The Greene County Foundation helps many local individuals and organizations. They do this by accepting donations which they then invest. The earnings from those investments are then given back to the community in the form of grants. The foundation’s Executive Director, Cam Trampke, said they can best be described as the county’s savings account.
“We have about 140 different funds,” explained Trampke. “Someone can set up an endowed fund for a particular charitable purpose. If they wanted to see flowers put in the public library once a week for forever, they can set a fund up with us. We would then monitor and grow that fund, and award a grant back to the library on an annual basis with the specific purpose of purchasing flowers. We have funds that support the Humane Society and we have funds that support the Food Pantries. We then have other funds that are endowed but don’t have a specific purpose. We pull those together as part of our community support grant cycle. We take the earnings off all those and then put out grant proposal requests and just fund things that way.”
The foundation has three grant cycles. In the spring, they award somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 to fund 19 to 25 scholarships from endowed funds set up to help students. They also have endowed funds for organizations that come to between $30,000 and $60,000. Their competitive grant cycle is open to any not-for-profit organization, and for the last two years they have awarded $60,000 a year out of that fund.
On an annual basis, Trampke estimates that they are awarding around $150,000 back into the community.
The foundation’s primary focus is building long-term endowments, but they also look at short-term projects that can immediately benefit the county.
“One of the big things we’ve done in the last couple of years that really seemed to have some impact is helping Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry with some of their operational costs,” said Trampke. “Hunters kill deer and maybe nobody likes to eat the deer or they bag so many they don’t need any more meat, so they donate it to that organization and what we do is we help them with the processing costs. They take their deer meat to the local processors and once it’s processed and packaged they donate that meat to the local food pantries. What they estimate is that the deer meat probably provides around 6,000 meals.”
The foundation helped the Worthington Garden Club with a beautification project that turned an abandoned lot into a small community park, and last year through next year they are helping to support Shawnee Theatre with an annual $7,000 grant to help with their overall operations.
Trampke mentioned that the foundation is also helping Shawnee establish an endowment.
“Shawnee has been in the area for 53 years, which is a phenomenal feat in itself. But what we’ve been doing with them is figuring out how we can help them be here another 53 years, by building an endowment that will be able to provide for some of their financial needs over time.”
Last year they awarded the Linton Pool a grant that helped make the pool more Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant.
“There are probably some kids swimming there this year that have never been in that pool before,” noted Trampke, “and adults as well.”
The Greene County Foundation was originally started by the Lilly Endowment, a private philanthropic foundation out of Indianapolis that also started a foundation in every other county in Indiana.
“And for that reason,” explained Trampke, “Indiana is the envy of other states across the country, because we have community foundations. And the intent was to replicate within our communities what Lilly had done for the state. And that is to build assets for the long-term benefit of the community.”
Trampke added that some locals believe the Greene County Foundation is still supported by Lilly. Although Lilly started the foundation and gave them initial funding that they used for many projects, the intent was to give the community a visible demonstration of the power of a foundation.
“Now Lilly is not funding us,” Trampke explained, “ and the idea is that the community has seen what a foundation has done for them and will now contribute and donate to the foundation to keep that cycle of giving going. This is about local giving coming back to provide local services. The mother bird is telling us we’re supposed to fly on our own now!”
According to Trampke, part of flying on their own means keeping up with the changing times.
Trampke said recent studies coming out of Ball State University for the Imagine Bloomfield Project indicate that the field of economic development is changing. Her theory is that it is merging with community development.
“Previously, economic development was always thought of as business attraction and retention,” commented Trampke. “How do we get businesses and jobs into our community? And it is still focused on jobs. But what’s happened as the economy, culture, and society have changed is that we have texts and e-mail and Facebook and all of these other things, and they have changed the way our up-and-coming generation seeks and procures employment. What we’re finding is that while those of us who are in our fifties or our sixties were always told to get a job, keep a job, and go wherever the job is, younger people look for where they want to live and then they find the job.”
Trampke explained that now the question is how to make our communities attractive places young people want to live and raise families in—which means that community amenities and attractions are more important than ever.
“Our competitive grant cycle allows us to be flexible and meet the most immediate community needs,” said Trampke. “As we see the need changing within the community we will change the categories we award grants in. That’s part of the beauty of helping the foundation build those community support funds, because we can then put those funds towards the most immediate needs, which are ever changing.”
They can also help organizations cope with their own internal changes by setting up endowment funds and overseeing those funds so they will grow and meet the donor’s charitable intents.
“For an organization the benefit is that as the leadership of the organization changes, which happens, the ability of that organization to have some funds set for their purpose will always be there,” said Trampke. “The big issue is that you may have an organization that comes into a lot of money, and based upon the leadership that money may be well-stewarded or not. You might get somebody in your organization that has some big ideas and they just spend it all and the organization doesn’t have anything left. But if they set up an endowment then those dollars will always be here for the benefit of that organization.”
Trampke added that although the organization loses control of the money they endow, they get the assurance that the dollars will always be used for the charitable purpose they wanted to fund.
Endowments can also provide tax savings for individuals who have money they want to see used for the good of their community, and they can help people leave the county some funds in their wills or estates.
“We want to help raise community dollars for community benefit,” Trampke said in summary. “That’s really what our mission is.”