For more than 30 years, the Central Alabama Community Foundation has been pooling resources and growing money to help fund multiple worthy causes and organizations in our area.
Beginning in 1987, when it distributed just over $100,000 in grants, the Central Alabama Community Foundation (CACF) has grown with the support of donors and its volunteers. Last year, the Foundation raised approximately $6 million and distributed more than $3 million in scholarships and grants to recipients throughout the region.
A community foundation exists with the intent of investing donor dollars, explains Whitney Griswold Cali, development officer for the CACF. “We encourage people to think of CACF like a savings account. You invest your money, and it grows over time, and you make contributions out over a period of time,” she said.
CACF was established in 1987 by Fred A. Richard Jr. and a group of civic leaders. Their goal was to provide support for the community through grants. Donors can give a one-time or recurring gift, and donors include individuals, families, organizations and businesses. There are different types of funds managed by the CACF. Some are advised funds, where the donor stays involved with the CACF and specifies where the money will go.
Also, there are scholarships. Students may apply December-March, and there are more than 100 different scholarships available, so students can apply for something specific to them. CACF coordinates with school counselors to present the scholarship to students at the school’s awards day. Very often, donors who established the scholarship are able to attend and present the scholarship in person, making a special connection with their donation.
Finally, there are grants, which are used for unrestricted giving, contributions from donors who want to allow the CACF to give the money to meet the most critical needs in the community. Local non-profit agencies can apply under a service category noting what they need, and the applications will be reviewed and approved by the CACF board. Grants are awarded four times per year.
Last year, Warren Averett, which provides accounting, audit and tax services for businesses, established this type of grant with CACF to expand its community outreach. Company employees organized a “Casino Night” fundraising event, which was attended by employees and many of the firm’s clients and members of the public. “One of our core values is a term we call sharing our success,” said Richard Stabler, office managing member for Warren Averett. “We work every day in the community, and the community is what helps us promote our business. So we feel an obligation to give back to the community that supports us.”
Warren Averett partners have served on the Board of Directors for the CACF, so working with the organization to establish a grant was a perfect fit. “The CACF came top of mind — It is a great way to provide benefit for the charities in the area through a central distribution vehicle.
The beauty of working with the CACF is that they have already done a lot of the needs assessment work,” Stabler said. “That was a large reason for using the CACF, because they have a staff and can provide administrative help, vetting and make recommendations.”
Warren Averett also launched the Warren Averett Foundation firm-wide and plans to continue working with the CACF as the distribution vehicle in this area.
“It is a community effort to raise the funds and a community effort to present the funds back into the community. That makes it unique and rewarding for everyone involved in every step of the process,” Califf said. “We need people to be donors. But we also want people to know we’re a community resource, so we want them to know if they need help, we will help them and the right organization, and we need volunteers as well. Our role is to strengthen the non-profit community and make people aware of some of the great organizations that are here and how they are serving our neighbors,” she said.
In fact, many local groups had their roots at the foundation before moving onto their own for fundraising and operations once they began to grow. “That’s a unique part of our history that several organizations in the community have all grown out of the CACF,” Cali said.
Volunteers Donate more than $300K to Baptist East
Baptist Health recently announced that construction on its newest expansion to the health system, the Surgical-Medical Unit, is being made possible by volunteers of Baptist East. They have generously given $301,000 to the hospital for this improvement from sales at the Gift Basket. The Gift Basket gift shop is managed by the East Volunteer Service department and staffed by volunteers. All net income is placed in a fund at Baptist Health Care Foundation. Baptist employees account for 65-70 percent of the volunteers’ revenue, and it is this revenue making the donation possible, tying employees back to their place of employment. The funds for the 22-room renovation and new equipment make up the largest donation ever given by volunteers to Baptist East.
A Helping Hand
For many years, Beasley Allen Law Firm has partnered with the Family Sunshine Center to provide Thanksgiving meals for River Region families in need. This year, the firm tripled the number of families it supported thanks to the generosity of the firm’s employees and leadership. Beasley Allen delivered meal essentials, including turkeys and all the fixings, to 20 families who may not otherwise have had a meal to enjoy. These donations were made via the Family Sunshine Center, which provides assistance to victims and survivors of family violence in the River Region.