Charitable funding shift to affect local nonprofits
- Published: June 20, 2012
Over the past 10 years, the Morgan Family Foundation has quietly donated substantial sums of money to local nonprofits, with a special focus on promoting the arts. In fact, the amount of money injected by the foundation into the local economy — $9.4 million since 2003 — is unusual in such a small town.
“We’re extremely lucky to have a foundation that’s been investing $1 million a year into the community,” said Emily Seibel, executive director of Home, Inc., a recipient of several Morgan Foundation grants.
But last week the foundation notified past grant recipients that, at least for the next several years, it is changing direction. Recently, according to a letter from Executive Director Lori Kuhn, the foundation made its largest grant yet, $2.875 million over the next three years, to Antioch College. Consequently, the foundation will suspend funding local nonprofits until November 2015. However, while the means will change, the foundation’s goal of benefitting the village remains the same, Kuhn wrote.
“We believe that one of the best ways for the Foundation to enrich Yellow Springs is to support Antioch College,” she wrote.
This week leaders of several local nonprofits agreed that they are grateful for the foundation’s past generosity, and most said they understand the need to shift support to the college. Still, several acknowledged that it’s an especially hard time to get private foundation funding, and the shift will likely require either that villagers increase their giving, or that some local programming be cut.
“We have to prepare for doing less in the community, although that’s not our first choice,” said Jerome Borchers, president of the Yellow Springs Arts Council, which has received substantial operational support from the Morgan Foundation grants. “There are many generous people in Yellow Springs, and I suspect some could do more. And we need to work harder to find different sources of funding.”
It’s not clear yet what direction the Morgan Foundaton will take in 2015, according to foundation trustee Lee Morgan in an interview this week. While the family has remained loyal to Yellow Springs, family members now live in Minnesota and Portland, Oregon.
The Morgan Foundation has had a special relationship with the Yellow Springs Arts Council, which will definitely feel the loss of the foundation funding, according to Borchers. Last year alone, the group received $54,000 in operating support from the foundation, along with $25,000 for the upcoming Bronze Sculpture Symposium and $25,000 for the community chorus, band and orchestra.
In recent years, the foundation has provided most of the group’s operating funds, which total about $20,000 to $30,000 a year for two part-time employees and operational expenses for the group’s gallery on Corry Street, Borchers said. While the Arts Council has also received some help from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation ($11,250 in 2012), that foundation does not as a rule provide grants for operating expenses, which the Morgan Foundation sometimes provided.
“We try to remain open” to a operational grant requests, according to Foundation Director Kuhn. “We’re more likely to provide that if we have some relationship with a group, or feel passionately about the cause. There are certain critical times when a group needs operational help.”
The Morgan Foundation’s special relationship with the Arts Council grew out of a multiyear effort to create a local arts center, which the foundation funded. That effort included the hiring of two outside arts consultants, whose recommendations included strengthening the village’s arts infrastructure. To do so, the consultants said, there needed to be a single group to “move things along” in the arts community, according to Borchers. The Arts Council, which had previously been a much smaller group primarily focused on visual arts, accepted the challenge, and for the past several years has taken on a much higher profile in the community.
The group has attempted to find other sustainable funding sources, including Village government, Borchers said. Arts Council representatives presented proposals three years in a row seeking municipal funding, such as that provided by many towns that see the arts as economic drivers, Borchers said. But Village Council has said no to the requests.
The Arts Council, which was notified by the Morgan Foundation about six months ago that a funding change was afoot, is looking into new ways to raise funds, Borchers said.
“It’s not all bad,” he said of the funding cut. “We just have to work harder. We might have to pare down, but that’s not our first choice.”
The effects of the Morgan Foundation’s past efforts to beef up local arts are already being felt, Borchers said. For instance, this year the Arts Council was able to take on an ambitious new project, the October Bronze Sculpture Symposium, which is expected to draw many visitors to town. And part of what the foundation has provided the group is the perception of increased vitality.
