The Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Inc. helps its donors share through personal relationships and community partnerships.
Walter S. Rugland, former board chair of the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Inc. (CFFVR), believes that philanthropy is giving without reward.
This was the starting point that Rugland’s father, Walter L. Rugland, used when he established the CFFVR in 1986. It was his dream to help individuals and families share their charitable gifts to improve the quality of life and make a difference in the community.
“Our purpose has not changed much, if at all, during the past 25 years,” says Tammy Williams, vice president of marketing and development of the CFFVR.
The foundation is one of more than 700 community foundations in the United States and the second largest of the 22 certified community foundations in Wisconsin.
Over time, donors have enabled the CFFVR to give more than $140 million in grants to charitable organizations, primarily in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley region.
By definition, community foundations are tax-exempt, public charities for the people of a particular geographical region to improve the quality of life of its residents through lasting charitable giving. According to financial reports from their last fiscal year, the CFFVR distributed 80 percent of their grants in the region with 95 percent of grants staying in Wisconsin.
“The foundation partners with people to help them engage in giving to fulfill their charitable dreams,” says Rugland.
While the mission has stayed the same, the organization has experienced a few changes over the years.
The original 45 members of the CFFVR board of directors were solicited through a newspaper ad. Currently, there are 25 individuals on its board who are responsible for overseeing investment decisions and creating donor policies. Much of the work of the original board is now dispersed to volunteer committees.
In 2004, their physical space also changed after a donor gave them a gift of real estate. The new office is occupied with 18 full-time employees compared to just five original members, who were a mixture of volunteers and paid employees.
A Living Gift
According to their annual report, the CFFVR offers several fund types from advised funds where the donor is actively involved to unrestricted funds that allow most of the decision-making to be done by the foundation’s volunteer grants committee and board members.
Greta Rogers of Appleton established an advised endowment fund in 1998 and over the years, her fund has supported organizations and charities of her choice, such as The Building for Kids in downtown Appleton, LEAVEN and Chaps Academy, a horse therapy program for young kids with emotional disabilities.
“It is not a one-time contribution,” says Rogers. “The money continues to grow while portions are given in grants each year.”
In addition, her fund generates an annual scholarship for a nontraditional student enrolled in a degree-granting program at Fox Valley Technical College.
“Education solves so many problems and opens doorways,” she says. “Changes happen and bring insecurity to a once stable situation.”
Each year, Rogers meets with the foundation to determine where additional money will be spent. Between meetings, she often calls the foundation to see if there is a need in the community.
“They are easy to work with, friendly, knowledgeable and helpful,” says Rogers.
Curt Detjen, president/CEO of the CFFVR, believes there will always be the need for direct donation to an alma mater or church, but in a situation where the donor wants to give long-term or their financial situation is more complex, the CFFVR can help start the conversation.
“It is our goal to help the donor give so that their gift can have the most impact possible,” he says.
Many times, the conversation begins with someone of an outside organization and the donor is referred to the foundation.
“The process begins with donor recognition,” says Rugland. “The need is triggered by the life experience of a person or a conversation with their personal advisor.”
A Partner in the Community
Appleton residents Doug and Myrt Ogilvie wanted to do something good for a community that had been so good to them and also felt it was important for the city to have a place to display its history.
“It’s hard to say who came first,” says Terry Bergen, executive director of The History Museum at the Castle in Appleton. “None of this would have happened without the Ogilvies.”
Through the CFFVR, the couple started one endowment fund in 1986 and another in 1987 to pay for professional positions at the museum.
“This was the purpose of the fund from the beginning and this is how it is used today,” says Bergen.
Over the years, the Ogilvies and others community members have created additional funds to help the museum operate. The CFFVR has also been involved through giving the nonprofit unrestricted grants–– money that is applied for and received upon the foundation’s approval.
Bergen recalls an exhibit that contained a collection from Joesph McCarthy that would not have happened without the support of the CFFVR.
“They were the only ones to financially support this exhibit that won an award and gained national attention,” she says.
In 2009, The History Museum was feeling the effects of the suffering economy and received a bridge grant from the CFFVR that allowed Bergen to keep all of her staff employed.
“The CFFVR will be here supporting the community’s needs in perpetuity, because they hold endowment funds that insure the future quality of life in this community,” says Bergen.
Bergen believes the foundation’s personal relationship with its donors and the community allow it to have a finger on the pulse of the community.
“Very few organizations are 100 percent truly altruistic,” says Bergen.
The Road Ahead
“Today’s challenge is a generational challenge,” says Detjen.
Inspiring Generations X and Y and even the Millennials to value charitable giving isn’t an easy task. The CFFVR works with families who wish to include multiple generations in the decision-making process.
Mame and Dan Heaney of Neenah established the Heaney Family Fund in 1997 as a tool for teaching their son about charitable giving. At that time, Patrick was a 20-year-old college student. Today, he is married, lives in Madison and has sole responsibility for making grant recommendations.
The Heaney’s fund is an endowment managed through the CFFVR that supports organizations affiliated with the United Way. Each year, Patrick reviews the list of qualified programs, searching for new groups that benefit youth in the Fox Valley.
“Programs that benefit kids, benefit the community,” he says. “I have a list of larger organizations such as the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade of Neenah and the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign that also receive our support.”
Through his responsibility of managing the family fund, Patrick has developed a passion for philanthropy that extends beyond giving money. He supports his wife’s charitable activities in Madison and encourages friends to donate their time to benefit others.
Since 1986, the leaders of the CFFVR have built visibility and credibility in the region, secured a physical location and a great staff and found donors to embrace their mission.
—By Dana Baumgart