Washington County was in a giving mood last year when it came to charity, according to the latest report from the Washington County Community Foundation.
WCCF Chief Executive Officer and President Betsie Trew said last week that the 18-year-old foundation, which takes contributions from local businesses and individuals and redistributes them in the form of grants to local nonprofit charities, set records in donations received and grants awarded.
According to figures provided by the foundation, during 2012, donors contributed $5.9 million, a 74 percent increase over the $3.4 million WCCF received in 2010, the previous most successful giving year in the foundation’s history.
But giving works two ways at WCCF, Trew noted, explaining that the more the foundation receives, the more in gives away as grants to eligible local charities.
For that reason, the record contributions enabled the foundation to distribute more than $600,000 in grants, an increase of 25 percent over the $480,000 awarded in 2011, previously the biggest year for grant-making.
“We don’t raise money just to say we raised money,” Trew said. “This is about local people giving to local charities for local recipients.”
Cumulatively, WCCF has awarded more than $3 million in grants since its inception, and it ended 2012 with about $14.8 million in assets representing more than 150 component grant-making funds.
“It was an incredible year,” WCCF Chairman William M. Campbell said in a statement. “The board of trustees continues to be amazed by and grateful for the tremendous generosity of our donors, whose ongoing support is the primary factor in our increased capacity for grant-making.”
The foundation’s Arts Fund saw one of the biggest increases in grant-making capacity last year.
Trew said the fund’s grant-making increase was due to a $125,000 challenge grant from the Heinz Foundation.
“The grant from the fund used to be $1,000, but now it’s $10,000,” Trew said.
In addition to the growing number of contributions, the foundation’s funds were helped by a 13 percent return on investments, which netted $890,000 in earnings, Trew said.
“It’s the overall growth of the foundation that has enabled our fund to grow,” Trew said.
As it has done since its inception, the foundation works with local attorneys, accountants and bankers to attract contributions from residents’ estates, particularly those who want to remember a loved one by naming a fund for them.
“Part of the reason people come to us is that legacy component,” she said. “We have a lot of memorial funds.
“We’ve also benefited from people who have benefited from oil and gas drilling.”
While the traditional channels of giving will continue to serve the foundation, it’s also preparing to launch a new avenue for attracting younger donors who may be looking to enter philanthropy through much smaller – but equally important – contributions to their favorite charity.
Under the banner of “WCCF Gives,” the most significant component of its “Building Foundations, Building Communities” marketing theme for 2013 and 2014, the foundation redesigned its website, www.wccf.net, and created a sister website, www.wccfgives.org, which accepts credit card contributions electronically on behalf of local participating charities.
The preparation also includes a $100,000 match pool for the day of giving, which will be distributed to participating charities.
The foundation will hold its first day of giving, “WCCF Gives,” on Sept. 10 during a 12-hour period.
According to Trew, other foundations around the country that have held similar events have had great success in raising funds for charity.
She noted that Erie County used a $100,000 match last year to raise $700,000 during a one-day event.
Trew said the ability to log onto the WCCF site, pick a local charity and give a minimum of $25 should have broad appeal, particularly to young people.
“You have to be electronic for the next generation of donors,” she said.