GUEST COLUMN: How community foundations can make an impact

By LARRY PEJEAU, guest columnist

During the week of Nov. 12 to 18, the Brown County Community Foundation joined hundreds of community foundations across the country to celebrate Community Foundation Week. For more than 25 years, the effort has raised awareness about the increasingly important role of these philanthropic organizations in fostering local collaboration to address persistent civic and economic challenges.

Though you may not yet know your local community foundation, you’ve likely felt its impact.

That’s because the BCCF and more than 780 other community foundations across the country bring donors and residents together in an effort to help the places we call home flourish.

Community foundations are local nonprofit organizations run and led by local residents who have an in-depth understanding of the issues, opportunities and resources that shape their community.

Investments made by community foundations take many forms. Here in Brown County, children are educated, hungry people are fed, housing is found for families in crisis, adults are empowered to complete college degrees, our environment is nurtured, and our economy is strengthened through talent recruitment — and that’s just a small part of what Hoosier philanthropy is doing on a daily basis.

In 2016, the BCCF has helped the community with over $400,000 in scholarships and grants supporting charitable entities and projects all thanks to many generous donors. The BCCF collaborates with many partners, both public and private, to make Brown County a better place to live, to work and to play.

The first community foundation in Indiana was established in Indianapolis in 1916, and Indiana has had more growth than any other state. This is thanks in part to an effort launched 25 years ago by Lilly Endowment Inc., to strengthen and expand the growth of community foundations in the state.

Today, your Brown County Community Foundation is one of 94 community foundations and county affiliate funds serving every county in our state. These foundations invite everyday people with a vision and a passion for community to create something good and lasting together.

Community members across the state have helped Indiana’s community foundations build a combined $3 billion in managed assets statewide. These gifts build endowment funds that benefit their communities forever and help create personal legacies. When someone contributes to an endowment managed by the community foundation in his or her home town, the gift is invested over time.

Earnings from that fund are used to make grants addressing community needs. Each gift — and all future earnings from the gift — is a permanent source of community capital, helping to do good work today and in the future. In 2015 alone, Indiana’s community foundations collectively made 32,900 grants of approximately $133 million to improve life in their communities.

One example right here in Brown County: the BCCF has funded pre-K scholarships for the last two years to help our youngest students and future leaders obtain an effective start to their education.

A gift to your local community foundation is really an investment in the future of your community. I hope you’ll join us in recognizing our collective impact and the difference we can make together.

For more information on the BCCF, visit brown countygives.org and follow us on social media.

Larry Pejeau is the CEO of the Brown County Community Foundation. He can be reached at 812-988-4882

or larry@bccfin.org.