The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands celebrated 30 years of serving the community on Sunday, a milestone highlighting its decades of collecting, distributing and managing funds by partnering donors and community organizations to help the Virgin Islands recover and grow.
The foundation was established in 1990 with a founding gift of $540,000 from businessman and diplomat Henry Kimelman and his wife Charlotte. By December 1996, the Community Foundation began making grants of approximately $100,000 a year, and by the time the hurricanes hit in 2017, the organization had assets of $12 million. Today, the foundation manages an $18 million portfolio benefiting more than 150 named funds and programs committed to issues such as youth, education, early childhood, health, disaster recovery and the environment.
The Community Foundation has awarded $47 million in grants, scholarships and services for organizations and initiatives benefiting Virgin Islands residents, including more than $16 million in disaster relief, $27.5 million in grants and $3.1 million in scholarships.
The foundation acts as a steward for donors and community organizations working within the Virgin Islands. People who want to make a difference, but don’t know how, or where, to start are able to pool their resources with like-minded stakeholders to target help where they feel it is most needed in a field-of-interest fund — such as the Friends and Family Fund for USVI Renewal — or individual donors can establish a donor-advised fund, with advisory privileges on where the money goes. When it receives the funds, the foundation determines where the money is best spent and distributes grants through partners within the community.
“The one unique thing I’ve discovered since working with the foundation is that a lot of community foundations around the country charge administrative fees to do all this work,” said Communications Manager Sean Liphard. “We do not charge those fees. The way we are able to do that is through our annual CFVI Angel Giving campaign, with donations of $500 or more to the foundation itself. It really makes it easier for donors, especially large donors or those who want to donate to several different entities, by managing those donations and following up to see that the money is being used as intended. Transparency is extremely important to us.”
Perhaps the biggest impact the Community Foundation has had in the territory was after hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. From September 2017 to the end of July 2020, more than 10,000 individual donors and institutions donated more than $18 million. With its recovery efforts ongoing, the foundation has already distributed more than $16 million through more than 150 different funds.
Additional grants totaling $1 million from the Family and Friends Fund will be announced shortly, bringing total recovery effort to more than $17 million.
The foundation has worked closely with granting entities such American Red Cross, Carnival Corporation, Cruzan Rum, GlobalGiving, Princess Cruises Community Foundation, and others to facilitate grantmaking and project management to support relief, recovery and building forward projects.
Because they have established partnerships, the Community Foundation has the ability to turn things around quickly. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Virgin Islands shores, CFVI has provided 48 grants, totaling more than $200,000 so far, focused on pandemic related needs, especially for children and families, food insecurities, health and well-being and personal protective equipment. The foundation distributed funds to help make virtual learning possible during the pandemic, distributing more than $110,000 to 28 different organizations, for laptops and training for learning at home.
For the last year, the foundation has partnered with Catchafire, an online platform that matches volunteers from around the world with nonprofit groups who need help with a range of projects, including marketing brochures, ads, human resources materials, policies and more. With funding to provide access to Catchafire for 150 local nonprofits, the program launched in September 2019 has saved V.I. nonprofits an estimated $692,144 through the use of pro bono professional assistance, with an estimated 3,569 hours of staff time saved. And, the foundation is now working toward extending the 18-month contract.
CFVI also launched its first Virtual Giving Tree this holiday season, which, so far, has raised more than $33,000 for 11 USVI nonprofit organizations. Those interested in making a contribution to the Virtual Giving Tree initiative for the holidays and beyond can view the listed needs on the foundations Facebook page — www.facebook.com/CFVirginIslands.
“As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, we are so grateful to our wonderful community and nonprofit partners, our network of generous donors and our dedicated board members and staff,” said President Dee Baecher-Brown. “It has been 30 years of living, listening and learning, challenges, celebrations and expansion. Through hurricanes, a global pandemic, and everything in between, the foundation has been honored to serve as a trusted link between philanthropic dollars and impact-driven nonprofits and initiatives in the territory. This has been our mission since our establishment in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, when community members came together to create a philanthropic vehicle for lasting impact. As we joyfully acknowledge this milestone, we continue to build forward in love and appreciation for our Virgin Islands.”
For more information about the foundation, visit cfvi.net.