Cultivating a Community

owens_playgroundThe seeds of Bainbridge Community Foundation (BCF) were planted in the late 1970s when the board of One Call for All (then known as the Bainbridge Foundation) formed a trust committee to build a permanent endowment fund, proceeds from which would fund grants to organizations with one-time unique needs above and beyond the scope of the annual Red Envelope Campaign.

Over the next two decades, the Trust Committee accumulated a number of illiquid assets, among them the note on the Barber Shop on Winslow Way, a piece of land-locked property on Wyatt Avenue, a stock certificate for one share of General Electric Stock (donated by Bob Karr’s father), and shares in American Marine Bank donated by bank founder Lou Goller.  The Trust Committee was a low priority for the Bainbridge Foundation board, but the group appointed Steve Davis and others to its membership.

In the late 1990s, attorney Larry Mills was recruited to the Trust Committee. With Larry’s expertise, the landlocked property was granted access, paving the way for other assets to be liquidated. The net value of the proceeds amounted to $172,000. With those funds (and the blessing of the Bainbridge Foundation board) the Trust Committee dissolved and established the independent nonprofit, Bainbridge Island Community Endowment. Bainbridge Island Community Foundation was organized under IRS Section 501(c)(3) as a community foundation, though the organization did not adopt that moniker until 2005, to avoid confusion with the Bainbridge Foundation.

From 2001 to 2005, the Bainbridge Island Community Endowment was an all-volunteer organization that contracted with The Seattle Foundation to provide investment management, fund accounting, and grantmaking services. During this time, the foundation grew to $2.5 million in total assets. In 2005, the organization hired Erin Hults as a grant administrator and later Kassia Sing as a development director. Jean Casey would later replace Erin and would work with Kassia for the lion’s share of the next five years. Under their leadership, the foundation grew to more than $7 million and initiated its first Community Grant Cycle, the Foundation’s discretionary grantmaking program.

At this point, the Foundation had grown to a size and level of complexity in its grantmaking such that the Seattle Foundation encouraged the board to transition the organization toward independent operations. In early 2011, Debbie Kuffel joined the staff, followed by Jim Hopper, the foundation’s first full-time Executive Director, in August 2011. Jean Casey left the Foundation in October and Kassia Sing left the Foundation at the end of 2011. In October of 2011, the foundation became fully independent. The next five years would bring about some of the foundation’s largest growth in services, with the addition of the Nonprofit Survey in 2012, a new Capacity Building Grant Program in 2013, and fully professionalized operations.

“Through BCF we have enjoyed learning about our many local nonprofits and the positive roles they play in our lives. We also have seen wonderful examples of generosity on the part of individual citizens, actions that encourage giving by others.”
—Judy and Bob Karr, BCF Advised Fund Holders