Iowa community foundations are making an impact now and will forever.
Community foundations are poised to respond to local needs, both present and in the future. Locally, the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa has granted $85 million during its 61-year history. This includes a recent grant of $200,000 to Hawkeye Community College for its new Adult Learning Center. This building, currently under construction in downtown Waterloo, will be a local and regional hub for adults, including many underserved populations, seeking to improve their lives through education.
Community foundations also lead and convene partners around some of our most critical issues. CFNEIA is a founding and lead organization of the Cedar Valley Nonprofit Association. CVNA is a network of more than 80 nonprofit organizations serving the Cedar Valley. The group works to increase the voice of the nonprofit sector and collectively works to build and catalyze resources to solve problems.
These stories — alongside the countless others like it — demonstrate the tremendous impact and unique importance of community foundations in this country. From Nov. 12-18 we celebrate nationally Community Foundation Week, which is our chance to share the important work of community foundations in our state through stories like these. For more than 25 years, the effort has raised awareness about the increasingly important role of these philanthropic organizations in fostering local collaboration and innovation to address persistent civic and economic challenges. Though you may not yet be aware of your local community foundation, you’ve likely felt its impact.
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Community foundations are independent, public entities that steward philanthropic resources from individual and institutional donors to local nonprofit organizations that are the heart of strong, vibrant communities. In Iowa, we are fortunate to have at least one community foundation in each county in our state. Two legislated programs focused on increasing philanthropic activity to enhance the quality of life for Iowans, the Endow Iowa Tax Credit Program and the County Endowment Fund Program, are implemented through Iowa community foundations. Both of these programs have played an integral role in distributing grant funds to community needs throughout our state as well as building endowed funds for future needs.
Community foundations represent one of the fastest-growing forms of philanthropy. Every state in the United States is home to at least one community foundation — large and small, urban and rural — working to advance solutions on a wide range of social issues. Community foundations unite their efforts behind the local projects and programs that will help the places we call home continue to flourish and grow.
As we enter the giving season, America’s generosity surges. Millions of people from every background will be looking to give back to the communities that have supported them. They’ll also look to ensure that their heartfelt giving — however they choose to give — will have the most impact. That’s why so many of them will choose to give to or through a community foundation.
Some of these gifts may qualify for the Endow Iowa Tax Credit program. These tax credits are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis to donors who contribute to an endowed fund at a qualified community foundation in Iowa. Six million dollars in credits are available annually to generous Iowans who participate in the program.
A gift to your local community foundation is really an investment in the future of your community. We like to say that community foundations are “here for good.” Iowa Community Foundations are preparing for the next generation and the next after that.
That can seem a daunting task, but it’s one that we can all share. During community foundation Week, I hope you’ll join us in recognizing our collective impact and the difference we can make together and consider giving to or through your local community foundation.
Kaye Englin is the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa.
Kari McCann Boutell is president of the Iowa Council of Foundations.