Stratford Perth Community Foundation introducing Perth South specific fund

St. Marys fund also planned

By Dan Rankin

At their meeting on Tuesday, Perth South Council heard from Stratford Perth Community Fund officials about plans to introduce a new fund that would specifically benefit projects within the municipality. A similar new fund will be rolled out specific to St. Marys this year as well, they said.

Community foundations such as the one centred in Stratford Perth “help build and strengthen community groups, people and organizations that want to make a difference,” said Tracy Van Kalsbeek, Executive Director of the Stratford Perth Community Foundation. There are currently 191 such foundations across the country with combined assets of $3 billion that grant between $150-$200 million annually. These foundations cooperate with local groups to “create permanent charitable funds that help meet the challenges of changing times,” she said.

Donors’ gifts are invested into endowment funds, so the principal is left to mature and grants are handed out as the fund grows. “We think of it like a permanent savings account that will always be there to look after community needs,” Van Kalsbeek said. “Our mission is to enrich the lives of the people in Stratford, St. Marys and the four municipalities of Perth County through the grant work and investing that we do.”

This benefits not only the community at large, but also individual donors as the foundations serve as “stewards of charitable giving” by providing tax benefits and strategic advice about philanthropy, she said. Since the Stratford Perth foundation’s inception in 2004, they’ve invested over $600,000 back to Stratford, St. Marys and Perth County she said, including almost $29,000 in grants to Perth South in particular, to such organizations as the Stratford Perth Museum and the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority.

This new Perth South Fund is a part of an ongoing “Smart and Caring Communities” initiative, she said. “Thanks to a generous grant from our friends at the Ontario Trillium Foundation to support our outreach needs, we’re implementing two funds a year,” she said. “Last year, we started rolling out funds in Stratford and North Perth. This year we’re doing St. Marys and Perth South, and next year we’ll do East and West.”

Donations to the community-specific funds stay within that community and support its needs and key projects, she said. “The goal that we have at this moment is $50,000 for a Perth South Smart and Caring Community Fund that would continue to grow,” said Van Kalsbeek. “We’re building this community chest for your community. It’s not tied to local government. It’s a fund anyone can give to.”

Council would not be asked to contribute any money to the fund – unless they wanted to donate, foundation board member Ron McKay said. “This is going to be built with corporate and private money,” he said. “That’s our focus.”

Tax receipts are available for any donations over $20, and donations can be made via a pledge form, or online on the Stratford Perth Community Foundation website (SPCF.ca) by clicking the “Donate Now” link and choosing the “Perth South Smart & Caring Communities” campaign.

Unrestricted funds, such as the Perth South fund is, dole out grants based on the recommendations of an advisory committee. The money must go towards either a registered charitable organization or a non-profit group who has applied for a grant.

Each fund must disperse grants equal to at least 3.5 percent of the fund annually, she said. So, a $50,000 fund would put almost $2,000 back to the community each year. “The larger the fund, the more that goes into the community,” she said.

“$50,000 is a good number, but if it got to $200,000, it’s just a huge snowball effect,” said Coun. Sam Corriveau, who is involved with a similar fund in the Brain and Mind Matters Community Fund. “I can see the good it gives back to the community. It’s a win-win and it should be really promoted because it’ll save people tax dollar money.”

Van Kelsbeek said they plan on holding a kick-off for the new fund in September, adding that they are hoping to be able to have a strong number to announce of seed funds already collected by then.

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