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Supporting Strategic Growth through Impactful Grant-Making

March 25, 2023 | By Washington County Community Foundation

Philanthropy Matters Grants Chart
Of the $3.6 million in grants awarded by the Washington County Community Foundation in 2022, a total of $710,00 was designated for capacity-building projects in five different focus areas.

If you were charged with distributing $1 million to nonprofits in the community, how would you decide how that money should be spent?

Sounds like fun, right? (It is!) But, a word of caution: this task can be far more challenging than it seems.

There are countless approaches to distributing grant funding in a responsible, coordinated, and strategic manner, but funders often make decisions with similar outcomes in mind. Specifically, they are looking to fund initiatives at are meaningful, effective, and impactful.

Although the majority of the Foundation’s distributions are donor-directed, an increase in discretionary support (which enables our Board of Trustees to determine awards) has enabled us to host more significant competitive cycles that are addressing critical needs at critical times.

In recent years, the Foundation has adopted a capacity-building focus in an effort to help our local charities to strengthen their organizations and grow in a strategic way.

As each nonprofit is unique, the next step forward can mean something different for each applicant. So, our approach is quite broad, and we often work very closely with applicants to determine an optimal request for their particular organization.

The WCCF defines “capacity-building” as any activity that increases the nonprofit’s operational, programmatic, financial, or organizational maturity. Not only has the Foundation fully embraced the concept of capacity-building, but now our donors are thinking this way too!

As a result, the WCCF awarded a total of $710,000 in capacity-building grants to 24 organizations in 2022.

The grants, which were issued from a variety of component funds and ranged from $10,000 to $100,000, supported facility improvements, program expansions, enhanced communications, financial process improvements, and new technology.

These grants are not just crossing an item off a wish list – in many cases, they’re transformational.

Healing Bridges
Healing Bridges Marketing & Development Specialist Riley Bitonti and Executive Director Natalie Ross proudly display the new Healing Bridges website, which was funded by a WCCF capacity-building grant.

One of the most powerful illustrations of this concept comes in the form of new websites. Nonprofits that have no website, or an antiquated one that cannot be updated, are not able to effectively communicate their wonderful programs or services. Additionally, in this information age, not having an appropriate online presence can actually compromise an organization’s credibility, which can negatively impact its fundraising ability.

The websites funded during the 2022 cycle are still in development. But, if previous awards to the Avella Area Library, Bentleyville Public Library, Healing Bridges, and Heritage Public Library are any indication, our most recent grant recipients will soon be keeping the community connected through a beautiful, user-friendly communications medium.

Something just as important as an online presence, but not quite as easily seen, is sound fiscal management. Knowing that strong financial practices and transparency are vital to a charitable organization’s growth, the WCCF has established financial process improvement as a specific focus area, awarding grants for accounting software, related equipment, and audits.

Reporting on the success of Resurrection Power’s capacity-building grant, Reverend Robert Hedges remarked, “We are eager to begin our second of three years of independent audits and hope to make audits a regular ongoing responsibility of the Board of Directors. Having the independent audit was helpful in gaining a significant mission support grant meeting our budget goal of $35,000 . . .”

In the coming months, the WCCF looks forward to learning about how all of our 2022 capacity-building grant recipients were able to take the next step forward as a result of their awards.

In total, the Washington County Community Foundation awarded an incredible $3.6 million in grants in 2022! An overview of the Foundation’s 2022 grant-making is available in the vibrant Community Impact Grant Report, now available here.

Also on the site is information about this year’s Capacity-Building Grant Cycles. Phase I applications are due April 1.

Amazing things are happening here in Washington County, and through the generosity of our donors, the WCCF has the great privilege of being able to provide the framework and resources to support the growth of local nonprofits that are helping so many.