Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Cincinnati Foundation has record year

Assets, gifts, contributions, grants all soar

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The roaring stock market and unprecedented gifts from residents drove the Greater Cincinnati Foundation to records in contributions, grants and assets in 1999.

        The organization collected $60 million in contributions, double its 1998 total and by far the largest in the foundation's 36-year history, said Kathryn Merchant, president and chief executive officer of the group, known as GCF.

        It also approved grants totaling $18 million and posted year-end assets of $390 million.

        The numbers reflect good times for community foundations and charitable groups across the country, as baby boomers reach their highest earnings and investing years and start collecting inheritances.

        That money has enabled the foundation to spread its wings by supporting a variety of community causes. It also is spending about $3 million to buy and renovate a new headquarters at Fourth and Elm streets downtown.

        For local charities, the results mean millions of dollars in contributions that will help causes from education and childrens' services to new health programs and parks.

        “They're the real experts when it comes to keeping money moving for social service

        agencies around town,” said Mac McArthur, executive director of Transitions Inc. in Bellevue. “If you're helping people, they can probably fit you in.”

        Transitions provides services to users of alcohol and drugs, and headed a group of social-service agencies that received $45,000 from the foundation late last year to build transition apartments for people who are homeless.

        Ms. Merchant, who has increased the staff to 17 employees, said GCF has tried to maximize exposure and participate in a wide variety of projects.

        “We were like a hidden treasure for a long time, and the board said, "Enough of that,'” Ms. Merchant said.

        Nationally, foundations are capitalizing on a healthy economy and making more grants, said Dot Ridings, president and chief executive of the Council on Foundations in Washington, D.C. Nearly 100 community foundations have been created during the last seven years, bringing the total to about 550, she said.

        Community foundations provide administration and grant-making for donors who start a fund. Donors can specify that their funds support causes in specific areas.

        GCF has 1,092 component funds, ranging from $5,000 to more than $10 million. It charges a fee of up to 1 percent of the endowments for those management services.

        “For people who aren't Rockefellers or Carnegies but who still want to contribute, it provides the best of all possible worlds,” Ms. Ridings said. “And the boomers are turning out to be charitably minded.”

        She said Greater Cincinnati is at the forefront of a trend for community foundations to help with development, arts or community projects, expanding out of their traditional charitable roles.

        “These foundations are so much more than a financial vehicle for charitable giving,” Ms. Ridings said. “In a lot of places, they can really bring a community together.”


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