WINCHESTER — Exponential growth in funding contributions over the past few years is prompting the Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley to seek its first full-time executive director since its founding in 2001.
“We’re really looking for someone with local knowledge and local experience,” said current Executive Director Debbie Connolly.
The Community Foundation, which has three part-time staffers and a 12-member volunteer board, manages named endowment and non-endowment funds for regional donors who want to support specific nonprofit groups, set up scholarship funds or create a source of funding for charitable works in a particular field of interest.
Connolly, who works part-time for the foundation in addition to holding a full-time job, said she will stay on as a volunteer. But the foundation is looking for a full-time employee to succeed her because the size of the organization’s funding pool has gown to the level that full-time management is required.
Four years ago, the foundation, located at 411 N. Cameron St., managed a little more than $1 million in 52 different funds. As of this week, it manages $5.4 million in 102 funds.
“The more funds you have the more management you need,” Connolly said, adding that the foundation gave about $250,000 to local nonprofit groups in 2018 — an all-time high. “I expect every year that will increase.”
The foundation currently has an operating budget of $100,000 per year.
Connolly and foundation board president Erik Beatley said the foundation grew slowly at first because it did not start out with one large donation or endowment, but rather a collection of donations as small as $5,000.
“We were grassroots,” Connolly said. “It took quite a few years to grow.”
In 2017, the foundation received a $1.1 million donation in unrestricted funds from the estate of Lois A. Kirkwood, a retired nurse who moved to Winchester following a 30-year career at Inova Fairfax Hospital. She died on Nov. 25, 2016.
“That’s a rare gift,” Connolly said. It allowed the foundation to purchase accounting software, making it easier to manage more than 100 named funds.
But the elevation of the foundation’s financial profile and the elimination of what had been a “very manual” accounting process has allowed the group to grow at a pace not suited for part-time staff or volunteers, Connolly said. Full time help is needed.
“As soon as possible,” Connolly said of a potential start date for the new executive director.
The foundation gets a shared rate of return based on the total amount of money it manages, rather than individual rates for each fund, Beatley said. Its total funding pool is managed through Reston-based Mason Investment Advisory Services. The foundation has gotten a net rate of return of 7.3% for its long-term portfolio, according to company materials. That rate of return supports the foundation’s goal of a 4% annual distribution.
The group pays MIAS a fee of 0.52% — a figure that has decreased as the investments have grown, Connolly said.