When the economic downturn led to a decrease in the endowment, Chambers Family Fund (the foundation) had prior grant commitments that far exceeded its required 2009 payout. The board of directors decided to limit new grant commitments, focus on strategic planning, provide technical assistance to grantee partners and, most importantly, fund grant commitments made in previous years.
As part of the foundation’s strategic planning process, we looked back at past Chambers Family Fund grant outcomes. The most effective grantmaking strategies have been internally initiated grants and consistent funding for major initiatives or programs. Grants of $25,000 or more make up a significant portion, $23.5 million, of the foundation’s $28 million in contributions over the past 12 years.
Chambers Family Fund invested nearly $3.5 million in women’s funds that it launched in Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma. This investment leveraged nearly $2 million in contributions from others in these three states. In 2009, the women’s funds focused on policy change. The Women’s Foundation of Montana led a payday lending reform effort that may result in a ballot initiative in 2010 that could cap the annual interest rate on such loans at 36 percent. The Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma partnered with the Oklahoma College of Continuing Education, Oklahoma Women’s Coalition and Smart Start Oklahoma to collect data and recommend an action plan to increase continuing education outcomes for low income single mothers. The absence of affordable quality child care in Wyoming forces mothers to accept lower paying part-time jobs and negatively impacts the gender wage gap, the largest in the nation. The Wyoming Women’s Foundation has launched an educational campaign for greater access to child care to improve the economy and women’s economic self-sufficiency.
Expanding on Chambers Family Fund’s initiative to create women’s funds, the foundation made the first capacity building grant to establish Women Moving Millions, an initiative of the Women’s Funding Network. The intent of the initiative was to encourage individual women to make $1 million contributions to women’s foundations, with the ultimate goal of raising $150 million for women’s foundations. Our early and significant investment provided operating support for this successful initiative and, by the end of 2009, the campaign had raised $186 million for women’s funds.
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, a unique nationally recognized museum, has been a priority of Chambers Family Fund for several years. In addition to operating support, in 2009 the foundation provided capital funding to purchase an adjoining property for additional parking space. The foundation’s funding enabled Kirkland Museum to better serve academia and visitors, making the museum more accessible for scholarly examination and for the general public. In addition to Vance Kirkland, the museum showcases the work of other Colorado artists, thereby enhancing significant Colorado art history.
The foundation’s original multi-year grant of $250,000 to the Clyfford Still Museum was restricted to an endowment to support and sustain the institution long term. After the economic downturn, the museum needed additional capital support. In keeping with the foundation’s desire to serve an organization’s greatest need, we re-designated our grant to the capital campaign. The new Clyfford Still Museum will open in the Fall of 2011.
Several years ago, the foundation helped revive the Colorado affiliate of NARAL at a critical time in its development. By 2009, Colorado NARAL was one of the strongest NARAL Pro-Choice of America affiliates in the country. Its Prevention First Colorado initiative, for which Chambers Family Fund provided start-up support, researched and developed policy recommendations to reduce unintended pregnancy in Colorado. Prevention First Colorado is one of the leading pregnancy prevention collaboratives in the country and national organizations are considering this initiative as a model for pregnancy prevention.
Chambers Family Fund continued its major funding and direct support of The Bell Policy Center in 2009. The fiscal challenges facing Colorado were a primary objective of the Bell’s public education and communication efforts. The Bell Policy Center formed a collaborative partnership with Colorado Children’s Campaign and Colorado Center on Law and Policy, also Chambers Family Fund grantees, to launch the Looking Forward Initiative. This effort educates the public and builds nonprofit coalitions to address the fiscal challenges in Colorado.
Chambers Family Fund has supported Qualistar, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Clayton Early Learning and the State of Colorado with the intent of changing systems to advance the early care and education of children. This year was the culmination of more than a decade of investment. There has been significant progress, including a framework for systems change, planning for an Early Childhood Commission and expansion of Early Childhood Councils throughout the state.
Clayton Foundation has a new name, Clayton Early Learning, and with funding for technical assistance from Chambers Family Fund, a new website that reflects its focus on the education of children. With lead funding from Chambers Family Fund, the Clayton Educare Center opened in September 2007. After two years in the new child care center, Clayton Educare Center conducted a school readiness evaluation in partnership with the evaluation of five Educare sites in Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Colorado. The evaluation results from all five states showed that Educare’s nationally recognized model increases readiness for kindergarten.
Chambers Family Fund is interested in making a difference at the broad, systemic level and the impact of many of these nonprofit organizations on policy and systems will expand opportunities for the communities they serve and for future generations.
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