By JAMES BELL
Get more than double the local impact with a charitable gift this month.
The annual Heartland Community Foundation match month has returned this February.
As the group continues to build its coffers, the annual assistance from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation allows it to positively impact community groups and projects throughout the year.
During the month, the Hansen Foundation has challenged the Heartland Foundation to raise $50,000 in each of the three counties it serves – Ellis, Trego and Rooks.
“So, in 28 days, we have to raise that,” said Heartland Community Foundation Executive Director Sarah Meitner.
While the annual match month has been an opportunity to generate more funds for Heartland, the Hansen Foundation has upped the ante this year.
“In the past, they've doubled the match, so they've done $1 for $1,” Meitner said. “This year, they're doing $2 for every dollar.”
If each of the three Heartland counties raises the $50,000 challenge amount, she said Hansen would match that with $300,000.
“That money goes into our legacy funds,” Meitner said. “Each county has one, the Ellis County Legacy Fund, the Rooks County Legacy Fund, the Trego County Legacy Fund, and those are our primary granting funds.”
Those funds are unrestricted, meaning donations from those accounts can go to any cause.
“Schools, churches, any nonprofit, service providers, cities, municipalities, you name it,” Meitner said. “We want to grow that fund because the more we grow it, the more we can grant. So yeah, this is amazing to get that extra incentive to really spur giving.”
And while giving money to deserving groups is a hallmark of the organization, Meitner said as the fund grows, the ability to give in the future also increases.
“It's an endowed fund,” she said. “That means that we don't actually grant out the principle of the fund — we're letting that grow. We grant out the investment income.”
And while the foundation doesn't always grant the total amount available every year, she said it must give at least 5 percent under federal guidelines.
Not enough money ...
“I get about 120 applications a year,” Meitner said. “We can't grant to all of those. There's just simply not enough money. We haven't gotten there yet. We're trying. We're growing it.”
Last year’s grants totaled over $422,000, she said, for both organizations and projects.
“I think the schools were actually our largest granting recipient, and it was at about $112,000," Meitner said. "After that, it was service providers, health care and service providers. And then roughly $78,000 went toward public safety and disaster relief.”
Another $36,000 was distributed to arts, and culture projects and $32,000 went to parks.
“Your donation to the Heartland Community Foundation can really touch so many lives because of the wide breadth of impact,” Meitner said. “It goes toward fire safety. It can go toward law enforcement. It can go toward children and arts and culture, parks — a little bit of everything.”
And over the lifetime of the Heartland Foundation, she said around $3.2 million had been distributed.
“Certainly, the ripple effect of that has been tremendous,” Meitner said.
And while the foundation continues to grow, she said the organization can also help connect potential donors with opportunities to give.
“In the future, I hope that we'll be able to have even more to grant out, but when people are looking for a way to make an impact come to me, I can help point you in the right direction,” Meitner said. “We can match you up with whatever it is that fires you up.”
This year, she said they have also added a bonus incentive to give.
“If you donate between Feb. 1 and Feb. 15, you will be entered to win $500 in chamber bucks that we will draw on the morning of the 16th,” Meitner said. “And if you donate over $500, you'll be entered twice.”
The drawings will be offered in each of the foundation’s three counties.
“If you want to gift all three counties, you could be entered three times,” Meitner said. “We'll draw that and just try to spread the word and remind people that it's match month and see how much we can raise.”
But even without the incentive, she said the region is home to those that desire to give.
“I believe that we're really fortunate in this region to have very generous people. And so, our nonprofits in town are really able to make the most of the money that they have to make the biggest impact and do good work. They're the boots on the ground."
"But that generosity, I also believe, it's not finite. I say the pie just gets larger because people dig a little bit deeper. And especially when there's an incentive, like a match incentive, but also just when there's a really good story to tell, and somebody who truly needs it, our region, our communities, they turn out, and they want to help.”
Donations can be made at heartlandcommunityfoundation.org, by phone at (785) 621-4090 or in person at their office in the Chestnut Building at 1200 Main.