the creation of new affiliates, MFH pledged to match the required $30,000 to establish a community grantmaking endowment and jump-start a new affiliate’s grantmaking in the interest of public health. The Ash Grove Area Community Foundation, founded in May 2020, was the first affiliate to take advantage of the matching opportunity. Board members of the Nevada/Vernon County affiliate, which lies outside of MFH’s service region, worked with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City to provide a matching grant with similar parameters.

“These new affiliates now provide a resource for local donors to make charitable gifts of all types and sizes, but also attract philanthropic dollars from outside funders,” Wingo said. “Those are two of the greatest benefits that an affiliate can bring to its community.”

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These folks, the founding board of the Nevada/Vernon County Community Foundation, were able to accomplish what others had been unable to in the past — establish a community foundation for the bustling town in west-central Missouri.

Westward expansion

Last October, in a bustling town near the border with Kansas, where the hills of the Ozarks ease into the prairie, the founding board of the Nevada/Vernon County Community Foundation accomplished what others could not. “This wasn’t the first time someone tried to establish a local community foundation,” said Greg Hoffman, NVCCF’s founding board president.

As a recently retired financial advisor, Hoffman wanted to encourage local philanthropy but wasn’t sure what that would entail until he was approached by Kelly Ast of the West Central Missouri Community Action Agency. “She told me we needed a community foundation here in Nevada and I thought, ‘yeah, that sounds perfect for me.’”

The two made a list of “Who’s Who in Nevada-Vernon County” that they wanted to see on the board. “We have an all-star team on the board. That’s offered immediate credibility in the community,” Hoffman said.

Ast now serves as the vice president for the NVCCF board. She acknowledges it might come as surprise to take on the challenge of fundraising for an endowment in the middle of a pandemic.

“We had a focus locally that we have to take care of our own,” she said. “While Nevada tends to be the anchor, there are several county schools. In June, when we made our first grants, it was a countywide approach.”

Cabool coover covid vert

The Cabool Community Foundation’s first grants back to the community came just four months after its founding, through the affiliate’s participation in the Coover Regional Recovery Grant Program. CCF Board Chair Kirby Holmes, right, presented a $2,000 grant to Brenda Taylor and Tim Shryack of Missouri Ozarks Community Health. Taylor also serves on the CCF board.

Already giving back

In the historic heart of the Ozarks’ dairy country, Cabool is nestled along the old junction of U.S. Highways 60 and 63. While the Dairy Farmers of America facility on the south edge of town still drives much of the local commerce, Highway 60 was rerouted years ago to skirt along Cabool’s southern edge, making it easy to bypass the town.

“After World War II, Cabool’s location at 60 and 63 helped attract industry to the area,” said Kirby Holmes, founding president of the Cabool Community Foundation. “We wanted to ensure we continued on as a thriving community, to maintain our history and sense of community moving forward.”

The CCF may be new, but the town is no stranger to rural philanthropy. While neighboring communities of Mountain Grove, Houston and Willow Springs are all supported by affiliate foundations, several members of the Cabool Community Foundation board cut their philanthropic teeth at the Cabool Education Foundation. Established in 2018 as member of the CFO’s Rural Schools Partnership, the CEF has already granted nearly $70,000 to support facility improvements, teacher grants and scholarships for the Cabool R-IV School District. The CEF’s funds are now held under the umbrella of the CCF.

After completing the initial fundraising for its community grantmaking endowment in December 2020, the CCF distributed its first grants to six agencies — thanks to the Coover Regional Recovery Grant Program — just four months later. “We got the money out quickly — not only to help our nonprofits through a challenging time,” said Kirby, “but so our community could see the foundation in action.”

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The founding board of the Fair Grove Area Community Foundation gather at the historic Wommack Mill, the town landmark in northern Greene County.

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.

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