If there was only one thing that I could help start in every town that I visit, it would be a community foundation. As I’ve traveled around the USA, it has singularly been the one common denominator that I’ve seen which has most positively impacted ever town which has one. I was not disappointed by what I saw in Mount Vernon, OH.
“We are celebrating our 61st year as a foundation. We are up to $28 million in assets.” Sam Barone, President of The Community Foundation of Mount Vernon and Knox County was telling me about the foundation. “Last year we received contributions of more than $1.5 million from over 300 different donors. And, we gave away over $600,000 in grants.”
The foundation was set up in 1944 by the president of the Cooper-Bessemer Company, a Fortune 500 company that started and was headquartered in Mount Vernon. Assets grew to $111,000 in the first 10 years of existence and only passed the $1 million mark in 1974, but since then they’ve more than doubled each decade.
Today the foundation has over 200 separate funds in areas such as: arts and humanities; community improvement; designated funds; education; health and wellness; human and social services; spiritual growth; youth enrichment; donor-advised; scholarships; and unrestricted funds.
There is going to be a monumental wealth transfer taking place in this country over the next decade as the “greatest generation” passes on. If you aren’t capturing a small percentage (5 to 10%) of that transfer for the long term betterment of your community, you are missing an excellent chance to help transform your town. If you don’t have a community foundation, make a pledge to set one up in 2006. You’ll feel good that you did, but your grandchildren will be in awe. It just takes time and generous giving.