Founded in 1960, the Stanwood-Camano Area Foundation is the second oldest community foundation in the State of Washington. Only the Seattle Foundation is older. A community foundation is in a unique position to facilitate broad-ranged community impact. This ability was well described by Metzger, then President/CEO of the Community Foundation of Snohomish County when she spoke about the uniqueness of the Stanwood-Camano Area Foundation during the Philanthropist of the Year Awards Breakfast in 2011:
Most community foundations in Washington State are county-wide foundations. Some are even multi-county. A dedicated community foundation for a community this small is not very common in our state or country. There is no other town in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish or Island County that has its own dedicated foundation. In fact, there are only a total of 28 community foundations in the entire State of Washington. Whidbey Island is just now in the process of forming its own community foundation. In contrast, Stanwood Camano Area Foundation has been serving this area for over 55 years, making it one of the oldest Foundations in the State.
That in itself is remarkable. But how many of you really understand what Stanwood Camano Area Foundation has accomplished in this community?
You may not realize this, but most community foundations don’t have scholarship programs. Or if they do, they are very small. That’s because managing scholarships is extremely labor intensive and they can’t begin to pay for themselves in fees. They are simply not sustainable.
Yet the Stanwood Camano Area Foundation not only has a scholarship program, it has created a framework for scholarships that makes it easy for anyone in the community who wants to give a scholarship to do so.
In creating this framework, dozens of companies, families, and individuals began offering local scholarships because Stanwood Camano Area Foundation made it easy for them to do so. Prior to this, the vast majority of scholarships were offered by a handful of service organizations and churches who each had their own application process.
This year, 86 different donor groups will be awarding high school scholarships. They will be giving out more than 200 scholarships to over 100 students. There are six new sponsors offering scholarships, none of whom would have been able to do so without the framework the Stanwood Camano Area Foundation has put in place.
Yet this would never have been accomplished without the support of the people sitting in this room. You are the ones who made the impossible possible through your generous financial support. A community foundation is only limited in what they can do for the community by the support it receives.
For instance, two years ago your support enabled Stanwood Camano Area Foundation to introduce a local Giving Tuesday initiative to raise funds for projects sponsored by other non-profit organizations within the community. Last year over $60,000 was raised during the event for specific projects that benefit the community. Your support makes introducing new programs like this possible.
Another way a community foundation benefits the community is through acting as a fiscal agent for community initiatives. This is a critically important service to any community. It allows a new community group to form and begin work on a local initiative without having to jump through all the hoops of forming their own 501(c)(3) organization before they know if the idea is going to work out.
In recent history, when a group of community members began to look into bringing a YMCA into Stanwood, the Community Foundation acted as the fiscal agent for that initiative. When Port Susan Farmer’s Market was created, Stanwood Camano Area Foundation acted as fiscal agent until they were able to get their own 501(c)(3) organization set up and begin accepting donations themselves.
There are all kinds of creative, innovative people in the community who have great ideas and want to do great things, but they need a place to start. They need a place where donations can be made and bills can be paid before they have their own organization set-up or their own bank accounts.
Right now some local community leaders are discussing creating a Collective Impact Initiative for the Stanwood Camano area that would bring together schools, government agencies and nonprofits to create a shared vision for the area and to collaborate with each other so together they can better address complex social problems that no single agency can address on their own. I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the weeks and months to come.
Initiatives like this are vital to the continued growth and health of a community, and Stanwood Camano Area Foundation, acting as fiscal sponsor, made it much easier for them to get off the ground.
Community Foundation’s know the communities they work in so they are able to help meet the needs. They convene charitably focused individuals, for-profit and non-profit organizations to coordinate resources in local communities and they serve as a catalyst to build, strengthen & foster positive change.