Leaders from three south Baldwin County cities are raising money to establish an endowment fund with the goal of awarding community grants to nonprofits.
The Tri-City Community Foundation aims to serve Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and surrounding communities. It’s the latest of three established under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of South Alabama (CFSA) in Mobile, which serves Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe and Washington counties.
“Civic leaders come together and say they want to be on an advisory committee to participate in a foundation for our community, basically to be able to give back to the community in perpetuity,” CFSA President and CEO Rebecca Byrne said. “To have some type of an endowed community fund for the benefit of that particular community. That gives those communities a chance to identify the issues they want to address.”
Tri-City is still in the fundraising stage and will spend 2019 trying to raise seed money to generate interest. The fund got its start with a grant from the Coastal Resiliency Coalition (CFC), a local nonprofit created after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Disaster and focused on helping local Gulf Coast businesses and individuals survive, sustain and succeed, Tri-City Chair Michelle Hodges said.
“The CRC’s long-term strategy was to transition from an oil spill disaster response team with a focus on ‘surviving’ to a joint team of community leaders with a focus on a successful business community,” Hodges said.
To begin awarding grants the group must have at least $25,000. Tri-City recently got a boost from the Erie Hall Meyer Charitable Foundation, which extended a two-to-one financial match for any contribution made to the Tri-City fund, up to $200,000.
“You don’t touch the principal,” Byrne said. “You only spend the 5 percent of the income that’s earned during the course of the year. That’s why we ask for a threshold amount of $25,000. That doesn’t give you a lot initially but it grows. You need to at least have that to start with.”
Local board members do the fundraising in the communities and all administrative duties are handled by the parent CFSA office.
“We work with the community, we’re the administrative staff, we provide the resources moving forward,” Byrne said. The local board makes the recommendations but they are subject to final approval by CFSA.
Byrne said when funds are raised locally and grants are spent locally people are more likely to want to be involved.
“People are more responsive to their own community,” Byrne said. “Instead of saying we’re going to raise money for eight counties, Tri-City folks can come together and say ‘we’re raising money for our community.’ We have found people like doing that and there’s a greater response.”
Hodges said Tri-City will concentrate on education and workforce development, mental health, leadership development and economic opportunity. The other two affiliate foundations are in Atmore and Fairhope/Point Clear, Byrne said.
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