ECCF awards over $40,000 in grants at its 25th Anniversary Event!

Members of ECCF's Society of Founders at the 25th Anniversary Event

The Eau Claire Community Foundation celebrated its first quarter century at its 25th Anniversary Event on June 20. It was a huge success, with almost 300 attendees, including 25 members of the Society of Founders—whose gifts helped establish the Foundation—attending the event. This was ECCF’s opportunity to thank these donors for their establishing gift and to show that their dream of helping support our community forever has come true.

ECCF has had a yearlong celebration, giving out over $300,000 in grants.  To help support local nonprofits even more, ECCF’s Board Chairs and their families came together to start the President’s Anniversary Fund so they could award bonus grants in honor of this special occasion. ECCF received 50 applications for these grants!  This Fund gave out four $2,500 grants—one for each of ECCF’s four giving categories. The recipients were the Wisconsin Logging Museum; Western DairyLand Economic Opportunity Council; OutdoorMore, Inc; and Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin. As the ECCF Board of Trustees reviewed the 50 applications, they realized that food insecurity needs were great, so the Board awarded an additional $2,500 grant to the St. Francis Food Pantry. Including grants recommended by new Legacy Society members and event sponsors, ECCF awarded more the $40,000 in grants at this event!  And that’s on top of the more than $1.5 million in grants that ECCF has already distributed in 2022 alone!

ECCF has distributed more than $23 million in grants to nonprofits in its first quarter century. It also holds over $36 million in assets and has established more than 300 family and individual funds—funds that will give to community nonprofits for generations to come. These accomplishments wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of ECCF’s Founders, volunteers, donors, and sponsors. Their work was honored at the event.

“We’re thrilled that we can recognize the contributions of so many extraordinary people,” said ECCF Executive Director Sue Bornick. “From the vision of the Founders who first created this Foundation to the generosity of the donors who make so many grants possible, ECCF is truly a collaborative effort making an impact that will last forever.”

If you’re not familiar with ECCF, here’s a little history: ECCF began with an ending. When the Hobbs Foundation—an important source of funding for local nonprofits—made its final donation in 1995, community members knew they had to fill the void that it left. They envisioned a foundation that would support existing nonprofits without competing with them financially. That vision was catalyzed by a generous gift from a couple who believed in the power of community foundations.

As a result, ECCF’s first Board of Trustees meeting was held in January 1997. The Trustees established a goal of finding 25 Society of Founders members who would donate at least $10,000 each for the creation of the new community foundation without reducing their prior community support. It seemed like a lot to ask, but the Eau Claire community rose to the challenge: 64 Society of Founders members pledged over $1 million, and ECCF became a reality.

In the 25 years since then, ECCF has fulfilled the Founders’ vision by serving as a bridge connecting donors with charities to improve the quality of life in the Eau Claire area. As a tax-exempt public charity, ECCF allows donors to establish endowments that yield interest and dividends over time; these earnings are distributed as grants to nonprofits.

The 25th Anniversary Event was the culmination of a year of new initiatives in honor of ECCF’s milestone. The Nonprofit Fundraising Initiative featured the launch of crowdfunding software, called the Grant Catalog, that allows the public to donate to requests from local nonprofits. ECCF hosted a Catalog for each of its four giving categories—Create Culture, Form Futures, Give Green, and Offer Opportunities. Together, the four Catalogs allowed nonprofits to raise more than $200,000 in direct donations on top of the $100,000 that ECCF awarded in bonus grants. That’s more than a quarter million dollars of community impact!

ECCF also launched an initiative to recruit new Legacy Society members before its 25th Anniversary Celebration. “Even as we honor the past, we’re looking to the future,” explained ECCF Board Chair Linda Danielson. “The Legacy Society members play a vital role in ensuring ECCF’s ability to support nonprofits for years to come by providing a gift to ECCF in their estate plans. We are truly grateful for their vision and generosity.”

Thank you to everyone who supported the Eau Claire Community Foundation during its first 25 years; the staff and volunteers of ECCF look forward to their next quarter century of service to the community!