The Philanthropist Next Door // Bainbridge Community Foundation Quietly Gives Big

By Denise Briggs Potter

What do you love about Bainbridge Island? Is it the plentiful outdoor space, the arts and culture, excellent schools, or recreation for any age? These qualities and more make up the foundation of our community, so it won’t surprise you to learn that our own Bainbridge Community Foundation (BCF) supports them all.

BCF’s mission is to sustain the many nonprofits that benefit the lives of Bainbridge Islanders. These organizations address concerns such as education, the environment, and health, housing and human services. Their programs serve people of all ages, from healthy youth initiatives to interfaith caregiving for the elderly.

According to Jim Hopper, BCF’s executive director, it’s the generous, thoughtful citizens that live among us that have made it possible for BCF to award 1,107 grants to local nonprofits, totaling $5,677,114 since its inception in 2001.

“Donors come to BCF for many different reasons,” Hopper said. “Some may open a fund as a memorial to a loved one, or to endow their annual support for the causes they care about. What’s common among them is that they are understated people who care deeply for the community people you might run into at the market and recognize for their service more than any wealth they have.”

BCF provides a unique giving opportunity to islanders because it operates as a foundation. Once part of One Call for All (and often confused with it), it separated to form a complement to that organization. While One Call for All accepts funds and immediately distributes them to a selection of nonprofits chosen by the donor, BCF accepts donations and invests those gifts for long-term growth.

Funds are then distributed back into the community based on greatest need in the form of direct grants. One way to take an active part in giving is by establishing a Donor Advised Fund, described as a “philanthropic savings account.”

“These funds are owned by us, but donors can recommend where they would like grants from that fund to go,” Hopper said. “Usually someone makes a large philanthropic donation because they’ve had a ‘taxable event,’ such as an inheritance or property sale.

With a Donor Advised Fund, donors receive a charitable deduction in the year of their gift, but can make the decision about how that money should be used over time.” BCF also funds grants and awards through its Discretionary Fund.

The Capacity Building Grant assists in maintaining an organization’s infrastructure, such as a more sophisticated accounting system. Trustee Awards recognize organizations that promote collaboration. Bainbridge Youth Services earned such an award for working with technical professionals on the Bainbridge Island Rotary’s Youth Committee to connect teens and parents with mental health counseling through social media.

In 2013, BCF awarded 205 grants totaling $1,922,137. The annual grant selection process begins with a survey held at the beginning of the year, when BCF meets with nonprofit leaders to assess the community’s greatest needs and how to address them.

BCF accepts grant applications in February, and then an evaluation committee meets over the next four months to review and discuss proposals. Grant recipients are selected based not only on need, but also on how the organization’s work will benefit our community, the number of people served and demonstrated success. BCF then shares the evaluation results with prospective donors.

“It’s inspiring,” Hopper said. “We see donors come in with simple expectations, and then they have a chance to see the work being done on-site and develop a deeper relationship with the organization they choose to support.”

One of BCF’s goals is to provide a way for all families to realize the power and satisfaction of giving. “There’s a program called ‘Give 10’ in Seattle that I’d like to bring here,” Hopper said. “It encourages families to designate 10 percent of their estate to a charity or foundation they believe in. Bainbridge Islanders have taken care of each other for generations, and this would be another way to do that.”