Stronger Together: Mid-Shore-Community Foundation Connecting Private Resources to Public Needs
BY AMELIA BLADES STEWARD AND MANNING LEE
Pictured are staff of Mid-Shore Community Foundation, left to right, are: Coco F. Provance, Program Assistant; Francesca P. Wiseman, Program Assistant; Heather B. Pickens, Marketing & Communications; Robbin F. Hill, Chief Program Officer; and W.W. “Buck” Duncan, President.
Matching private resources with public needs is what makes communities strong and able to withstand disasters like pandemics, hurricanes, floods, and other unforeseen challenges. Such was the case when COVID-19 arrived in mid-March and the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Inc. (MSCF) stepped up to address the myriad of needs facing individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations in the five counties on the Mid-Shore.
Established in 1992 with a $236,000 bequest, MSCF is a 501 (c)(3) public charity that serves individuals, associations, and nonprofit organizations in Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties. Its mission is to connect private resources with public needs to enhance the quality of life throughout the Mid-Shore region. As part of the organization’s commitment to build a strong and just community, it provides millions of dollars every year in scholarships, grants, and charitable programs.
“One of the beauties of a community foundation is that we are built to pivot and meet the changing needs in the community when unforeseen circumstances happen,” states Robbin Hill, Chief Program Officer at MSCF.
The Foundation has matured to become one of the most significant foundations in the State of Maryland, holding $93.4 million in total assets for the Mid-Shore Region. In 2019, the organization processed $5.6 million in contributions and distributed $4.9 million in grants, scholarships, and charitable program expenses through 435 funds.
“The generosity of the five counties, which share the Mid-Shore Community Foundation’s mission to improve the quality of life here, has been critical to the growth of our organization. We have supportive and talented volunteers, including our Board of Directors, county advisors, and committee members, who continue to guide and assist us in our operations. We are grateful for their dedication and service,” comments Buck Duncan, President of MSCF.
Pictured are the 2019 MSCF Scholarship Recipients. This fiscal year the MSCF scholarship program awarded over $1 million to 118 local students for dual enrollment, two- and four-year degrees and trade certifications.
“This year, we were in a position to step up and address the coronavirus disaster ourselves with a $100,000 grant from our board to establish the COVID-19 Response Fund. We haven’t always had that financial capability,” Hill said.
According to Hill, with $100,000 to start the COVID-19 Response Fund, the organization could proudly ask others to help. She adds, “Choptank Transport, Shore Bancshares, Avon Dixon, and Preston Automotive Group are the businesses that immediately joined our effort.”
To date, the COVID-19 Response Fund has raised over $800,000. The MSCF Grants Committee oversees the COVID-19 Response Fund and makes grant recommendations. Initially, 20 volunteers from across the five Mid-Shore counties reviewed grant requests weekly. The pace has slowed some with reviews now happening every two or three weeks. From the first grants on April 15 through June 30, COVID-19 Response Fund grants went almost exclusively to organizations providing basic human needs — like Easton’s Neighborhood Service Center and the Caroline County Public Schools food initiative. A new funding source for the fund is the “Hopeful” campaign, which is utilizing public art sculptures to spread hope and to raise awareness of the needs related to hunger, homelessness, and health on the Mid-Shore. (See page 37 for more information.)
Hill explains that one exciting piece of the COVID-19 campaign has been the participation from the Foundation’s donor-advised funds. A donor-advised fund (DA fund) is created by an individual, family, or group with a shared interest in supporting charitable efforts. The funds allow MSCF to give local nonprofits money to meet their needs by alerting donors to the charitable efforts and organizations serving Mid-Shore residents.
“When we pivoted for COVID-19, we ended the October 1, 2019 grants cycle and started the COVID-19 cycle. Nonprofit organizations serving the most affected populations in our community could apply through a simple online request for a grant of up to $5,000 for COVID-19 related expenses. By June 30, we had distributed over $500,000 to 67 local nonprofits and had raised another $300,000 to continue and expand the program. The Edgewood Fund, a new DA fund, helped with our October 1 grant cycle and immediately stepped up with an interfund grant of nearly $100,000 to our COVID-19 Response Fund,” Hill said.
