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Paying It Forward

Now entering its 95th year, CNY Community Foundation has received over $30 million in donation this year; in turn, it funds a myriad of community projects in the form of grants

By Steve Yablonski

The Central New York Community Foundation is a public charity that receives contributions from private donors, manages them to grow over time and then distributes funding to local charities to help them thrive.

The CNYCF was founded in 1927 as a nonprofit, charitable foundation to administer and manage many different charitable funds and endowments for the benefit of the Central New York community, according to Peter A. Dunn, president and CEO.

“We are entering our 95th year this year,” he said. “Since our inception, we have invested more than $230 million in community projects that strengthen our local nonprofits and address the most critical issues of our times. We are the largest charitable foundation in Central New York.”

At the end of December 2021, the foundation’s total funds under administration were $417 million.

CNYCF provided PGR Foundation with a community grant to support its back-to-school pandemic preparation series with the purchase of technology equipment and tutors’ pay.

“We administer more than 800 distinct charitable funds for a range of purposes and interests. In Oswego County, among these funds are the Greater Pulaski Community Endowment Fund (which just celebrated its 30th year and reaching $1 million in assets) and the Oswego County Community Foundation,” Dunn pointed out.

Donations to the Community Foundation tend to reflect overall economic conditions and, in particular, the health of the stock market “as we get a lot of gifts of appreciated assets from donors like stock and mutual funds and these types of gifts tend to accelerate in a rising market. This fiscal year we have received more than $30 million in gifts so far,” Dunn said.

“The year 2020 was notable in that we received significant bequest gifts, about $14 million in bequests alone, which was half of the $27 million in contributions we received,” he continued. “So, it is hard to predict what giving will look like from year to year. In general we receive more than $20 million each year to support new charitable funds being created or existing funds that we already administer.”

The largest gifts to the foundation during its history have tended to be bequests. These gifts create endowment funds that the foundation then invests and distributes a portion of the fund (like 4%-5% each year) out into the community in the form of grants.

“We also administer more than 300 donor advised funds, from which donors recommend grants to support local charities each year, in our 2020-2021 fiscal year, of the $20 million in grants we distributed, about $12 million came from donor advised funds,” he explained.

Paying it forward

“The gifts we receive create charitable funds and are invested over time. A percentage of each fund’s value is used annually to make grants while preserving the original gift. This means a charitable gift made today in the form of a permanent endowment can grow in pace with inflation and still provide consistent support in the future,” Dunn explained.

He related “a really nice story about a couple from Phoenix in Oswego County who left a notable bequest to support local students with scholarships.”

Peter Dunn

Robert and Roberta Hurd never had children.

Roberta was an excellent student and involved in many extra-curricular activities. Robert, one class year ahead of her, played many sports and was also a good student.

Both believed strongly in the importance of a good education, thankful for how well their Phoenix school experience set them up to succeed.

Robert died during Thanksgiving weekend in 1992; three months shy of their 50th wedding anniversary.

“Roberta began her relationship with us a year later when she quietly reached out to establish a scholarship fund in her husband’s memory,” Dunn said.

The inaugural recipient of the Robert and Roberta Hurd Scholarship Fund, Wyatt Parker packed up his Subaru with his girlfriend and headed to Seattle with their three hamsters — Tulip, Hotchie and Motchie — to start his career in 2021. He had received the $40,000 Hurd scholarship at his high school graduation in 2015. The scholarship was $10,000 per year, which paid for about half of his undergraduate degree.

Wyatt plans to continue paying his success forward through community service, donating to the Hurd Scholarship or maybe one day creating a scholarship fund of his own, according to Dunn.

“We made a grant a couple of years ago in collaboration with the Shineman Foundation to support the merger of three Oswego groups into a more sustainable organization. We have supported more than 35 mergers of nonprofit organizations over the last 10 years across Central New York,” he said.

With the encouragement of the Port of Oswego Authority, the H. Lee White Maritime Museum decided to pool its resources and develop collaborative partnerships with the Oswego Maritime Foundation and the Oswego Maritime Alliance. A “strategic partnership” grant from the Community Foundation assisted the museum with the legal and consulting expenses associated with the consolidation. The resulting partnership gave the museum the ability to expand its offerings to further develop cultural heritage tourism and remain a stable force in the Oswego community for generations.

Featured image: Nicola Dasilva used a mortgage from Home HeadQuarters to purchase her first home, located in Syracuse. CNYCF committed $500,000 to help Home HeadQuarters provide mortgages to new, first-time homebuyers in the city of Syracuse.