Columbia's first community foundation unveiled

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | 10:00 p.m. CST; updated 10:11 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 17, 2010

COLUMBIA — Representatives from the Community Foundation of Central Missouri unveiled their philanthropic organization Wednesday night, the first of its kind in Columbia.

“It’s national community foundation week,” Executive Director Roger Still said from a lectern on the second level of the filled lobby of The Tiger Hotel. “Gather your loved ones.”

Community foundations hold donor-advised funds and nonprofit endowments, and that combination is used to benefit the community. There are more than 700 community foundations with over $50 billion in assets nationwide. Some of Missouri's community foundations are housed in Kansas City, the Ozarks and St. Louis. In Columbia, a visioning committee hosted by the City of Columbia that solicited citizen input recommended the formation of the community foundation, a process the city had been working on for some years, said Cindy Mustard of the Voluntary Action Center, one of the foundation's initial donors.

Still said in his address that community foundations work on three fundamentals — providing an infrastructure for giving, working to strengthen nonprofits and establishing relationships within the community.

So far, the Community Foundation of Central Missouri has seven initial donors and partners:

  • ABC Laboratories Charitable Fund
  • Eliot and Muriel Battle African-American Community Fund
  • Central Missouri Community Action Endowment Fund
  • Ben Loeb Foundation
  • Heart of Missouri United Way Endowment Fund
  • Voluntary Action Center Endowment Fund, and
  • Roger Still's family

Rock Bridge High School tennis coach Ben Loeb was the first to contribute to the Columbia community foundation. As he was growing up in St. Louis, his parents made it a point to donate to the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation. Loeb said he waited over a year for the Columbia foundation to take form but said the wait was worth it.

“Community foundations are more efficient,” he said. “You can choose to have the community foundation do a lot of the work for you.”

Loeb said these foundations set up the finances and are more in tune with the community, allowing donors to pick and choose where they would like funds to be sent. They are also a good way to inform successive generations on how to give back, he said.

Tim Rich, who serves as one of 17 members of the community foundation's board of trustees and executive director of the Heart of Missouri United Way Endowment Fund, was also in attendance Wednesday. He said the establishment of the community foundation sets up a “mutual marketing and mutual benefit” opportunity for everyone involved.

The United Way has donors who have earmarked their funds to be placed in an endowment, which means the United Way cannot use them until the interest is valued at $250,000. Eventually, the United Way hopes to be able to fund its internal operations solely from interest on endowments as well as continue to hold campaigns to raise funds.

Mustard said her organization's stake in the community foundation will help the group leverage its money for use on larger projects in the future. She said she saw results from the Kansas City foundation and said taking part in the Columbia foundation was ideal for her group.

Feelings of optimism filled the hotel lobby as Still's speech came to a close.

“It’s a historic day for the community,” he said.

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