Money may not be able to buy happiness, but some extra funds can translate to extra peace of mind for students and nonprofits struggling with finances. And for more than two years, the McKean County Community Foundation has been there to help.
The foundation helps people with philanthropic goals by establishing a fund and investing the donation. Then, the foundation helps to match those funds with recipients in the community.
The McKean County Community Foundation and the Elk County Community Foundation are affiliate organizations of the Community Foundation of the Northern Alleghenies.
As of Wednesday afternoon, McKean County Community Foundation had around 20 to 21 funds, but the possible addition of more is in the works, according to Executive Director Paula Fritz Eddy.
Eddy explained, “We’re here to help individuals give back to the community and help the community grow and be a better place to live.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Eddy had plans to meet with the Bradford Area School District to talk about the possibility of some of the scholarships being transferred to the foundation. She would be sharing the benefits the foundation can offer participants.
For one, “We are able to invest in things that the school districts cannot,” she said.
Also, students receiving scholarships from the foundation have a chance to see the award amount double, thanks to the foundation’s partnership with the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).
PHEAA’s Partnerships for Access to Higher Education (PATH) program provides matching dollars to scholarship recipients who qualify. The foundation nominates all of its scholarship recipients for PATH funding.
The Elk County Community Foundation has been working with the program since 2004, too.
The McKean County Community Foundation was quite active in 2018, according to the recently released annual report.
In 2018, the organization created 10 new charitable funds, received nearly $67,000 in gifts, awarded 22 first-year scholarships totaling nearly $11,600 and garnered $1,525 in matching funds for scholarship recipients through the PATH program.
The foundation has awarded $44,000 in scholarships since its inception in 2017.
In fact, scholarships are “the most active part of our foundation right now,” Eddy noted.
Another current project of the McKean County Community Foundation is the Women’s Giving Circle, which will serve as a way to gather local women together to decide how funds they donate are dispersed through community grants.
On Wednesday night, organizers for the Women’s Giving Circle group were to begin sending invitations to women from all over McKean County who might be interested in attending the group’s inaugural event. It is not an invitation-only event, and local women are welcome to invite other women they think might be interested.
Eddy noted that, thanks to a donor, much of the event cost is covered, and there will be fundraisers like raffles to help cover any other costs. There will be a cash bar.
The Women’s Giving Circle will solicit nonprofits to apply for grants. At the end of the membership year, there will be a meeting, which will likely include short presentations by the applicants, where members will vote on who will receive grants.
Co-chairs for the steering committee are Carol Duffy and Judy Bodamer.
A similar organization is already established in Elk County, Eddy noted.
Among the new funds started in 2018 is the McKean County Fund for the Future, an endowment started by the community foundation.
While the fund is currently used for administrative costs of the foundation, Eddy explained the organization is “hoping that with time that will also become a general fund that we’ll be able to make grants out of when we grow it.”
Regarding a similar fund at the Elk County Community Foundation, Eddy said that organization was able to sustain itself without using the fund after six or seven years. The plan is that, in a few years, the McKean County Community Foundation will likewise be able to sustain itself without using the Fund for the Future for administrative costs.
“It will eventually be able to provide dollars back into the community,” she said.
Another new fund, the Early Childhood Development Fund started by an anonymous donor, was “designed to work with early childhood providers in the area,” Eddy said.
She explained the fund can serve as a scholarship to families experiencing unusual financial circumstances who are at risk of pulling their child out of early childhood programs due to financial issues.
Port Allegany Community Development Fund, started by a local family, was established to provide grants to organizations that serve the Port Allegany community. She explained they hope to grow the fund to $5,000 before they begin offering grants.
Endowment funds have been established to support CASA of McKean County and the McKean County Housing Coalition, and there are around 15 scholarships that are already established at the foundation.
Altogether, there are five types of funds through the foundation: unrestricted, designated, agency endowment, scholarship and donor advised.
People can go to the foundation website, mckeancountyfoundation.org, and make a donation there to any of the established funds.
Residents can start their own funds, too. Eddy said people do not need to be a millionaire to do so.
“If they want to start a fund, they can start with almost anything,” she said, though she added that the foundation encourages people to wait until a fund has at least $5,000 before making grants from it.
Over 64% of the funds at the foundation have less than $25,000.
“Most started small and grew over the years,” she said.
She noted that groups will often raise money for their funds by holding fundraisers or through memorial donations. Also, “We do invest the dollars and we help grow the dollars,” she added.