Hamilton County Community Foundation Supports Local Needs and Nonprofits
Writer / Jon Shoulders
After more than three decades in existence, Hamilton County Community Foundation continues to have a local impact as its board of directors and staff lead on critical community issues, grow philanthropic assets and make charitable grants for nonprofit organizations.
The foundation was established in 1991 from the assets of the Carmel-Clay Community Foundation and the Hamilton County Parks Foundation to address county needs. In 1997 leaders of Hamilton County Community Foundation, previously known as Legacy Fund, partnered with The Indianapolis Foundation to create Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), to offer a regional approach to shared strategies and centralized services while the boards and staff members of both Hamilton County Community Foundation and The Indianapolis Foundation continue to address the specific needs and opportunities in their communities.
“Our deep knowledge of the community’s challenges and opportunities – and of the not-for-profit landscape – allows us to provide invaluable insight and donor opportunities,” says Jeena Siela, community leadership officer at Hamilton County Community Foundation. “We help define charitable goals through personalized research on the issues our fundholders care about and make grants to organizations that fit their values. Our expert staff handles tedious and time-consuming administrative tasks so fundholders can stay focused on the impact of their philanthropy.”
Hamilton County Community Foundation offers three competitive grant rounds annually in January, May, and November. Grants are awarded based on application scores and available funding. Siela says the grant program provides funding for services that address one of the county’s key priorities in association with aiding vulnerable populations.
Funding comes out of Hamilton County Community Foundation’s unrestricted endowment, which, according to Siela, will grow to more than $500,000 in 2022 as a result of a matching gift from the Lilly Endowment’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow VII initiative.
“We manage the entire grant process through SmartSimple, our online portal shared with CICF,” Siela says. “Hamilton County not-for-profits must be a 501(c)(3), and can create an organizational profile in SmartSimple and then apply for the competitive grant rounds when they open.”
Recent not-for-profit fund recipients include Alternatives Incorporated, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana, Hamilton Heights Educational Foundation, the Grace Care Center Foundation and many others.
Those interested in procuring Hamilton County Community Foundation and CICF funds can review the Grant Seeker Guidebook at cicf.org, including information on grant application criteria and timelines, frequently asked questions and more.
This year the organization’s board and staff launched the first Festival of Philanthropy on August 19, attended by more than 65 not-for-profit organizations and more than 300 individuals. That evening, a total of $15,000 was granted out to three Hamilton County organizations.
“The attendees had the opportunity to learn and engage with the participating organizations making transformative changes in our communities,” Siela says of the inaugural event.
The past three years have found leaders at the foundation busy with several initiatives and changes. In 2018 the staff and board of directors established a strategic plan under the direction of Tom Kilian Jr., foundation president. As a result of a feasibility study and an assessment of needs, three initiatives were determined as areas of particular focus – mental health, inclusive economic growth, and family and youth empowerment.
In 2020, Hamilton County Community Foundation relocated from Carmel to Fishers to accommodate its growing staff and open the Collaboration Hub, the first collaborative co-working space for not-for-profits and community leaders in the state according to Siela. The hub was officially opened on August 19 after a year-long delay related to COVID-19, and the inaugural Festival of Philanthropy event highlighted the opening day.
Siela says Hamilton County Community Foundation has grown significantly under Kilian’s presidency, doubling its assets in five years and adding a seventh staff person this fall – a grants officer, which is a new role for the organization.
In late 2020, foundation staff collaborated with the Hamilton County Commissioners, Aspire Indiana Health and the Hamilton County Council to establish a countywide mental health plan. The foundation secured funding from each partner and began a contract with Community Solutions in May of this year to implement the plan. In June the partners received a behavioral health needs assessment from Community Solutions and a community action plan in October. The action plan includes recommendations for addressing behavioral health needs and barriers in Hamilton County.
Those interested in getting involved with Hamilton County Community Foundation can inquire about joining the board or the LINK Youth Advisory Council, a year-long educational program for high schoolers established by the foundation. There is no minimum amount required to open a donor-advised fund with either Hamilton County Community Foundation or CICF.
“A donor-advised fund allows fundholders to potentially realize the greatest tax benefits of charitable giving while flexibly supporting their favorite charities over time,” Siela explains.
For more on the Hamilton County Community Foundation, including events, a donation page, donor-advised fund details, info on the Collaboration Hub and more, visit HamiltonCountyCommunityFoundation.org.