The Beaufort Fund: Small gifts making a big impact

in Voices by

By Edna Crews

More often than not, headlines and public accolades are reserved for only the largest of charitable gifts. When a single check adds a new wing to a hospital or saves an irreplaceable ecosystem, we take notice. And rightly so — extraordinary generosity is a hallmark of the Beaufort community and such significant acts of kindness should be celebrated and recognized.

But we must also be mindful of the smaller gifts that mean so much to organizations making a difference in our community every day. That’s why the Beaufort Fund is so important. It has quietly and diligently supported hundreds of area non-profits over the past 15 years with funding that often falls below the media radar. With the Beaufort Fund advisory committee working right now on final decisions for 2014 grants, I can’t think of a better time to recognize their efforts and help others understand what the fund is all about.

Established in 1998 through the Coastal Community Foundation, the Beaufort Fund gives every year to non-profits in Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper counties. The funds are distributed in grants of less than $15,000 each. And to the recipient nonprofits, the grant often means balancing their budget, delivering additional services, and in some cases, just staying open.

The Beaufort Fund is fully endowed and was created to generate grantable dollars every year — forever. As such, it has become an annual tradition and reliable resource for the Beaufort area non-profit community. While the economy ebbs and flows and private donor dollars are subject to fluctuation, the Beaufort Fund has remained a constant, a quiet engine of philanthropy that has moved literally hundreds of nonprofits forward.

Over the years, the fund has grown in two ways: generous gifts from the founding donor and others who believe in the mission of the fund, and investment returns on the fund itself. As it has grown, more has been distributed each year, leading to a six-fold increase in annual giving since it’s inception just 15 years ago. In the coming months, more than $600,000 will be distributed to more than 50 area non-profits.

Without fanfare, the fund has delivered critical financial support to organizations like Hope Haven of the Lowcountry, Hampton County Literacy Council, the Franciscan Center, Colleton Habitat for Humanity, Senior Services of Beaufort County and many more.

What makes this funding all the more important is that it can be applied to general operations. Nonprofits are often required to introduce a new program or service to qualify for many forms of funding. The Beaufort Fund’s willingness to pay for lights, insurance, salaries and supplies is quite literally essential to the ongoing operations of many small organizations.

Ultimately, the Beaufort Fund’s annual disbursement represents a large gift — the very kind you would expect to earn a few headlines and photographs. All the more so because that same large gift is made each and every year, a running total that now exceeds $5.5 million since 1998. But because of its disbursement process an important model that supports the community of non-profits through broad, diversified impact — it is often overlooked.

As we approach the holiday season and celebrate the big, transformative gifts that are so often given this time of year, let’s take a moment to appreciate the Beaufort Fund and the difference it makes for so many in our community.

Edna Crews is Regional Vice-President of Coastal Community Foundation and leads its Beaufort office.