Liz Powell serves as executive director for the Racine Community Foundation.
BY KATIE MATTESON
Liz Powell is pretty sure she has the best job in the world. She’s the executive director of the Racine Community Foundation, whose mission is “to enhance the quality of life for the people of Racine County by encouraging and providing opportunities for charitable giving and by managing and distributing the funds in a responsible manner.”
“We live in a community with a lot of need,” Powell said. “Our goal is to award grants to as many worthy not-for-profit organizations as possible.”
In 2017, the foundation received over 100 letters of intent and gave out $1.7 million to 85 nonprofits. In the past the grant awards were made on a quarterly basis. Starting last year, applicants are now grouped by category and there are three grant cycles in a calendar year.
Environmental and youth programs grants are awarded in the spring cycle, human services grants are considered in the summer cycle and funding for arts and culture, community development and health goes out in the fall cycle.
Grantseekers are required to submit a letter of intent by Jan. 31 and receive notification by March 1 if their letter was accepted. Those organizations are then invited to complete a full grant application, which is due between March 1 and April 15 for the spring cycle, between June 1 and July 15 for the summer cycle and between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15 for the fall cycle.
Shortly after the grant application deadline, individual grant committee members contact each organization to set up a meeting to discuss the application. The grants committee then meets to determine funding recommendations that will be considered and ultimately approved by the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
“We have a very dedicated group of 25 members on our grants committee.” Powell said. “Many of our devoted board members go on to serve on the grants committee when they’ve completed their terms.”
During her retirement from Johnson Financial Group, Powell served on the grants committee for 10 years prior to moving into the executive director role in January 2014.
“I can’t think of any other job that would entice me to return to the workforce after retirement.” Powell said.
Powell credits the generosity of individuals and businesses in the community for the strength of the foundation for the past 43 years and its ability to make a significant positive impacts on the community.
The foundation opened for business in 1975 with assets totaling $6,565 and today its assets total $67 million, which include the organization endowments the foundation manages for other nonprofits for a small fee.
The fee income, along with distributions from designated administrative funds, cover the ongoing operations and administration of the foundation.
Powell explained that the foundation’s funds are managed by professional investment advisors and governed by investment and spending policies that provide for a 5 percent distribution of the average market value the funds each year. The spending comes from investment income, so the principal of each fund stays intact.
Grants awarded in 2017 by fund type were:
Donor Advised – $991,178
Named – $193,401
Field of Interest – $585,082
Scholarships – $114,265
General – $157,835
Organization Endowments – $328,060
Designated – $387,202
Those wishing to contribute to the foundation have a number of options, depending on interest, level of contribution and restrictions on how the funds are administered.
Powell is available to work with individuals and organizations to develop philanthropic strategies.
“We even have a fund option for those who are interested in permanent community philanthropy, but who do not have the desire to create a fund immediately,” Powell said. “They can start an Acorn Fund for just $50 per month and once the fund reaches a pre-determined funding level of $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 it converts into a grant-making fund.”
In fact, the foundation recently announced the creation of the Racine K-9 Acorn Fund to benefit local K-9 officers. The fund was started by two donors who wanted to ensure the future sustainability and vitality of the local K-9 programs.
Last fall, the foundation conducted its first Shark Tank competition to encourage the development of youth soft skills in Racine. An anonymous donor provided $25,000 on the condition that the foundation provide a match to create a $50,000 grant. Six organizations competed for the grant and the judges named two winners, Racine Family YMCA Young Leaders Academy ($20,000) and Junior Achievement ($30,000).
“We’re always open to creative ideas to get people involved in the power of endowment for investing in future generations,” Powell said.
For more information, call (262) 632-8474 or visit racinecommunityfoundation.org.