Foundation eyes county-wide rental assistance fund
The Grand Foundation is celebrating its 22nd anniversary of supporting philanthropy in the county this year, and those involved are confident the organization can continue to grow and make an even bigger impact in the community.
The foundation was started in 1996 when the late CEO of Winter Park Resort Jerry Groswold, inundated with requests from local nonprofits, saw the need for a community foundation in the area. At the time there were just 80 organizations to support ranging from registered 501(c)3 nonprofits to 4-H Clubs and hockey teams.
Today the foundation supported more than 180, and according to Executive Director Megan Ledin, the biggest change to the organization over the years has been the increase in need.
“The biggest change has been the need, especially since the economic downturn of 2008-09,” said Ledin. “When I first came on the Grand Foundation was celebrating its ten year anniversary, and they were really excited because within their first ten years they had awarded out their first million dollars. In the last 10 years, we’ve awarded an additional $7.3 million. … I don’t think people realize how much of a need there is in Grand County.”
As the necessity for philanthropic organizations continues to grow in the county, the Grand Foundation is looking to rise to the challenge. The foundation currently operates 16 designated funds or donor advised funds, and is in the works to add more to their collection.
Last year the Grand Foundation, along with Winter Park Resort and the town of Winter Park created the Winter Park Housing Assistance Fund, meant to ease housing concerns in the community by assisting with rent, move-in assistance and down payments.
Despite being just months old, the fund has already awarded an excess of $50,000 to 17 families so far. But the fund continues to grow. Late last year both the town of Winter Park and the resort contributed a combined $250,000 in matching funds, which the foundation is close to matching.
The fund’s early success has the foundation thinking about expanding a similar program to the rest of the county.
“We are reaching out, talking to other municipalities and with the county to create a county wide rental assistance program,” said Ledin. “We also have Mountain Family Center and Grand Angels. Both of those have organization also have rental assistance, but they have it for people who are below the poverty line. So we’re going to work in collaboration, not only with the Housing Authority, but also with those nonprofits that already have rental assistance programs, and go beyond what they’re doing to bridge that gap.”
Earlier this month the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation awarded the Grand Foundation $100,000 to begin working on the project. $20,000 of the grant will go to a county-wide needs assessment to be conducted by the Grand County Housing Authority, $25,000 is being earmarked for the Mountain Family Center and Grand Angel’s low income rental assistance programs, and $10,000 is going toward a new Grand County housing website, which will list rental availabilities, Realtors, financiers and assistance resources.
The other $45,000 will be used as seed money for the countywide rental assistance program. The Grand Foundation is working on matching the $45,000, but Ledin noted that even $90,000 is merely a starting point for what the foundation is hoping to accomplish in the longrun.
“$90,000 is pretty de minimis in relation to the entire county,” said Ledin. “We’ll be looking at writing grants and trying to make that as big as possible. That’s why we haven’t launched that in terms of the application process yet. We want to make sure we have the corpus of money in it.”
Ledin said the foundation expects to match the grant by the end of the first fiscal quarter, and that they are anticipating launching the program sometime this year.
That’s not the only major project the Grand Foundation is working on in 2018. When Jerry Groswold passed away in 2015 he left the foundation $250,000 in matching funds to create and endowment fund.
“One of the things that we’re lacking, and quite frankly a majority of our nonprofits are lacking is an endowment fund for sustainable funding in the future,” said Ledin. “I’m happy to say that we’ve reached that $250,000 match, but our goal in the next 18 months is to keep going with that.
“We want to build a large endowment in the Grand Foundation so if another 2008-09 happens, then we would have that money that was built in perpetuity. The dividends and the appreciation off that principle amount could be given in grants still to nonprofits.”
Ledin said she wants the foundation to raise another half million dollars, and hopes to start the endowment fund later this year with a million dollars. She said she also wants to grow the endowment over the next decade, hoping to eventually build a ten million dollar endowment.
While the foundation works towards a more sustainable model, Ledin is trying to create a better environment for all nonprofits in Colorado. For the third straight year Ledin and the Colorado Nonprofit Association are pushing the Colorado Nonprofit Sustainability Act in front of the Colorado General Assembly. The bill, if finally passed, would essentially offer tax credits for donations made to endowments of Colorado nonprofits.
“There’s something to be said about nonprofits,” said Ledin. “They perform tremendous amounts of service whether it be in Grand County or elsewhere, and so many of them are living hand to mouth because all the dollars they take in go back out to the community. If they can have a sustainable funding source then their day-to-day general operating expensive does not threaten them.
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