Rothtrock: Harvest Welcomes Public Input

March 8, 2012

The Harvest Foundation is a private organization, but it listens to the public’s ideas about what projects should be funded in the community, according to its chief executive.

“We always listen to the public’s voice, of the people in this region” as to the community’s needs “before we fund anything,” said Harvest President Allyson Rothrock.

It takes comments when people call or email the foundation, or they can stop by its offices and meet with Rothrock or another available staff member, she said.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” Rothrock added.

The foundation was established in 2002 with $150 million in proceeds from the sale of Memorial Hospital in Martinsville to help fund local initiatives pertaining to health, education and community vitality.

Rothrock acknowledged that some people say Harvest should be considered a public organization because local residents donated money for the hospital’s construction. She said she knows of no organization like Harvest that is set up as a public entity.

Foundation records show the construction of the hospital in 1970 cost about $7.75 million. About 55 percent of that amount was covered by funds from the federal Hill-Burton Act, which provided grants to improve the nation’s hospital system. Another 31 percent was donations from area companies and residents, and 14 percent was loans from area banks, according to Rothrock.

She said she thinks some people confuse Harvest for a government entity, which “we aren’t and never would be.”

Rothrock said the state attorney general’s office “looked over everything” — such as how Harvest was going to be funded and its service area — when the foundation was being established and approved it as a private entity.

Also, it could face an IRS audit at any time, she said, and its own auditors also scrutinize its files each year to make sure everything is in order.

Harvest has 12 board members, none of whom are paid for their service. Each member is eligible to serve up to three, three-year terms for a maximum of nine years on the board, Rothrock said.

When vacancies occur, the remaining members submit nominations to the board’s governance committee which, in turn, makes a recommendation to the full board on which nominee should fill the seat. The board then votes on the nomination, Rothrock said.

Nominees are considered based on their expertise in one of Harvest’s fields of interest, she said. For instance, if the person leaving the board works in education, another person in education will be sought for the seat.

Its members have included physicians, educators, business people, certified public accountants, attorneys and others, she added.  The process of applying for Harvest funds is detailed. When someone approaches Harvest with a funding idea, the person is connected to a program officer — Gladys Hairston for health, Angela Logan for education or Jeffrey Mansour for community vitality. Nancy Cox is director of programs for the foundation.

The program officer does a preliminary assessment, determining, for instance, that the proposal is from a nonprofit agency, according to Rothrock. If it does, the person is invited to submit a program summary, which is a short description of the project, its intentions and impact, she said.

The program team — the three officers and Cox — meets to discuss the summary and decides whether to invite submission of a full proposal. Rothrock reviews the team’s work and agrees or kills the idea.

If a full proposal is invited and submitted, it is again assigned to a program officer who works with the applicant, generally for five to seven weeks. During that time the applicant’s nonprofit status is verified, all the paperwork is put in order and other tasks are done. That work, Rothrock said, is standard for all foundations such as Harvest.

The program team meets about three times to discuss the proposal further and see if it fits Harvest’s mission and vision, she said.

Harvest board members get all the documentation on the proposal about three weeks before they meets to vote on grant requests. During that time, board members can submit questions on the proposals, which are answered in writing and shared with all board members.

When the board meets, it can change the recommendation or fund it completely, partially or not at all, Rothrock said. The staff has no authority to make a decision, she added.

Last year and this year, Harvest has two grant cycles. Requests are considered in April and October, Rothrock said.

"Our funds always will be dedicated to the betterment of the lives of the people who live and work in this area," she added.


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