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Article posted: 11/15/2012 8:08 AM

DuPage Community Foundation matches donors with nonprofits

By Christie Willhite

Usually, "the gift that keeps on giving" is a tongue-in-cheek description of the jelly-of-the-month club membership Aunt Betty gives you for the holidays.

But the phrase is a heartfelt way of life for donors and recipients brought together by the DuPage Community Foundation.

Launched in 1986 by three philanthropists, the foundation strives to improve the quality of life in DuPage County by giving grants to not-for-profit groups working in the areas of arts and culture, education, the environment, and health and human services.

Donors who contribute to the foundation's endowment can designate how the proceeds should be used -- to benefit a specific program or agency, or to support work in an area of concern, for example.

The foundation then matches donors' desires to the needs of nonprofits serving DuPage, creating grants to fund specific initiatives or to provide general support.

In the spring, the foundation oversaw 25 grants totaling $246,000 to local health and human services agencies. Top grants of $15,000 went to Catholic Charities, Community Housing Advocacy and Development and DuPage PADS to help the homeless; gifts of $10,000 were given to Stepping Stones to help women and children who have been victims of domestic violence, and to Youth Outlook to fund programming addressing safety and tolerance for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

The smallest grants, $2,500 each, went to Family Focus' parenting support programs and to Hands of Hope Food Pantry for a freezer to store perishable goods.

In the fall of 2011, the DuPage Community Foundation dispensed 32 grants totaling $172,420 for arts, education and environmental programs. Beneficiaries included choirs and symphonies, the Girl Scouts, history museums, school programs and the Morton Arboretum.

Today, as the foundation prepares to host its annual Benefit Dinner, Director of Development Jeffrey Hartman gives us an inside look at how gifts to the foundation continue giving.

Q. What is your organization's mission?

A. To foster philanthropy, connect donors to area needs, and build community partnerships.

Q. How do you work toward accomplishing that goal?

A. The foundation receives contributions and bequests into a permanent endowment from individuals, corporations, organizations and foundations wishing to make lasting contributions. The earnings on these funds are used, in accordance with donor wishes, for the foundation's grant making and community leadership activities.

Q. When and why did the organization start? How has it grown?

A. The foundation is extremely proud of its beginnings over 26 years ago. In 1986, Brooks McCormick, Mary Eleanor Wall and Jerry Bradshaw became the founding members.

Based on the virtues of volunteerism and philanthropy, the foundation fosters a legacy of support by making grants to not-for-profit organizations working in the areas of arts and culture, education, environment, health and human services.

Since its inception, the foundation has built its endowment to nearly $42 million and awarded more than $14 million in grants to not-for-profit agencies.

Q. What kind of successes have you had?

A. The foundation has made great strides in addressing early childhood care and education. We envision that beginning from birth, all children have quality care and education that prepare them to succeed in school and participate in the workforce as adults.

The foundation has supported programs focused on improving the quality of services delivered to very young children and their families. Currently, the foundation is offering a multiyear funding opportunity to help a specific community establish a collaborative initiative focused on addressing the early childhood needs as they relate to preparing children to be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten.

Q. What challenges does the organization currently face?

A. Like every not-for-profit, the foundation's funding has become tighter as the uncertainty in the financial sector has impacted giving. We are constantly balancing increasing support to our local not-for-profit partners in the form of grants and leadership activities with the prudent safeguarding of our endowments.

Q. What do you wish the community at large knew about the organization?

A. A community foundation is really a great resource. There are more than 700 community foundations across the country and each has a unique insight into the demographics, needs and the not-for-profit landscape of their community. We are a resource and want to help connect area philanthropists to community needs.

Q. How can readers get involved?

A. You can join us at The DuPage Community Foundation's 20th annual Benefit Dinner at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, at Butterfield Country Club in Oak Brook. Visit dcfdn.org for information and to RSVP.

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