The learning curve was steep when the Fulton Association for Community Enrichment (FACE) was first established in Fulton, Illinois, in 2006. Originally an idea by the local Chamber of Commerce, the purpose and role of community foundations was relatively unknown in Fulton, said Connie Koehn, who was called to be on a committee that would study the feasibility of a foundation.
"Many of us didn't know what community foundations did," said Koehn, who went on to serve as executive director for a decade. The foundation is a geographic affiliate fund of the Community Foundation of the Great River Bend.
"I believe in giving back to the community with your time, talent and resources," she said. "There's such tremendous potential for the impact a community foundation can make."
There have been many firsts in the past 10 years, she said, including a recent inclusion in the longtime event Birdies for Charity that coincides with the annual John Deere Classic PGA Tournament held in the Quad Cities every summer. For years, local charities have sent out fliers, asking for pledges according to the number of birdies scored in the tournament. Oftentimes, that number exceeds 2,000 during the weekend. "It's a fun and tremendous way for philanthropic entities to receive additional funds," she said.
The event is a great example of how people of all financial backgrounds can give, even if it's just a little. "Whatever their financial situation is, small donations add up," Koehn said.
The community continues to be generous in other ways too, she added. At the end of last year, the FACE hosted a holiday challenge. Two donors provided $7,000 for the foundation, but asked that the community match it. A total of $7,010 was given by the final day.
"It was amazing," Koehn said. "Every dollar got doubled. What was $7,000 ended up being $14,020."
It reminds her of why it was such a good idea to start the community foundation in Fulton in the first place. "It's very gratifying," Koehn said.
They were told in the beginning that it oftentimes takes years for a community to really understanding what a community foundation does and start to include it in estate planning and consistent giving. "We were told it's going to take the better part of 10 years for us to hit a tipping point," she said. "Efforts like the holiday challenge and Birdies for Charity have immediate results and it helps people better understand the community foundation."
Koehn said she is optimistic about the future. "I hope the seeds have been planted and we can continue to water and fertilize them so we can see more results," she said.
The Community Foundation of the Great River Bend has been very supportive, she said. "If we weren't affiliated, we wouldn't exist," she said. "It was what we struggled with in 2006. The more we learned about how to run a foundation and the accounting, legal, investment expertise and responsibility, we thought, 'How can we do this in Fulton?'"
She's hoping that, with the CFGRB support, and the momentum that has been created in the community, there will be continued growth in the future. "I believe in philanthropy and making it local," she said. "In such a short time, we've made a difference. It's just the tip of the iceberg."