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Chairman’s Message

May 24, 2024 | By Alex Paris

Alex paris
WCCF Chairman E. Alex Paris, III

As I look back on 2023 and my overall tenure on the Washington County Community Foundation Board of Trustees, I do so with pride of the many accomplishments our relatively young foundation has achieved. When I first joined the WCCF Board in 2010, our assets were only $9 million, and we had just four employees. At that size our ability to affect real change in our community was limited.

But we had a vision of what the Foundation could become, and we were willing to devote time and effort, and we were also willing to assume some risks to achieve the vision. One of those risks was accepting the Samuel T. Brownlee House in 2013 to become the Foundation’s headquarters. Thankfully, our Donors saw the opportunity the House presented and responded generously by contributing more than $1.5 million, enabling us to rehabilitate the facility and to start an endowment to care for it. The endowment was a key component of the overall project as it essentially eliminated occupancy expenses. The money that we would have otherwise paid to lease office space has been redirected to growing our employee Team and our charitable services. On a beautiful summer day in 2023, we celebrated the accomplishment of a key element of our overall vision for the Foundation, as well as the 175th anniversary of the Brownlee House, with a community open house which was attended by over 200 Donors, including Bill and Sandy Stout who donated the Brownlee House to us.

By the end of 2023, the Foundation’s assets had grown to more than $50 million and our Team had grown to 10 employees. With this increased capacity, we increased our services with two notable additions in 2023, the Community PILLARS certificate program and the Community Snapshot needs assessment.

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The Brownlee House during the 175th anniversary community open house.

For years we have hosted free educational sessions for local nonprofits on a variety of topics impacting the sector. While we had been pleased with the results of those sessions, we knew that a more comprehensive educational program was needed. In response we developed the Community PILLARS program which provides in-depth educational sessions on six broad topics of Mission, Strategy & Evaluation; Governance & Leadership; Legal Compliance & Ethics; Finance & Operations; Fundraising & Resource Development; and Public Awareness & Advocacy. The PILLARS program was modeled after an accreditation tool of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations, a leading authority on nonprofit governance and management. The inaugural PILLARS class convened in the fall of 2023 in the CARE Education Center (a repurposed three-car garage at the Brownlee House), and a new class will be convened each year.

In 2023, we also launched the Community Snapshot website as our community needs assessment, choosing a web-based format so that the information gleaned from our research, focus groups and annual survey, would be continuously accessible to community members. We also included a component that is not common with other needs assessments, the ability for nonprofits to identify their individual needs. The result is a centralized location to learn about broad community needs, as well as the specific needs of more than 100 nonprofits providing valuable services in our community. Our Donors have quickly embraced this new tool and have directed more than $100,000 in grants from donor advised funds to needs identified on the Community Snapshot website.

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It was another record-breaking year for our community-wide giving event, WCCF Gives, which resulted in $1.9 million in grants to participating charities. Capacity-building grants of $700,000 and lifelong learning grants of $300,000 were also issued. Total grantmaking in 2023 from all component funds was $3.6 million.

Two new grantmaking funds were created in 2023, the Rygiel-Sarver Fund and the Social Equity Fund, and the Beinhauer Family Fund received a significant boost from the dissolution of a private foundation into this donor advised fund.

Serving as Chairman has been very rewarding for me, and I am proud of our positive impact in our community. With the continued generosity of our Donors, the leadership of our Board, and the efforts of our CEO Betsie Trew and the great Team that we have working together, I am confident that the WCCF will continue to grow and increase its impact in Washington County.

E. Alex Paris, III

Chairman of the Board