Philanthropists gather for Community Foundation reception

VERO BEACH — A dazzling full moon created a magical sheen along the water as it rose up over the ocean, adding just one more perfect touch to the ambiance at the Indian River Community Foundation Founders and Fund Holders reception.

Some of Vero’s most ardent philanthropists mingled and enjoyed cocktails in the lush entry courtyard of Edward (Ted) and Dawn Michaels’ spectacular oceanfront home, before moving into the expansive and airy living room for a presentation.  Originally built by the Phillips family in 1927, the exceptional house was the first in Vero to be built on the beach.

Kerry Bartlett, IRCF Executive Director, joked later that she had indeed ordered up the magnificent moonlight saying, “This room full of philanthropists deserved nothing less for their commitment to effective philanthropy in our community.”

Becky Allen replaced Rick McDermott as Board Chairman just this month and said she is eager to seek additional ways to work together with philanthropists and the non-profit community.

“We want to be the place where people will go when they’re interested in philanthropy, if they’re interested in the community and want to establish a fund, or when they need someone to partner with,” said Allen.  “We partner with donors, non-profits and other collaborative groups addressing a wide range of issues; the arts, the environment, education, or anywhere else people might see a need.”

The Foundation took off in 2008, enlisting the support of 52 founders who each committed to donate $25,000 over a five year period to fund its operating expenses. Today, 41 donor advised funds have been established, totaling nearly $6.5 million in assets.

Three of the initial board members Robin Lloyd, Ann Marie McCrystal and Rick McDermott are all still active participants in the IRCF.

“I’ve been very pleased and impressed with the progress the Foundation has made in the community in 2010,” said Lloyd.  “McDermott has done a wonderful job educating the public and gaining their trust and support.  It’s just astounding that it has grown in this fashion. I think we are going to see some amazing things from Becky Allen too.”

Roy Lambert, another founding member, stressed the privacy aspect as an incentive for donors.

“Gifts to the Community Foundation can be confidential if you want them to be,” said Lambert.  “I have a private foundation, but because today anyone with a computer can learn everything about it, I get solicitations from all across the country.”

He also appreciated that the IRCF handles the red tape and regulations required by the government.

“It gives the community the chance to have a donor advised foundation at no cost,” added Lambert.

The guest speaker for the evening was Hal Williams of the Rensselaerville Institute, a nonprofit organization that helps foundations and nonprofit organizations focus on results and how to achieve them. The group has taken on the moniker given to them by the Wall Street Journal, “the think tank with muddy boots.”

In his talk, Williams spoke about the advantages of being donor investors, setting clear charitable goals, as opposed to donor funders, reacting to individual solicitations.

IRCF board members and staff work with donors to help connect them with the causes they care about.  To date, more than $2 million has been granted from donor advised funds to nonprofit organizations; 85% of those in Indian River County.

“It’s not about raising money,” said Ellie McCabe. “It’s about giving it away.” {igallery 329}


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