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Town considers $4M start-up investment for new community foundation

No decision will be made until next year, but council is sifting through staff research on what it will take to establish a local endowment fund that would receive donations and award grants in the community
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Downtown Collingwood on a cloudy morning. Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

The Town of Collingwood staff and council are considering a plan for a new way to give grants by leveraging about $4 million from the sale of two town assets. 

Council has had several discussions about what to do with the $18 million the town received through the sale of COLLUS to Epcore and the sale of the airport. 

A staff report requested by council outlined the process for starting up a community foundation, which would invest principal donations and award grants to eligible donees with the investment capital earned by those donations. 

The report suggested a minimum investment of $4 million from the town to start up the foundation. 

Dean Collver, acting executive director of customer and corporate service for the town, brought the report to the strategic initiatives committee on Oct. 7, and the report will be back before council on Monday (Oct. 19). 

“The council of the town of Collingwood has become increasingly involved in social service over time,” stated Collver’s report. “Crossing a line between municipal service and social service, especially where grant funding is concerned, requires specific focus and commitment of specialized resources that might not be naturally found within a municipal administration.” 

The proposed Collingwood Community Foundation would draw from the examples of 191 other community foundations in Canada, including Community Foundation Grey Bruce, which has been operating since 1994. 

Collver’s report suggested council support the process of initiating a foundation by striking a steering committee with volunteers and a member of council. The decision on how to spend the legacy funds, and what, if anything, to invest in a community foundation, is supposed to take place in the first quarter of 2021, based on an earlier council decision. 

“Community foundations are organizations seeking to make long-term and meaningful philanthropic impacts in a defined geographic area in response to both donor wishes as well as the assessed needs of the defined region,” states Collver’s report. 

He said it is a formal way for donors to provide gifts and establish specific funds. He also recommended the current grant money awarded by council (about $70,000 per year) be redirected to the foundation to help with administrative costs, which can be a challenge for a new foundation to cover. 

Existing community foundations have created operating cost endowment funds, built up through gifts from supporters, to cover the financial needs of running the foundation. 

Collver said the foundation would require volunteers, office space, and staff. 

“I know it’s a very, very large move,” said Collver during the Oct. 7 meeting. “I’m glad you have time to consider everything.” 

Though final decisions will likely not happen until the first quarter of 2021, Collver’s report provides an example of a financial breakdown for start up. It suggests the town put $3 million into the foundation, and save another $1 million to use for a “matching challenge” issued to the community. If the community matches that last $1 million, the community foundation would have $5 million for the initial endowment. 

Those funds would have to be invested for one full year before the investment income can be used for granting.

Collver’s report states the town could give the funds to Community Foundation Grey Bruce as a designated fund for the Collingwood foundation, and the Grey Bruce organization could invest them for a year while the Collingwood group organizes its charitable status. Though the funds couldn’t be withdrawn, they could be added to by donations. 

“The value of a foundation to its community is measured by its success at grantmaking. This is because it is primarily through its granting activity that a foundation achieves its central purpose of improving the quality of life in the community,” states Collver’s report. 

Though the process of applying for grants would be more formal, Collver assured councillors that the smaller, local groups who regularly apply for grants from council wouldn’t be left out. He said one of the “eligible donees” of a community foundation based on Canadian tax law is a municipality, so council could still provide grants to small, non-profit organizations. 

The community foundation concept is one of the items on the council agenda for Oct. 19. You can find more information on the council meeting as well as instructions on how to watch the meeting online here

Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter, photographer and editor. She has 12 years of experience as a local journalist
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