History & Facts

A community foundation is a publicly supported philanthropic institution serving a defined geographic area and governed by a volunteer board of private citizens who represent the public interest. It administers funds from an endowment built from contributions by individuals, corporations, other foundations or government. It distributes grants to non profit agencies in such areas as human services, education health, community development, arts and other civic endeavors.

In 1990, there were fewer than a dozen community foundations in Indiana. In 1998, there were over 90, representing all counties in Indiana. This sudden emergence of community foundations is due mostly to a private foundation in Indiana, the Lilly Endowment Inc., who primarily focused its funds in Indianapolis, but, in 1990, created a huge program called GIFT-Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow. Each phase of the program offers matching grant programs to eligible community foundations in Indiana. As each year went by, more and more community foundations were created in Indiana, in large part because they were able to take advantage of the GIFT Program and its matching dollars. Prior to 1997, there was little chance of Ohio County successfully completing any of Lilly Endowment’s programs. Ohio County is the smallest county in the country (based on square miles); prior to 1997, it was also the poorest county in the state of Indiana. The later status quickly changed when a riverboat casino opened in Ohio County in late 1996. Millions of dollars now flow annually through the City and County’s coffers, making it a reality for Ohio County to develop its own viable community foundation.

Early in 1997, there was an effort to get a community foundation operating in time to apply for the Lilly Endowment’s GIFT Phase II initiative, which was a match of $1 million. Organizational meetings were held, but the end result was that the Ohio County Community Foundation was not formed in time to take advantage of GIFT Phase II.

Members of the community working on this project were Lane Siekman, Attorney, Stephen Patz, Rising Sun Ohio County Schools Superintendent, Arthur Jay, Physician and Dill Dorrell, Real Estate Company Agent/Owner.

When the next round, GIFT Phase III, was announced in late 1997, a business leader in the community wanted to establish a community foundation and proceeded to form a board consisting of the following members:

Monte Denbo, President, Businessman and key leader; Ken McIntosh, Vice-President, Rising Sun High School Principal; April Hautman, Treasurer, Ohio County Council Member; Nancy Gililland, Secretary, Executive Director of Historic Downtown; Douglas Baker, Ohio County Council Member; Wayne Chipman, Businessman and President of Ohio County Historical Society Rosie Hewitt, Secretary to Mayor, Barb Scranton, Ohio County Auditor, and John Spina, General Manager of Grand Victoria Casino & Resort.

GIFT Phase III, allowed each community foundation to apply for up to $1 million.

Each foundation was given the choice of allotting a portion for special projects within the community, with a minimum of $50,000 for each project. OCCF requested $400,000 in asset building funds and the remaining $600,000 was divided up among two community projects. The $400,000 had to be matched by OCCF between June 28, 1998 and September 30, 1999; the special projects funds did not require any matches. GIFT III match was completed on April 6, 1999.

In December 1998, two community project grants were endorsed by the Ohio County Community Foundation under GIFT III from the Lilly Endowment Inc. The Riverfront Erosion Project received a $330,000 grant and the Ohio County Historical Society received $270,000 for its museum renovations. These two projects required the approval of the Ohio County Community Foundation and therefore were granted after approval.

The Ohio County Community Foundation is not the only foundation in Ohio County. The Rising Sun Regional Foundation receives its funding directly from the Grand Victoria Casino and Riverboat, and serves a four county region. The Rising Sun Regional Foundation issued a $500,000 challenge Grant to four community foundations, including OCCF, with the intent of assisting them in meeting their matching requirements for the Lilly Endowment Inc. GIFT III. Every dollar the OCCF raised was matched with another dollar by the RSRF, which in turn was matched again by Lilly Endowment Inc.

GIFT IV was announced in January 1999, being similar to GIFT III, but focusing on administration of the foundation. GIFT IV offered $1.5 million to each community foundation that successfully completed GIFT III. The breakdown was as follows:

1) $300,000 available on a $3 (grantor) – to $1 (grantee) match. This $300,000 was to be used for administrative expenses within a three to five year time period, and could not be put into an administrative endowment.

2) $1.2 million was made available for endowment building and/or special projects. This part was similar to GIFT III; there was a $1 – for $1 match on endowment building and no match (but a minimum request of $50,000) for special projects.

To apply for GIFT IV Administrative Funds, each community foundation had to prepare a three to five year budget, in which they demonstrated how they would use the $300,000 to improve and upgrade their foundation.

In March 1999, Rising Sun Regional Foundation announced that it would again support the four community foundations with another Challenge Grant. This grant would be used to support the $100,000 needed for an operating match of $300,000. RSRF made matching grants up to $50,000, which meant that each of the four community foundations need only raise $50,000 in operating funds to receive the $300,000 from Lilly Endowment Inc. This created a matching ratio of $7 (grantor) – to – $1 (grantee)

In August 2001, as a result of a yearlong self-assessment program called “Taking Stock,” a voluntary self-assessment program, Indiana’s community foundations had determined that their most critical needs revolved around their ability to raise money for their unrestricted grantmaking funds and their ability to improve their day-to-day operations. In response, Lilly Endowment Inc. announced GIFT V to encourage the state’s community foundations to raise funds for their unrestricted endowments and organize their operations for the most effective and efficient results. GIFT V offered two types of grant support: matching funds to build unrestricted endowments and matching funds for general operating support. Each viable Indiana community foundation that participated satisfactorily in Phase IV of GIFT could apply for a total of $2.1 million for each county served, subject to a $1 (grantor)-for-$1(grantee) matching requirement.

In this small community, a riverboat casino, the Grand Victoria, opened in 1997. The casino is required by the state to participate in a revenue sharing plan, where money is dispersed to the city and county on a percentage basis, which then divide the riverboat money among various organizations and entities. While it is the Foundation’s intention to seek donations from as wide a donor base as possible, the councils’ commitments help make the success of the Foundation a certainty, while demonstrating their faith and involvement in the Ohio County Community Foundation.

The Ohio County Community Foundation purchased their own building in January 2013 as a permanent home for the Community Foundation.

The Ohio County Community Foundation has been entrusted with local funds of  over $22 million for perpetuity. By investing and protecting these funds, worthwhile granting for local causes and concerns will be possible from the proceeds and interests. The outlook of the Board of Directors and Staff is to constantly bring awareness to the community of what the Ohio County Community Foundation does and the impact that the Foundation can have on the future of the communities in Ohio County.