“We’d like to get more recognition that there is a community foundation here and that we’ve done a lot of good,” says BACF President Gerry Nadig, whose two-year term began in January. “I think we have a good story.”
Former board president Kim Duchossois, whose two-year term ended in December, says “The foundation perpetuates the good things that help the community and keep it together.”
With a primary mission “to meet unmet needs,” the BACF is a nonprofit that supports other nonprofits. “Anyone who donates money to us also donates money to many other organizations and charities,” Nadig says. Each year the BACF awards grants designated to help the recipient organizations create new programs or purchase new equipment. Since its founding in 1998, the BACF has awarded $858,390 in grants. The foundation plans to award $135,000 this year and should cross the $1 million milestone in 2014.
“We’ve touched 55 different organizations in the Barrington area,” Nadig says, adding that several organizations have received multiple grants over the years.
When the foundation was formed in 1998, it had seven directors on its board and assets of $36,000. The board now has 25 members, and the BACF ended 2012 with $3.6 million in assets. The BACF awarded grants for the first time in 2000, handing out a total of $5,000. In 2013, the foundation awarded $125,500, with individual grants ranging from $1,500 to American Cancer Society-Relay for Life (to help pay for the group’s Survivor/Caregiver dinner) to $20,000 to Barrington Youth and Family Services (to launch a pilot case management program).
The Barrington Area Community Foundation began in 1997 when community stalwart Norval Stephens asked other business leaders to join him for breakfast at Egg Harbor Café. Stephens told the others he recently learned about the benefits of a community foundation and that he believed the Barrington area could use one. The BACF was incorporated in September of the following year with Stephens as the board president. He remained in that position for 11 years. Realizing the board would need new leadership if the foundation was to grow, he stepped down at the end of 2009.
Stephens, who remains on the board of directors, believes his successors have guided the foundation well. “It’s gone very successfully,” he says.
Although leaders would like to get the BACF story out, nothing like a marketing blitz is planned. The BACF’s carefully managed finances will allow the group to remain a philanthropic force in the community for decades to
Operating largely behind the scenes, the Barrington Area Community Foundation has helped other area nonprofit organizations fulfill such needs as food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, and security for the elderly. Having received grants from the BACF for more than a decade, charitable organizations in the greater Barrington area know about the foundation’s role in meeting the community’s needs. Now the leaders of the BACF believe the time has come for the public to learn more about their organization.
come. “It will be here long, long after all have passed away,” Nadig says. “The foundation will live on.” So the BACF has time to build awareness incrementally. During Duchossois’ presidency, the BACF redesigned its Website and participated in Barrington’s Fourth of July parade. “We continued to build relationships through our golf outings,” Duchossois says, referring to the foundation’s annual June fundraising event.
The BACF also has built awareness within Barrington High School through its Youth Advisory Council, which board member David Hirsch created four years ago. “I think starting the Youth Advisory Council was a stroke of genius,” Nadig says (see sidebar).
A subtler way of engaging with the community is to fill vacancies on the board with new, and younger, members. “Pretty soon we have to start bringing in the younger generation, the forty-somethings,” Duchossois says. “This is not an old, stodgy community foundation.”
Karen Lambert, the president of Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, joined the board of directors in 2010. She first heard of the BACF shortly after arriving in Barrington in 2000 and was inspired by its approach to philanthropy. “It’s an innovative approach, a community-based approach,” Lambert says. “Living and working here, I wanted to be part of it.”
Board members are all volunteers and the BACF has no paid staff, which helps to hold its administrative expenses to less than 1 percent of total assets. Nadig acknowledges that running the foundation with volunteers is a challenge, but says, “We will do everything possible to be a volunteer organization, because we can do so much more in the community.”
Grants are taken from the interest earned on the foundation’s principal assets. Except for the 1 percent annual operating expenses, the principal remains untouched. “If you donate to the foundation, that money is there forever,” Nadig says. “We basically never spend the principal.”
Nadig attributes the foundation’s strong financial growth to donors and sponsors, but primarily to the seven-member investment committee. “They have essentially outperformed all the base indices and our benchmarks since they started investing our money,” he says. “It’s unusual for a board in a community to have that much financial knowledge. We’ve been fortunate. Very fortunate.”
The committee’s investment acumen also helped the BACF weather the recession that began in 2008. “They kept such a close eye on our finances during the recession,” Duchossois says. “We came out just fine. Not one grantee or grant was held back or diminished because of the recession.”
BACF grants are not meant to fund ongoing programs or increase a charity’s operating budget. The BACF encourages recipient charities to create new programs that meet residents’ unfulfilled needs, whether it be help finding a new job or counseling to prevent suicide. “We want our seed money to grow,” Nadig says. “We want to see it grow into programs that help our community.”
“Some programs may not have been able to happen without the foundation,” Lambert adds.