“We asked ourselves, can we do a project this big?” Borchers said. “And we can now. We’re identified as an organization in town that can do things.”
Another way the Morgan Foundation has impacted the local arts scene is the ambitious renovation of the Little Art Theatre, which was largely funded by a Morgan Foundation grant of $250,000. The Little Art was also identified by the arts consultants as a priority, Borchers said.
Overall, Borchers said, he views the current funding shift in light of all the Morgan Foundation has done for the village.
“During the years the college was closed, the foundation’s support for the arts helped fill in the gap,” he said. “The bigger perspective is how much they’ve contributed to the town.”
Good to affordable housing
The Morgan Foundation has also been generous to Home, Inc., the local land trust organization that creates affordable housing.
“The Morgan Family Foundation has been really good to us,” Executive Director Emily Seibel said last week. Because the foundation was often the first organization to provide funds to Home, Inc. projects, “it helped us leverage other funds,” she said.
Along with donating $90,000 for the purchase of land for four new affordable homes on Cemetery Street, the foundation donated $250,000 for the nonprofit’s senior housing project on the Barr property, although that project fell through. And in 2009 it donated $60,000 in operational funding that allowed Home, Inc. to add a second position, a program manager.
“That really increased our capacity,” Seibel said.
An Antioch College graduate, Seibel also supports the foundation’s move to help the college revival, although she acknowledges that local affordable housing efforts will be affected.
“It won’t cripple us to the point where we have to shut down programs,” she said. “But we’ll be happy when the foundation comes back.”
Several nonprofit leaders stated that the loss of Morgan Foundation funding is especially noticeable because it’s already a tough time to get support from private foundations.
“The economic downturn is still an issue,” said Krista Magaw, director of Tecumseh Land Trust, which received $35,000 from the Morgan Foundation last year to help build the group’s Stewardship Fund. That group in the past has been supported by the Springfield Foundation and the Turner Foundation, both of which are now focusing on funding groups that feed the hungry.
“It will be missed,” Magaw said, although she added that she’s “happy the foundation plans to stay engaged in the Yellow Springs community.”
The difficult funding climate for social services is being felt by the Family Violence Center of Greene County, which has benefitted from $50,000 a year in operating support from the foundation.
“Every dollar is getting more and more critical,” said center board member Jerry Sutton.
The only domestic violence center in Greene County, the center has a shelter with 16 rooms in Xenia that in 2012 provided 7,000 “bed nights” to women and children.
State and federal funding has been cut in recent years, so that the center relies more on private funding. Out of the $125,000 a year in private funds they seek, the Morgan Foundation grant was a sizeable chunk.
“Historically the foundation has been very generous,” Sutton said. “But we have to find additional revenues that are getting more difficult to find, or make cuts in expenditures. It will have a significant consequence in the near term.”
Local nonprofits may also receive funding from the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, which has assets of almost $9 million. However, with its smaller assets, the YSCF makes smaller grants than does the Morgan Foundation. While the foundation gave $177,813 in donations to local entities last year, the bulk comes from restricted funds that go to specific segments of the community, such as the Yellow Springs Endowment for Education’s grants to school projects, or the Miller endowment funding of Antioch College work-study students in local nonprofits.
Last year the YSCF made about $60,000 in grants from its discretionary funds, including $30,000 to the Little Art Theatre, $8,000 to YSKP, $7,180 to WYSO Public Radio, and $11,250 to the Arts Council.
The YSCF is more project oriented than the Morgan Family Foundation, and shies away from funding operational expenses, according to past president Bruce Bradtmiller last week. However, all of its grants go to the Yellow Springs community.
Another source of local philanthropy, the YSI Foundation, was shut down last year after the company was acquired by ITT. That foundation had donated about $2.8 million to the town and area during its 20-year existence.
Due to the funding hiatus of the Morgan Family Foundation and the shutting down of the YSI and Vernay Foundation, once another source of local philanthropy, the Yellow Springs Community Foundation will be the only local foundation giving to local nonprofits in the next several years.
