For more than six decades, the Pasadena Community Foundation has provided funding to the city’s nonprofit sector through the generosity of a small group of individuals, families and businesses known as its Endowment Builders. They support all of the grant-making PCF does in the Pasadena area each spring — money that stays in the community and helps sustain the resources and services that make the city great.
The Endowment Builders may soon be in even better company, as the foundation has doubled down on a campaign to boost the number of participants to 100 by the end of this year. By encouraging community members to “Be 1 in 100,” PCF hopes to fortify its permanent philanthropic legacy to the increased benefit of generations to come.
PCF currently has some $50 million in assets, half of which accounts for charitable funds directed by private individuals, organizations and families.
The other half is made up of discretionary endowments, which allow PCF’s staff and board the authority to direct grant-making on behalf of the endowment holder.
“During the update of our strategic plan at the end of 2014, we discovered that there were 75 funds that make up than $25 million,” said Jennifer DeVoll, PCF’s executive director. “Throughout our 62-year history, that group of families has created the endowments that have generated over $23 million in grants that stay right here in Pasadena, so we decided that we wanted to grow the number of families that are engaged in that work.”
For each of the past two years, funds from PCF’s endowments have accounted for $500,000 in grants awarded to 65 local nonprofits. Going forward, the foundation aims to double that amount to $1 million in annual grants. Increasing the number of its endowment builders to 100 will be a significant step toward achieving that goal.
“The people who become one of our 100 families are really creating a permanent legacy to make sure Pasadena stays well supported and a wonderful place to live,” DeVoll said. “We’re the financial steward of these funds, but these are the people who are making a difference and investing in the future. You’re giving the gift today, but the real impact of the endowment is tomorrow.”
Endowments start at a minimum of $10,000, which is not only preserved over time but will continue to appreciate at the rate of inflation. Every year, a small portion of each endowment contributes to PCF’s annual grant-making to dozens of organizations in the community, meaning that this one-time gift can have a much greater impact in the long term than a single donor’s contribution to one particular nonprofit.
“It’s the best philanthropic deal in town,” DeVoll said. “For a relatively small amount of money, you can make a permanent impact. We’ve intentionally tried to keep it affordable because we want participation by a broad spectrum of the community. We don’t want to be the foundation for the very wealthy; we want to be the foundation that is accessible.”
With an eye to permanence, PCF is also employing flexibility in its endowment strategy. Grant-making is determined on a year-to-year basis, and as the needs of the community evolve and new organizations crop up to meet them, PCF is responsible for directing its endowment funds to where they can make the biggest difference.
The foundation reviews its grant applications and prospective grantees through a rigorous vetting process, giving endowment holders the peace of mind that their money is being efficiently managed and effectively spent where it’s needed most. In addition to funding, endorsement by PCF also provides vital exposure for emerging nonprofits and smaller organizations that some donors may not be aware of.
“As a donor, it gives you comfort that the funds you donate are going to the services you feel are important to the community at large, and the Community Foundation adds credibility,” said “Be 1 in 100” co-Chair Margaret Leong Checca, who established an arts endowment in her name in 2014.
With a restricted endowment, donors can stipulate that their funds be routed to a specific area of interest: arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services or youth. While Leong Checca’s endowment is restricted to grants in the arts, how and to whom those grants are distributed is at PCF’s discretion.
“The value to me is it reaches a lot more organizations that don’t have the ability to fundraise or the infrastructure to do what a larger organization can do,” Leong Checca said. “It’s a nice way to keep in tune with what’s going on, and from a donor standpoint, you don’t have to do the legwork and you know that PCF will do a good job.”
Co-Chair Betsey Tyler, on the other hand, opted to create an unrestricted endowment when she established the Sid & Betsey Tyler Endowment with her late husband, former Pasadena City councilman Sid Tyler, in 2011. In doing so, she hoped to empower PCF with the flexibility to adapt its grant-making to the changing needs of the community.
“This community meant a great deal to Sid, and it means a great deal to me, and that’s why both of us felt we wanted to do this,” Tyler said. “Pasadena Community Foundation is a really good conduit for making funds available to nonprofits that are very important to Pasadena, and we wanted to see it grow. I don’t see it as a legacy, I just see it as giving back to a community that we have loved living in and to people and organizations that need the money. The more endowments we have, the more we can grow, and the more we can give to the community.”
For more information about the Pasadena Community Foundation and establishing an endowment, visit pasadenacf.org or call (626) 796-2097.