Donor FAQ  

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How did the Foundation get started?
The generous anonymous donor responsible for establishing the Foundation had the foresight to provide a substantial reserve of funds during the organization’s early years to support the start-up work. Approximately $1.75 million was available for the early years of the foundation. This gift made it possible for the Foundation to focus on establishing a track record of community giving, building trust and developing a reputation for integrity.

2. Why is a community foundation important?
Community foundations across the country pool donors’ assets to build healthier communities with this collaborative approach. We connect people who care with causes that matter. By working with local leaders who understand the needs of the community to manage and distribute funds to community organizations, we are working to engage, enrich and strengthen our whole community. We also provide services to our non-profit community such as management of their endowments and technical assistance.

3. What are the Foundation’s total assets and where do they come from?
Nearly 3,000 donors – individuals, families, community organizations and businesses - have trusted the Whatcom Community Foundation with their charitable contributions. The Foundation manages 83 funds totaling more than $9 million in assets. We help these community investors to achieve their charitable giving goals.

4. What kinds of donor funds are managed by the Foundation and how do they support the community?

Income generated through investment of our assets supports a wide range of community organizations, institutions and projects through:

  • Unrestricted funds that support the competitive grants pool
  • Field of interest funds to support particular issues in the community such as arts and culture or environmental issues
  • Donor-advised funds to allow donors to specify which agencies they want to support
  • Designated funds that support particular organizations or community initiatives such as the Depot Market or Campaign for the Arts
  • Endowments created by charitable organizations and managed by the Foundation

5. How much has the Foundation given and to how many organizations?
Since its founding in 1996, the Foundation has facilitated over $2.7 million in funding to more than 290 community organizations.

6. What are some of the Foundation’s accomplishments in addition to managing these assets?

  1. The Foundation is the only resource familiar with both the goals of our donors and the community organizations so that we can help donors reach their goals. We are trusted by 2,949 donors.
  2. We provide critical support for major community initiatives such as the Campaign for the Arts, Fairhaven Village Green, Ferndale Library and the Depot Market.
  3. We provide pivotal support to strengthen the local nonprofit community
    1. Manage eighteen endowments for community nonprofits such as Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, Brigid Collins, Whatcom Symphony, Northwest Youth Services, Mount Baker Theatre, Whatcom Land Trust, Bellingham Public Library and Whatcom Museum of History & Art
    2. Established the Catalog of Philanthropy (, an informative online directory of local nonprofit organizations
    3. Served as key founder of the Whatcom Council of Nonprofits, making local nonprofits more effective and efficient through networking and training opportunities
    4. Commissioned Whatcom County's Nonprofit Economy: Public Charity Finances & Individual Giving Report
  4. Partnered with Whatcom County, United Way and St. Joseph Hospital to create the Whatcom Coalition for Healthy Communities to convene our community around key issues
    1. Provided funding support for Coalition convening efforts such as the Domestic Violence Summit, Transportation Summit and the Whatcom Prosperity Project to find new strategies to address poverty in our county
    2. Provided start up support for the Coalition’s community based collaborative leadership program, Leadership Whatcom
    3. Support for the Women’s Funding Alliance’s A Closer Look project to study the status of women and girls in western Washington, including Whatcom County

7. What are your foundation services in addition to managing funds for community donors and organizations?
When we talk about our Foundation Services Fund, we’re talking about the community building, philanthropic advising work and nonprofit services that the Foundation provides in addition to the work of connecting our donors’ funds to community organizations. Some of these activities are intangible, but nonetheless vital to building a healthy community and a healthy community foundation:

  • Serving as a resource and local expert about Whatcom County nonprofit organizations for other individual and institutional funders
  • Providing leadership and acting as a catalyst to stimulate community giving
  • Working collaboratively with other community funders and institutions to initiate new projects for the community
  • Conferences, educational forums and gatherings to promote community philanthropy and provide information for our donors
  • Researching and tracking grantees’ progress to ensure that we are making the best possible funding decisions
  • Technical assistance for nonprofit organizations and grantees
  • Workshops and collaborations to support community nonprofit organizations to be as effective as possible in their work serving the community.

8. Where does the funding come from to provide the foundation services that you offer?
Funding for our foundation services currently comes from service fees from the funds we manage (at current levels, approximately 40 percent of our budget), from our own endowed Foundation Services Fund (approximately five percent of our current budget) and from individual donors who recognize the value of these services and support them accordingly.

9. How does WCF compare to other community foundations in generating revenue for foundation services?
Our foundation services budget represents less than 5% of our total assets which is an excellent ratio for a community foundation of our age and size. More than two-thirds of community foundations in our size category need to generate revenue from sources other than fees, including individual donors and other foundations. Your support of the Foundation Services Fund enables the Foundation to demonstrate to national and regional funders the high level of community support needed to leverage their grant funds to build our capacity. These funders want to invest in communities that exhibit a significant, tangible commitment of local support.

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