“We serve the Heart of Western Pennsylvania.”
The Armstrong County Community Foundation, a public nonprofit corporation:
· Gives grants, scholarships, and organizational support to address the needs of our community;
· Builds a permanent endowment to help our donors create a legacy through this endowment;
· Promotes informed philanthropy to increase and sustain charitable resources for the region; and
· Provides leadership and builds partnerships to identify and solve community issues.
In 1997 Merchants National Bank, an Armstrong County community bank, marked its 100th anniversary. The centennial celebration included a unique expression of gratitude to the community in the form of $100,000 to be used as a seed fund to initiate a community foundation for Armstrong County. The bank challenged the community to keep the principal balance of the endowed funds intact and spend only a portion of the interest earnings to ensure a lasting legacy.
To create and develop the foundation, the bank enlisted the help of a core group of community leaders who shared their vision of building and sustaining a healthy vibrant community. The new “design team” would eventually become the first Board of Directors and guide the success of the foundation over the next five years.
Common values of the group drove a commitment to the ongoing job of building a permanent endowment for the Community Foundation as well as a repository for donor-advised funds. They envisioned a community foundation that would complement the work and efforts of county nonprofits by offering an ongoing resource for unmet as well as new program and project needs. They also wanted to offer the community an alternative philanthropic channel—one that allows financial resources to be complimented by individual input.
A mission statement evolved naturally.
The Community Foundation is a public, nonprofit corporation, organized to attract and invest permanent endowment resources, with the purpose of enhancing the quality of life for the residents of our community, in accordance with the charitable intentions of its donors.
To meet this mission, the group also defined goals and objectives for the foundation:
Identify and support community based charitable purposes in the areas of health, education, economic development, human services as well as historical, cultural and environmental activities;
Participate in shaping responses to community needs through philanthropic leadership, commitment, and compassion;
Demonstrate accountability and integrity in the management of resources.
The design team worked diligently throughout 1998. They filed for Articles of Incorporation on September 2, 1998; held their first meeting of recruited trustees in November of 1998; and were granted 501c3 status in January 1999. At the same time, Merchants National Bank deposited $40,000 in the Community Foundation account for its 1998 and 1999 contribution from the original seed fund. In addition, in December of 1998 the foundation received a generous personal donation of $200,000.
The Community Foundation board met monthly for the next three years. Through the course of these monthly work sessions, they developed policies, procedures, and bylaws for the foundation. They formed committees including an investment committee to direct and monitor the foundation’s investments. Looking toward the future, they also developed criteria for grant making and staffing.
Board members who were successful seasoned stock market investors took responsibility for the foundation’s investment strategies. Initially, they chose to invest aggressively using a long-term strategy. The Community Foundation enjoyed a substantial rate of return in the late 1990’s of close to 30%. However, when the stock market took a downturn so did the assets of the foundation. The current investment policy calls for a much more conservative approach using future funds to diversify the Community Foundation portfolio.