The Mid-Shore Community Foundation offers trainings each year for local nonprofits. Pictured is Johnny O’Brien, founder of Renaissance Leadership, providing leadership development training.
“Several other DA funds made donations to the fund, including Reade W. and Mary P. Corr and the Arthur B. Kudner, Jr. Fund, which supported the COVID-19 campaign with recovery grants to Washington College and Kent School and $198,000 to the COVID-19 Response Fund, assuring our ability to continue to support our mission partners.”
Duncan adds, “The COVID-19 grant fund has been one of the most worthwhile projects we have done because the pandemic has affected everyone in our communities in some way. People are happy to have a way to help others by donating to the fund.”
While juggling the needs caused by COVID-19, the staff at MSCF still had to get their regular scholarships and grants out to the community. For the first time this fiscal year, the MSCF scholarship program awarded over $1 million to 118 local students for dual enrollment, two- and four-year degrees and trade certifications. This is tremendous growth from the early years when $100,000 in scholarships were awarded. The scholarships have also grown to support both high school and adult students wishing to continue their education in automotive technology, welding, aviation mechanics, radiology technology, and culinary arts.
“It takes nearly 100 volunteers to make the scholarship program work. When COVID hit, the meetings were already scheduled, so we forged ahead by phone and got the scholarships awarded. We even mailed the award letters early this year to share the good news with students and their parents, knowing the difficult financial situations that faced many of them,” Hill said.
In 2019, MSCF awarded $2.2 million in grants and fiscal sponsorships supporting Mid-Shore youth through scholarships, education, and youth development. Support for basic human needs represented $1.3 million of the total distributed. Grants to Mid-Shore nonprofits supported the following areas: environment ($47, 092), animal care ($94,201), community development ($167,697), historic preservation ($251,381), arts and culture ($371,252), health/disability ($417,821), youth development ($481,076), education ($750,935), and scholarships ($969,783).
“The organization’s growth and success have been built on its efficiency of operations. The staff at MSCF is exceptional in serving our donors and nonprofits. The staff continues to amaze me with their creative solutions and ideas in matching donor funds to nonprofit needs in communities across the Mid-Shore,” Duncan said.
Another important role that MSCF plays in the community is offering nonprofit training programs that have been particularly valuable through COVID-19 as nonprofits had to figure out how to deliver their programs and services virtually. Hill recalls, “Things happened so quickly and turned their worlds upside down. We were able to offer three sessions of a free four-week virtual training for 70 nonprofits on the Mid-Shore. Many nonprofits told me that just knowing others were struggling too was helpful to them. We hope the nonprofits use the information shared to develop new strategies for operating their organizations.”
Kathy Bosin, a nonprofit consultant and freelance grant writer, presented a session, “Demystifying Grantwriting for Kent County Nonprofit leaders.”
“The educational component of our mission has always been important to us. The healthier our nonprofits are, the more we can all do for others.”
Upcoming educational programs offered by MSCF include a four-session Nonprofit Leadership Program for nonprofit staff, board members, and volunteers in September and October. Mid-Shore Community Foundation is partnering with the Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce and Queen Anne’s County Local Management Board to host the e-training.
Looking to the future, Hill reports that MSCF has adopted a diversity statement which will certainly help to guide its funding going forward, stating, “We are proud to support community institutions that are directly tackling racism, equal opportunity, and social justice and reaffirm our commitment to listen and learn, and to deepen our support of those programs in order to accelerate positive change in our community. Now is the time for us to come together in solidarity and redouble our efforts to create a strong and just community that provides equal opportunity for all citizens in the Mid-Shore Region.”
For further information about Mid-Shore Community Foundation, visit mscf.org or call 410-820-8175. Applications for the COVID-19 Response Fund are available online and awarded on an ongoing basis. Applications for nonprofits for the regular grant cycle are available online with a submission deadline of October 1, 2020.