Holiday giving at the Foundation for Southeast Texas
‘Tis the season for giving, and there is no better place to give than Southeast Texas. Statistics show that around this time of year, charities and nonprofits experience a spike in donations from local citizens. Most individuals who donate during the holiday season give to one or two charities and the buck stops there. If you give a dollar, the receiving entity spends that dollar to the benefit of the charity and those impacted. What many people do not realize is there is another way to give and to stretch that gift for years to come. The Foundation for Southeast Texas, a community foundation, and newly appointed executive director Carol Eddins can provide guidance to people interested in that type of sustained giving.
Eddins contacted The Examiner because she cares about the community, is passionate about educating citizens regarding charitable contributions and wants to bring attention to the various nonprofit organization in need right here in Southeast Texas. She said she is excited to lead the charitable entity and those who donate there can rest assured knowing the foundation board takes their charge of investing and distributing funds very seriously.
“It is amazing,” Eddins said of the foundation and her work there. “I like to call myself the philanthropic Match.com. I put the donors with the causes. Then, they know their money is being spent well.”
“Connecting people who care with causes that matter” is the motto of the Foundation of Southeast Texas, and that basically sums up what they do there. They create and manage named endowments, growing the money in the endowments through investment and interest, and distribute those funds to a large number of area nonprofits. The foundation is a community foundation. Community foundations are independent, public entities that steward philanthropic resources from institutional and individual donors to local nonprofits at the heart of the community.
The Foundation of Southeast Texas, led by a board of 30 leaders from Hardin, Jefferson and Orange counties, was established in late 1996 to respond to continuously changing and emerging community needs. It is different from other foundations in that it has many donors whose combined gifts can address many areas of concern including arts and culture, preservation, education, health, social services, youth, the elderly, economic development, faith groups and civic affairs.
Carol Flatten, outgoing executive director for the Foundation for Southeast Texas, said the foundation was established about 10 years after civic leaders envisioned it. The Beaumont Community Foundation, made up of four endowed funds earmarked for special projects and grants for agencies of the United Way, evolved from the Community Chest. Founders of the Foundation for Southeast Texas envisioned a community foundation that would serve not only the United Way but also charitable organizations serving the needs of the people of the three counties of Southeast Texas.
“The way that it works is we commingle the gifts of a number of donors,” Flatten explained. “At this point, there are 28 different funds on our books. They were all given by different donors. We commingle the money for investment purposes, and then the earnings are distributed to the nonprofits as the donors direct, with the exception of three unrestricted funds. We take the earnings from those three unrestricted funds and we do a round of competitive grants.”
May 7, the Foundation for Southeast Texas awarded 47 nonprofit agencies grants totaling $122,500. Thus far this year, they have awarded $192,300 in donor advised and donor endowed funds, bringing the total 2013 donations to $315,800.
“Since 1998, we have given away a total of over $3.5 million,” Flatten said of the foundation.
“That’s just from the community, from philanthropic people who care about Southeast Texas and want to give back,” said Eddins, who is taking over as executive director for the Foundation of Southeast Texas after Flatten retires at the end of the year (see related story).
In addition to contributing to a variety of local charities including Nutrition and Services for Seniors, Anayat House, Special Olympics Texas, Bucker Children and Family Services, Garth House, Some Other Place and so many more, the foundation rents space to nonprofits at extremely discounted rates, approximately 30 percent under market, according to Flatten. With the rental, the nonprofits gain access to three conference rooms and other amenities.
Approximately 70 percent of Americans donate to charity annually. Make your contribution count in the community. To find out more about the foundation and establishing an endowment, visit their website at www.cfsetx.org/ or call (409) 833-5775.