Every November, the BACF hosts an informational meeting at the Barrington Area Library to instruct charities on how to apply for grants. The foundation particularly likes to encourage smaller and newer charities, Nadig says. Such groups may be unfamiliar with writing grants, but board members will advise them. “We’ll help them in any way we can,” he says, “because those are the ones we want to see succeed and to grow. They are truly meeting an unmet need.”
Grant applications are due Feb. 1, and the board devotes a lot of time during the next two months to reviewing the applications and choosing the recipients. The grants are awarded formally at a luncheon in April. The head of each charity speaks, describing how the grant will be used. Lambert finds the awards luncheon a moving event. “I’m inspired by what people in the community do on their own, and the foundation is there to help them.”
The bulk of the BACF’s grant money goes to programs that promote human services, health care, and education, but the foundation also has promoted economic development, the environment, and arts and culture. Duchossois says it is important that foundation supports programs benefitting the young, the elderly, and those in between. “We are here to serve the community multigenerationally.”
With the foundation’s assets likely to grow for some time, the board will face challenges enviable for a charity. “As we develop and have more resources, we will think how we can spur more ways to meet unmet needs,” Nadig says. The board started issuing grants in two-year installments a few years ago, he says, and it may consider three-year grants in the future.
Additionally, the board also fields requests to advise other communities on how to start a community foundation. The man who was inspired to create the Barrington Area Community Foundation is usually dispatched, Nadig says. “We send Norval out, and Norval wants to go out!”
For his part, Stephens believes the BACF will be guided smartly by Nadig, who resigned as CEO of Material Sciences Corp. in 2003. “Gerry is a highly competent corporate executive from a Fortune 500 company,” Stephens says. “We are expecting some great things from him, and he’s already doing some wonderful planning.”
Duchossois jokingly points out another of Nadig’s qualities, “He knows Robert’s Rules of Order almost as much as Norval Stephens.”
Nadig feels fortunate to follow the leadership of Stephens and the others who established the Barrington Area Community Foundation. “It’s great to carry on the work of some people who had real foresight a couple of years ago.”
The Barrington Area Community Foundation initiated its Youth Advisory Council (YAC) to expose teenagers to philanthropy and open their minds to its possibilities.
For 17-year-old Markos Sinclair, that mission has been accomplished. “You experience these incredible individuals who dedicate their lives to others,” he says, “and that just changes your perspective.”
“It’s a really, really cool thing that we’re lucky to have at the high school,” adds 18-year-old Meredith Slott.
BACF board member David Hirsch formed the YAC four years ago with four students from every grade at Barrington High School. Now seniors, Sinclair and Slott joined the YAC as freshmen, so they are part of the first group to advance all the way through the program.
When Hirsch started the YAC, the goal was to teach the students about grant making and the inner workings of philanthropic organizations. He did not expect the students to start their own fundraisers. The students thought otherwise. “They felt they should have some skin in the game,” Hirsch says.
On their own initiative, the students organized a school dance three years ago that has become an annual event. “And we actually made quite a bit of money,” Slott says. This year’s dance raised $12,000.
The students also started a Halloween food drive. This year they collected 2,000 pounds of food to donate to the Cuba Township Food Pantry. Sinclair said the students approach such projects with an attitude of “If you want to do something, then let’s do it.”
The students meet with Hirsch once a month after school. They also participate in the BACF’s grant-making process, though only in an advisory capacity.
All agree that the highlight of the year is the Chicago field trip Hirsch plans each spring. He takes the students to such major organizations as the MacArthur Foundation and the McCormick Foundation, as well as smaller charities. “David has a wide network in the city in the nonprofit community,” says BACF board member Kim Duchossois, who became such a fan of the field trips that she tags along. “They’re an unbelievable experience.”
As part of the field trips, Hirsch arranges for the students to have lunch with philanthropic or government leaders. “They’re meeting people they wouldn’t otherwise meet,” he says, “and some of them are influential.”
Those influential people have included Gov. Pat Quinn and entrepreneur StedmanGraham. The meeting with Graham led to him speaking at the high school eight months later. “There’s been a lot of interesting things to come out of the field trips,” Hirsch says.
Students in the YAC also discover philanthropy closer to home. “Through learning about what the BACF has given money to, I have been able to see all the programs and charity work that is going on in the Barrington area,” Sinclair says. He calls the exposure “eye-opening.”
Sinclair and Slott both plan to pursue philanthropy and volunteerism when they enter college next fall.
Hirsch says the YAC has been rewarding for him as well. “It’s a labor of love for me. Youth and community service is my m.o.”
On December 5, 2012, guests of the Barrington Area Community Foundation enjoyed a festive evening with dinner, a Foundation program, and honored guest speaker and author Eboo Patel. The presenting sponsor was BMO Harris, and support was also provided by The Garlands of Barrington and the Biltmore Country Club.