Giving back to village, college
The Morgan Family Foundation was founded in 2003 by Lee and Vicki Morgan, longtime former residents of Yellow Springs. The grandson of visionary Antioch College President Arthur Morgan, Lee Morgan is the former CEO of The Antioch Company. In 2003 the company received a financial windfall after restructuring, and the recapitalization “offered Lee and Vicki an opportunity to create another family legacy: a grant-making foundation,” according to the foundation’s Website, which states the family donated a significant amount of its proceeds to the new foundation.
The Morgan Foundation currently has about $47 million in assets, according to Kuhn this week. The foundation trustees, besides Lee and Vicki Morgan, are their two adult children and spouses: Matthew and Karla Morgan and Asha Morgan Moran and Marty Moran.
Since the foundation began, the trustees have given about $2 million a year, divided almost equally between nonprofits in Yellow Springs and St. Cloud, Minn., where The Antioch Company, and later Lee and Vicki Morgan, relocated. While the Morgan family no longer lives in Yellow Springs, they chose to continue benefiting the village, along with St. Cloud, because “the money was made in St. Cloud and Yellow Springs,” Lee Morgan said this week.
In 2012, local nonprofits that received Morgan Foundation grants included Antioch University ($25,000 for a feasibility study in anticipation of a WYSO capital campaign); the Little Art Theatre Association ($250,000 for the theater renovation); the Riding Centre ($15,000); Tecumseh Land Trust ($35,000 for the Stewardship Fund); Yellow Springs Home, Inc. ($90,000 for a match to purchase land for the Cemetery Street affordable housing project); and the Yellow Springs Arts Council. Area grant recipients included the National Conference for Community and Justice of Greater Dayton ($10,000 for several programs in the Yellow Springs schools); and the Dayton Foundation ($45,000 for general purposes.)
Four of the six Morgan Foundation board members are Antioch College graduates, (Lee, Vicki, Matthew and Karla) and Lee currently serves on the Antioch College board of trustees.
The foundation trustees chose to shift funding to Antioch College this year because the college is at a particularly critical juncture, Lee Morgan said this week. Specifically, in November representatives of the accrediting agency North Central Association, or NCA, will visit the college, a significant step in the process of becoming accredited, which is considered essential to the college’s success. And as part of the visit, the NCA visitors will closely examine the college’s financial viability.
“It’s an important time to get the finances as solid as we can,” Morgan said, stating that while the college had a record year with fundraising, more help is needed. And according to Kuhn, the foundation leaders hope that their gift to the college spurs on gifts from others as well.
The Morgan Foundation’s gift to the college “is huge,” Antioch College President Mark Roosevelt said last week.” The college is still at a very precarious period in its recreation.”
In raising funds from alumni, he has used the phrase “all-in” to describe the commitment needed from alumni to help the college succeed, Roosevelt said, stating “this donation is an example of being ‘all-in.’”
Still, Roosevelt said, it felt “awkward” to acknowledge the Morgan Foundation’s stepped-up giving to the college in the context of its effect on other nonprofits.
While the college has had a banner year of fundraising with almost $21 million raised in the fiscal year that ends in June, the need remains great, Roosevelt said. While it takes about $13 million to operate the college per year, extensive campus renovations will require about $80 million in upcoming years. Immediately, the college is investing about $20 million in four main projects, he said: the new college/community wellness center at the Curl Gym, which has already broken ground; the renovation of the theater, which should begin next month; the second phase of the Science Building renovation; and the construction of a central geothermal plant.
Most of the nonprofit leaders interviewed stated that they agree that helping Antioch College succeed is also helping the Yellow Springs community.
“I think giving more support to the college is the right thing to do,” Jerome Borchers of the Yellow Springs Arts Council said, stating that the new wellness center and theater on campus are two examples of how a successful college will enhance Yellow Springs.
“The community will gain from this contribution, only in a different way” than it would from contributions to the Arts Council, Borchers said.