After 25 years, The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound may no longer qualify as the region’s best-kept secret. The foundation’s assets have grown to more than $17 million, and it now makes grants to nearly 100 organizations per year.
The Community Foundation manages funds from many local family trusts and philanthropists. And though it’s slowly gaining recognition, many potential contributors and beneficiaries still don’t know about its good work.
Perhaps a 25th anniversary celebration event on May 8 — this Thursday — featuring Peter Buffet — son of major philanthropist and wily investor Warren Buffett — will draw the attention it deserves.
A small group of volunteers launched the foundation in 1989 out of the Olympia 2010 visioning process and with a minimum amount of assets. By 2010, the foundation had increased its assets to $5.5 million and was granting about $80,000 per year to some 30 groups.
That same year, the trustees of the Irving A. Lassen private foundation transferred its funds into The Community Foundation, doubling its assets and almost overnight turning it into a major philanthropic player in the South Sound. The foundation distributed more than $680,000 last year to 80 different groups.
The largest portion of its grants last year went to scholarships, some as large as $10,000 per year for four years. That’s a huge gift to smart young students who might otherwise not get an opportunity for higher education.
But the foundation also gives to a broad spectrum of causes, including arts and culture, animal welfare, the environment and the alleviation of hunger, among others.
The foundation’s success inspired the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to partner with The Community Foundation to distribute $500,000 over four years to reduce intergenerational poverty in Thurston, Lewis and Mason counties. Alleviating poverty is the primary goal of the Gates Foundation.
Gates Foundation administrators picked The Community Foundation for several reasons, but key among them was its policy of making grant decisions with meaningful community input. It also helped that this three-county area has some of the highest numbers of families in poverty in the Pacific Northwest.
“They (The Community Foundation) have established, strong networks that can get resources to families and children quickly and efficiently,” said a Gates foundation spokesperson.
Community Foundation board Chair Lori Drummond added, “The Gates award will positively impact families today in ways we hope will change the future for children.”
Everyone in Lewis, Mason and Thurston counties benefits from legacy gifts to The Community Foundation, so spread the word about this community jewel and make it shine even brighter.