Get to Know the Community Impact Fund
with Molly Dean Bittner and Scott Blackwell
The Community Impact Fund is an unrestricted fund for fund holders that supports the Community Foundation's annual community grants program. Donor contributions are combined with income from the Foundation’s endowment, providing greater flexibility in addressing the pressing needs or promising opportunities facing the Richmond region each year. Molly Dean Bittner, Senior Vice President of Philanthropic Services and Scott Blackwell, Chief Community Engagement Officer at the Community Foundation share answers to often asked questions about the Fund.
Why was the Community Impact Fund created?
Molly: We are incredibly proud of our past 50 years of building trusted relationships with local donors to create $1 billion in charitable assets for our region. In addition to grants awarded at the recommendation of donors to their favorite causes and organizations, the Community Foundation has endowed discretionary funds that the board can use to address current community needs through our annual grants program. These funds, subject to a spending rate, produced $4.4 million to disseminate in 2021. That sounds like a lot, but it is never enough to meet the full need expressed by our nonprofit partners. Through the Community Impact Fund, we invite donors to consider contributing a grant from their fund every year to our community grant process and help boost our ability to meet even more of the unmet needs in our region.
As an example of what we can do together, we launched the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund, in partnership with the Emergency Management Alliance of Central Virginia, at the onset of the pandemic to support organizations that were addressing immediate and longer-term needs spurred by the pandemic, as well as community recovery. All in all, we raised and deployed over $7 million into the community through generous contributions from foundations, businesses, and individual donors across the region. The COVID-19 Response Fund showed us the true power of collective philanthropy, and that people will support these types of efforts because they trust the Foundation’s community knowledge and partnerships. The Community Impact Fund is one way we can continue this flexible type of philanthropy in partnership with our fund donors to serve immediate needs in our community for years to come.
Why are donors choosing to give to the Fund?
Molly: Many of our donors appreciate the option to give to the Community Impact Fund and have made annual commitments. They know that our staff are focused on understanding the critical needs in our community and how to best respond through philanthropy, especially when they might not have the time or ability to dig so deeply into the issues themselves. Some donors also feel like they can make a much bigger impact by contributing to a pooled resource that will be dispersed among many different areas of need in the community as opposed to a singular issue or nonprofit. Many are choosing to commit a certain percentage of their donor advised fund to the Community Impact Fund each year.
What are Community Foundation staff doing to understand local needs?
Scott: The Community Foundation continually evaluates community needs and opportunities and has developed strategies for addressing them. We have a dedicated staff team who knows the region and the issues. We are actively involved in community coalitions and collaborations across all sectors and have created a data-driven discipline including collection, analysis, and reporting to inform strategic investments. The nine Community Engagement Team members represent a broad and deep knowledge of the nonprofit sector, from the challenges facing organizations and neighborhoods to infrastructure needs of the sector to best practices in data analysis. We meet with an average of 300 nonprofits each year to better understand their organizational goals, program drivers, needs and opportunities, and outcomes. Staff across the Foundation work with dozens of other local funders, community partners, and city and county officials to form coalitions that inform and drive change in our region, as well.
What type of impact will the Fund make through the annual community grant program?
Scott: We believe that the Richmond region should be a place where every resident has an equal opportunity to thrive. Historic disinvestment in low-income communities has resulted in educational, economic, and health outcomes that vary widely based on an individual’s race, income, and zip code. The annual community grants program is strategically focused on creating upward economic mobility for residents, especially those affected by the persistent racial wealth gap. Our goals include improving educational outcomes for children and youth, removing barriers to workforce participation, ensuring access to quality, affordable housing, supporting strategies that include exposure to arts and culture, and increasing access to quality health care.
“Investing in the Community Impact Fund is the most efficient way to invest in a balanced portfolio of organizations and initiatives that are driving the Richmond region forward.”
What else should a donor know about giving to the Community Impact Fund?
Molly: Our community is changing, especially after the events of the past year. Needs are elevated and disparities are growing. By working together, we can make game-changing investments that will spur innovation, encourage collaboration, and produce long-lasting benefits for current and future generations. Investing in the Community Impact Fund is the most efficient way to invest in a balanced portfolio of organizations and initiatives that are driving the Richmond region forward. Your contribution is also amplified by becoming part of a pooled resource. Because we value this partnership so deeply, we also plan to offer our Community Impact Fund donors impact reports, success stories, exclusive events, and special recognition, if desired.
How to support the fund:
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