Potential Elkhart County foundation grants will spike to $1 million, maybe more

With a $150 million donation, the Elkhart County Community Foundation will be able to hand out individual grants of $1 million or more.
Posted on Nov. 12, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Nov. 12, 2013 at 5:10 p.m.

ELKHART — Thanks to the injection of some $150 million into the Elkhart County Community Foundation, the maximum individual grant the group will be able to hand out spikes to seven figures.

That doesn’t necessarily mean grants of that magnitude are immediately in the offing. The new guidelines that allow for grants of $1 million or more — up from the more typical grant size of $25,000 or less — don’t go into effect until July 1, 2014. And even then, grant requests will still be closely scrutinized and have to compete with a multitude of other likely pitches from a range of nonprofit groups in Elkhart County.

Still, the possibilities open greatly with the posthumous $150 million gift from David Gundlach and Pete McCown, president of the Elkhart County Community Foundation, or ECCF, envisions a new sort of giving from the nonprofit entity going forward. Already, several agencies have contacted McCown to discuss major expansion plans and proposals and the possibility of ECCF grants — the Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County, the YMCA, the Humane Society of Elkhart County and Ivy Tech Community College, among others.

Prior to the gift, the grants coming from the ECCF’s unrestricted fund typically fell below $25,000, with a only a handful exceeding $50,000. Now, instead of only being able to help an agency buy a new forklift, the ECCF, more and more, will be able to help nonprofits with more visionary goals — implementing new programs, perhaps, or massive expansion projects.

Indeed, total available funding prior to the Gundlach gift typically reached around $500,000 per fiscal year, 5 percent of the total that was in the unrestricted fund, around $10 million. Thanks to the $150 million injection, $2.25 million is to be handed out in fiscal year 2013, which goes from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014. That figure will keep growing, to around $4.5 million in fiscal year 2014, $7 million in fiscal year 2015 and $8 million or $9 million in fiscal year 2016.

Perhaps understandably, many nonprofits have been knocking on McCown’s door, wondering about the ECCF’s plans, wondering about applying for some of the funds. Speaking Monday, Nov. 11, a day ahead of the second of two public presentations on the ECCF’s plans, he indicated that he anticipates many, many formal requests for funds. Several nonprofits, big names in Elkhart County, have already informed McCown of their grand expansion plans, indicating they’ll likely solicit funds.

“I’m fully anticipating we’ll have $50 million in great ideas and $4.5 million to give out,” said McCown, alluding to the 2014 anticipated grants. “There’s still more great ideas than there are resources. This is a start.”


The $150 million gift from Gundlach, who grew up in Elkhart and later established an insurance company, doesn’t only seem big. It is big.

McCown said the new foundation unrestricted fund endowment total, around $160 million, makes the ECCF one of the five biggest community foundations in the country, based on its value averaged per community resident. Strictly by total dollar amount, the endowment is one of the 50 biggest community foundations in the country.

Accordingly, ECCF officials have been carefully, painstakingly figuring out the next step — guidelines on distributing the funds.

New committees are taking shape to help evaluate requests starting in fiscal year 2014 and the number of volunteers needed to serve on the bodies will total around 50. That’s up from the 12 or so volunteers who handle the process now.

ECCF staffers will handle grant requests of up to $10,000 under the revamped system and three other volunteer bodies, called the Youth Development, Quality of Place and Quality of Life committees, will process requests of $10,001 to $250,000. Another body, the Key Initiatives Committee, will review requests of more than $250,000.

Letters of intent from would-be applicants in the first of two application periods in 2014 will be due sometime next spring, and formal requests are set to be due on July 1. Ahead of that, ECCF reps are planning a “boot camp” to educate officials at local nonprofit agencies on the application process.

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