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Organization matches charities with donors

March 8, 2008 12:06:44 PM PST
Living in the Bay Area, you soon realize there are a number of worthy causes. Hundreds of non-profits are trying to get support from people like you. How does one choose what cause to stand behind? The East Bay Community Foundation has a way to help you make the right choice.

Bringing music to Oakland public schools costs money. The Oakland Youth Chorus is there to help. Their after-school program provides music education to 23 schools in Oakland.

Hector Avila dreams of becoming famous someday.

"My mom said that she will be very happy for me and my whole family that I will be on TV someday," says Avila.

Schools provide half the funding. The rest comes from donors thanks to Proposition 49, the after-school initiative, which matches these funds.

"We've been able to serve all the kids that we serve better and serve many many more kids. Last year we were working in 14 schools and this year we're in 23," says Sharon Dolan of the Oakland Youth Chorus.

The East Bay Community Foundation is where a lot of those matching funds come from. Think of them as a matchmaker for donors like Brian Rogers of the Rogers Family Foundation. His father, Gary Rogers, owned Dryer's Grand Ice Cream until 2003 when the company was sold to Nestle for $2.8 billion.

"We've been born and raised here, our family, and so we decided to focus on education, youth development, because we felt that that's where we could have the biggest impact," says Rogers.

Annually, the Rogers Family Foundation gives three million dollars to about 100 organizations in Oakland. The East Bay Community Foundation is the clearing house for the Rogers.

"What we do is, we're brokers. We work with people and individuals who have funds and want to be philanthropic and we connect them to the needs in the community," says a Nichole Taylor of the East Bay Community Foundation.

Kristine Grisham is one of them. She and her father saw the need to financially help students who attend predominantly black universities.

"My younger brother went to Morehouse College and when he graduated there was a list of students' names on the registrar's office door, and these were students that were not going to walk across the stage the next day, and they owed anywhere from $200 to a couple thousand dollars. And at the time my parents said if we could just write a check we would do so," says Grisham.

That's how the Last Mile Foundation was started.

Students send their applications to the East Bay Community Foundation. They also do all the administrative work for Grisham's organization.

You don't have to be wealthy to start your own charitable fund. The minimum is $10,000. The East Bay Community Foundation finds the right charities for you and they even evaluate them. And then they do more. If a donor or philanthropist shows an interest in a non-profit, then the East Bay Community Foundation takes that person on a tour of the program.

"It is one thing to read about an organization and look at their financials and know that they are really solid, it's another thing to see kids engrossed and happy and engaged," says Joan Cosper of the East Bay Community Foundation.

The cost to operate a fund is 1.25 percent. That's $125 for a $10,000 fund. The operating costs are less if you donate more. Last year, donations were at an all-time high of $36.7 million to charitable causes.

Community foundations have grown tremendously. There are about 700 nationwide and seven in the Bay Area. People like that the money stays in their community.

"Donors give because they're asked. Philanthropists give because they want to invest in their community. They have a strategy," says Taylor.

People feel that by giving to a community foundation they are affecting the social fabric of their community.

For more information on the East Bay Community Foundation or to learn how you can donate, visit www.ebcf.org.


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