Cultivating a Community

The seeds of Bainbridge Community Foundation (BCF) were planted many decades ago. In the late 1970s, active citizens on Bainbridge Island recognized the need for a permanent and reliable source of income for area nonprofits when urgent needs arose—a complement to the annual fundraising of One Call for All.

What they created ultimately became a chartered grant-making organization that would analyze the needs of our community, prioritize and address those needs, and anticipate how to foster quality of life for island residents in the near and long term.

In response to this opportunity, 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 iconic 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 Way, a stock certificate for one share of General Electric Stock, and shares in American Marine Bank donated by bank founder Lou Goller.

The idea of developing a permanent funding opportunity gained momentum. But the Trust Committee was organized to hold illiquid assets, not structure a permanent funding source. Ultimately the Bainbridge Foundation board appointed Steve Davis and others to the Trust Committee. Steve and his fellow committee members decided to marry the organization’s illiquid assets with the desire to create a permanent funding source.

In the late 1990s, the committee recruited attorney Larry Mills. 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 One Call for All board) the Trust Committee dissolved and established the independent nonprofit, Bainbridge Island Community Endowment. Bainbridge Island Community Endowment was organized under IRS Section 501(c)(3) as a community foundation, though the organization did not adopt the name Bainbridge Community Foundation until 2005, to avoid confusion with the Bainbridge Foundation.

From 2001 to 2005, the Bainbridge Community Foundation was an all-volunteer organization that contracted with the Seattle Foundation to provide investment management, fund accounting, and grant-making services. During this time, the foundation grew to $2.5 million in total assets. By the end of its first decade, the foundation grew to more than $7 million and initiated its first Community Grants Cycle, the foundation’s discretionary grant-making program.

The foundation had grown to a size and level of complexity in its grant-making such that the Seattle Foundation encouraged the board to transition to independent operations. In 2011, Debbie Kuffel joined the staff, followed by Jim Hopper, the foundation’s first full-time executive director. 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 Grants Program in 2013, and fully professionalized operations.

Today, BCF is singularly positioned to understand and address the broad needs of our community. We are proud to help our community grow and diversify by providing financial and logistical support to Bainbridge Island nonprofits through positive, sustainable, and inclusive investment—funded by citizenry that cares deeply about our shared home and wants to shape constructive impact, whether as major contributors or first-time donors. Together, we are Bainbridge.

“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