Foundation is spreading the word about its work

November 20, 2011

Martinsville Bulletin

The Martinsville Area Community Foundation administers $14 million in charitable assets and has given out more than $2.7 million in grants and scholarships in the past five years.

Yet some people do not know it exists.

“People have no understanding that we’re here and what we do. We’ve never been aggressive in trying to push what we’re doing,” said Eliza Severt, chairman of the foundation’s board.

Foundation Executive Director April Haynes thinks that approach was the right one. The foundation wants to work quietly in the community, she said.

“We want people to know we’re there to talk about their dreams for the community and help them,” she said. “We don’t want to be aggressive, but we want them to realize the good things we’ve done.”

As the foundation marks its fifth year of awarding grants, its officials are talking about those things.

The Martinsville Area Community Foundation (MACF), located in the Clocktower Centre, was formed in late 2005 with a grant from The Harvest Foundation. Its first grants were awarded the following year.

A community foundation grows primarily through establishing new endowments each year by local individuals, families, corporations, nonprofits and others. These endowments reflect the interests of the donor. Because it is “publicly supported,” MACF receives the most favorable tax deductions permitted under federal laws, according to information from Haynes.

In contrast, The Harvest Foundation is considered a “private foundation” under tax laws, so it does not seek to grow through new gifts but rather through the long-term investment of its assets, that information added.

MACF administers 24 endowment funds. It helps people connect to causes they care about in the community and build significant endowment assets that will benefit Martinsville and surrounding communities forever, according to Haynes.

The foundation is part of the Community Foundation of Western Virginia, which has $50 million in assets and more than $110 million in estate gifts, Haynes said. The local funds are co-mingled for investment purposes, she said, though they are tracked separately.

Nearly every type of asset can be contributed to a community foundation, including cash, real estate, stock and property, and endowments can be set up in many ways. These include discretionary grants for nonprofits; designated funds to aid specific organizations; and donor-advised funds — the most popular type, according to Haynes — in which donors make grant recommendations each year.

The Martinsville Area Unrestricted Fund and the Ivey Stone Unrestricted Fund allow the foundation to address diverse and changing community needs, she said.

Grants and scholarships are approved by the MACF board and the Community Foundation of Western Virginia. All funds distributed by the foundation stay in Henry County and Martinsville unless a donor specifies otherwise, Haynes said.

Not everyone can set up a $10,000 endowment fund, Haynes said, but donors can contribute to the foundation at any time and in any amount. For instance, she said the foundation receives many gifts for the Hospice fund as memorials, and that money goes to benefit the Hospice program.

Endowment funds are invested, and the principal is never spent, Haynes said. “One thing that makes us unique — we’re here to stay. Endowed funds are here forever,” she said.

So, it seems, are the needs. Severt said it is frustrating that the foundation always has requests for two to three times more than it can give in grants.

“We do what we can. There is never enough money to satisfy every need,” she added.

Haynes said that is getting worse, especially for nonprofits, as the economy drags, the government cuts spending and demands for their services have risen.

The foundation is working on a three-year plan. Haynes said its goals include growing its endowments, making more grants, raising awareness of the foundation and letting people know it is an option for helping the community.

It also hopes to increase its $14 million in assets to $20 million in three years, she said.


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