Giving money away wisely takes effort

The Community Foundation of Jackson County is in the business of encouraging philanthropy and granting money to help others.

When I started my new job and career with the foundation just 11 short months ago, my predecessor, Bud Walther of Seymour, assured me that I’d soon learn that giving away money isn’t as easy as it may seem. My eyebrows raised and quite possibly my left eye squinted just a bit, perhaps betraying that I wasn’t quite sure how that could be true.

Soon, however, I learned it was true. Bud was right. Giving away money — at least wisely — isn’t easy.

Nevertheless, the staff at the foundation and our 18-member board of directors, with a little help from other community volunteers, do our best to prudently administer more than $10 million in assets to generate earnings that can be granted for scholarships, classroom education grants, community impact grants and what we call our fall grant cycle.

The fall grants make an impact across Jackson County. Recipients attest to that.

“The grant we received last year helped us better meet the growing need for the free, hot meals that we provide to people from across our community,” said Pastor Rick Wilson of Matthew 25 Street Ministries in Seymour. The foundation awarded a $2,095 grant to The Alley Kitchen food ministry last autumn for the purchase of a second gas range, oven and stainless steel range hood.

Work on this year’s fall grants cycle is under way. During the next several weeks, foundation Vice President Sue Smith and I will remain busy answering questions, reviewing drafts and accepting applications. Forms are available online at The deadline for receiving applications is July 31. Sorry, no extensions.

Once the deadline passes and Sue reviews them for compliance (all applications must involve 501(c)3 organizations or governmental units), our grant committee, which consists of nine board members and one or two community volunteers, will conduct site visits to investigate the applicants’ requests and their need.

Two factors that can play a large role in determining grants include whether a nonprofit organization’s board is engaged financially and whether other funding sources are being pursued for the project. We like to see board members with skin in the game, and we support the concept of bringing funding partners together to deal with community issues and needs.

Once the site visits are completed, the foundation staff and grants committee convene to determine which applications will be awarded grants. This will take place in September, and our board of directors will consider the recommendations in October. While we’d like to say every organization that applies receives funding, we can’t.

Last year, for example, the foundation approved 20 fall grants totaling $32,536. Earnings from all of the foundation’s unrestricted funds generated $26,418 of what was granted. The rest came from field of interest funds. Seven other grant requests were denied last fall. There wasn’t enough grant dollars available.

This year, board of directors approved a granting rate that will pay out $328,073 in grants from scholarship funds, donor advised funds, designated funds, agency funds and unrestricted funds. That’s up from $299,000 approved for 2014 and includes $35,244 for fall grants.

We hope to see the amount of earnings available for the scholarships, the fall grant cycle and other grant opportunities bump up in the next couple of years because of our success in bringing in more than $1 million through the recently completed Lilly Endowment GIFT VI program.

And your new gifts, of course, can help make those grant dollars grow as well. If you would like to donate to any of the foundation’s endowed funds or to create your own endowed fund, call me at 812-523-4483 to set up an appointment. We can discuss your interest in helping others in the community and how to make your assistance a reality.

Your endowed gifts can, through prudent investment, generate earnings for scholarships, classroom education grants, fall grants, agency grants and community impact grants to help people all across Jackson County. Over and over, year after year.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. For information about donating opportunities with the foundation, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to