By Heidi Zemach for SCN
Free money is available for the asking. The Seward Community Foundation’s Board of Directors is ready to provide grants totaling $56,000 to local nonprofits for causes and projects that they deem worthy, and in the interest of the public in the coming year. That’s a promising increase over last year’s grants generated from the SCF’s endowment’s interest earnings worth just over $30,000. Board members expect the increase to continue over the next few years. The SCF endowment fund, currently worth $2.9 million, is invested by the Alaska Community Foundation, a professional philanthropic organization that manages more than 250 funds, including the SCF, and has assets totaling more than $47 million, according to its website.
The SCF provides grants from its interest earnings from the endowment, in a way similar to the Alaska Permanent Dividend Fund. This new funding year, 2013, the SCF directors were so excited by the figures they received, and the opportunity that this presents to local nonprofits, that they went out of their way to let the community know about it, kicking off that effort Thursday afternoon, Jan 17th with a reception at the Breeze Inn. The board hopes to encourage the more than 60 nonprofits in Seward and Moose Pass to apply for their grants by the March 1 deadline, when the bulk of the funding will be awarded. There also will be opportunities for groups to apply for mini-grants for projects throughout the year.
In the six years that the foundation has been in existence, it has provided 65 grants to 24 area nonprofits in Seward and Moose Pass, said outgoing board president Amy Haddow, who is turning over her position as president to Kim Reierson. But many groups have yet to apply.
The Seward Senior Center has been perhaps the greatest recipient of awards from SCF. It received an award for its recent kitchen renovation project, which enables the center’s dining area to be rented out, and used as a way to raise funding for the center. This year it will use a $3,000 grant to assist in the funding of ‘Seward Unleashed’, a literary project to preserve the culture, color, and history of the living citizens of Seward. “Everyone is very excited about that project,” said Center Director Dana Paperman. Next, she hopes to obtain a grant that will help pay for the purchase of a new more fuel-efficient van.
The center’s success in obtaining grants is because of the strength of its applications, and Paperman’s grant-writing skills, not necessarily because it is more worthy than other organizations, said Haddow.
Madelyn Walker, the experienced grant writer, and soon-to-be former board member will condense her knowledge into two free two-hour long workshops this month and next on tips for grant writing for non-profits. She hopes the workshops will help and encourage groups not just successfully apply for SCF grants, but for funding available elsewhere. The most common mistakes made on applications to SCF are missing the deadlines, incomplete applications, lack of detail about specific projects, and how many people specifically they will impact, board members said. Walker is willing to schedule even more workshops in the community, depending upon interest.
The SCF board also is seeking additional advisory board members-especially men, parents of young children, and business people, folks that can better represent the entire community. Currently, the board is dominated by women in their 50’s, and only has one male, Paul Rupple, Haddow said.
The larger contribution available this year, and its size generally can partly be attributed to the generous $1.9 million endowment of the estate of Tony Rollo. Much of the start-up funds came through generous matches from the Rasmuson Foundation, another major Alaska philanthropic organization, which is scaling down its contributions as the local fund takes off. The interest earnings of the endowment are averaged over the previous five-year period. The Alaska Permanent Fund’s Pick-Click-Give program is a good way to donate locally to numerous worthy organizations through SCF.
Save Our Seward Pets, or S.O.S. Pets has received $1,000 grants that go for its spay and neuter voucher program, which helps reduce the cost for individuals of getting their pets fixed, said volunteer Ami Wright. The group also obtained a mini-grant for “Adopt Me” vests, worn by dog walking volunteers and the dogs themselves, to encourage people to adopt animals that they meet while out walking. The Resurrection Bay Conservation Alliance received $4,000 to assist in re-vegetating and reconstructing two highly eroded sections of stream bank on Scheffler Creek, said RBCA President Mark Lutrell.
The Boys and Girls Club has received $5,000s grant to support the DaVinci Camp, a four week summer science and art program for youth in grades 1-6. The Seward Tsunami Swim Club received $1,500 to assist in the purchase of a Vasa Trainer, equipment meant to build strength and endurance for longer distance swims. The Alaska SeaLife Center received a $3,760 grant to create an after-school Ocean Sciences Club for students… and the list continues.
A Seward Journal reporter asked whether the board would eliminate from its application pool any organizations that have misused funds. All successful grantees are required to submit follow-up reports detailing how the grants were spent, Haddow said. She added that CSF would probably not want to forever penalize a group for the action of one of its members, such as when a staff member embezzles funds, and subsequently leaves the organization, as in a case that occurred recently in Anchorage.