It’s been 10 years since the Mt. Lebanon Community Endowment got up and running as a nonprofit organization. During that time, its coffers have grown to $1.2 million, and it has awarded more than $100,000 in grants to community organizations, including the Mt. Lebanon Extended Day Program, the Veterans Memorial and the Mt. Lebanon Public Library. A few years ago, they re-christened themselves as the Mt. Lebanon Community Foundation.
Little has changed but the name: the mission, of building a fund to sustain Mt. Lebanon’s quality of life, is the same. But as foundation board president Joseph King says, “If we benchmarked against (similar) entities around the country, most were called foundations.”
Also, “‘Endowment’” sounds kind of elitist,” he adds.
Board members and executive director Audrey Bode have long faced the challenge of explaining the need for a foundation in a place like Mt. Lebanon.
“If you’re a nonprofit organization in Mt. Lebanon, it’s hard to get people to listen to you; people tend to think that you can take care of yourselves.”
King says it comes down to this: It’s expensive to run a municipality. Though municipal tax revenues have remained flat, costs for basic services continue to rise, and Mt. Lebanon officials have tough choices to make. Funds that might have gone to the Mt. Lebanon Partnership, for instance, might now be needed for road salt. The foundation aims to step up and fill in the gaps.
Through its Community Impact Fund, the foundation focuses on the needs of children and families, senior citizens and community life in Mt. Lebanon. Recent grants include funds to strengthen security in local synagogues and support for the St. Clair Courtesy Van Fund.
The Community Impact Fund accepts donations of any amount; in addition, with a minimum donation of $5,000, donors can set up a named family fund as part of the Community Impact Fund. Grants from this fund are limited to Mt. Lebanon and are designated by the foundation board.
Donor-advised funds, which require a $10,000 minimum donation, are managed by the foundation, but donors can opt to award grants to nonprofits outside of Mt. Lebanon as well. However, board members often invite these donors to collaborate on local grants.
“It’s a discussion,” King says. “We try to find out what’s important to the donor,” and if their interests match with a Mt. Lebanon project, the donor can opt to pitch in. The minimum contribution for both family and donor-advised funds can be paid in installments, he adds.
Mt. Lebanon groups classified as 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations can apply for grants, which are awarded quarterly. The next application deadline is March 31. Grants are usually around $1,000 but can be more. Bode suggests organizations contact her, at firstname.lastname@example.org, to discuss their projects.
The foundation is currently winding up its annual appeal, which raises funds for operating expenses. But donations are welcome anytime. Bode, King or another board member is available to discuss setting up a fund, as well as alternatives including charitable gift annuities, stock donations, real estate and more.
Gifts are accepted online via credit card, or by check mailed to the foundation. Bode also emphasizes that volunteer time is high on the foundation’s wish list.
“We’re always looking for people who are interested in joining our board,” she says. Current needs include residents with financial, event planning or marketing experience, as well as those interested in helping with an event or just spreading the word about this valuable local resource. Bode also plans to ramp up its social media presence in 2020.
“We always want to make sure that anyone in the community can feel like a part of our foundation,” Bode says.
For more information on the Mt. Lebanon Community Foundation, including grant application guidelines, visit www.lebofoundation.org.