As a board member of the Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha's Vineyard, one of the most frequently asked questions I hear is, "What does the organization do?" The answer to that question is not a simple, "We make grants" or "We give money to worthwhile programs." Of course, we do that, but the fund is really a unique institution that plays an important role in our community and has great value both in the present and future.
The Permanent Endowment Fund is this Island's community foundation. Community foundations were designed to provide a way for people of whatever means to leave a lasting contribution to the places where they live or that they want to recognize.
Community foundations are different from other philanthropies. Not better, but different. Community foundations are geographically focused, and they concentrate their resources on the issues and concerns of a specific community, which in this case is the Island of Martha's Vineyard. The Permanent Endowment Fund of Martha's Vineyard provides a mechanism through which people can respond to the current and future challenges of our community without having a specific alliance with any single organization.
One of the key goals of our board is to respond to the ongoing needs of the Island without eroding the donations to current causes. We see the Permanent Endowment Fund as a quiet presence that has grown significantly over the past 21 years, and one that all non-profits on the Island can look to for support, for today and in the future.
The Permanent Endowment Fund is deeply connected to the Island. We are not based on an individual's or family's wealth or generosity. Nor are we part of a corporation's civic contribution plan. Our directors are appointed by major institutions on the Island, and they are all civic-minded individuals, committed to the Island and its future. Since our inception in 1982, our assets have been managed by a local financial institution and have grown to more than $3 million. Our grantmaking goes exclusively to Island agencies and organizations, public as well as not-for-profits. We are an Island institution established to remain so forever.
In 2003, for example, we provided some $40,000 in support to organizations across the Island, such as the MV Skatepark, Hospice, Island Affordable Housing, and the Foundation for Island Health, Vineyard House, and Windemere. In addition to our grantmaking to address important Island issues, the fund also provided more than $40,000 in scholarships to graduates from our public schools. In addition to these grants and scholarships, other funds under our management made awards to help individuals unable to pay their bills at the hospital, and to other beneficiaries specifically named in different funds. Since inception, we have provided support to more than 50 different Vineyard organizations. The combined grants and scholarships have totaled more than $1million.
Because we are part of the community, we can serve as a catalyst, focusing attention through grants on important topics. We can also spotlight civic issues or leaders who inspire all of us. Each year, for example, the fund makes the Creative Living Award to an individual whose service to the Island is outstanding and contributes to making Martha's Vineyard a strong community. Last year, we recognized Art Buchwald, who for many years has not only been a booster of our Island, but also a great activist raising funds for valuable community services.
Importantly, the fund is - as our name clearly states - this Island's permanent endowment.
We are creating, maintaining, and expanding a pool of resources that may be used to help address current needs, but will also be available for future and, in many cases, unforeseen concerns. Issues such as an increasingly aging population, or even affordable housing, simply were not on the community's radar screen 40 or 50 years ago. That is perhaps the real value of the fund. These resources will be there for our future needs. Rarely a day goes by without a letter or call from some Island non-profit that is in need of funding.
The Permanent Endowment Fund is designed to serve as an organization for donors. We are available to accept gifts from individuals, to work with their estate planners, or to confer with them over how they may contribute to the Island's future through the fund.
As the fund grows and evolves, we hope to receive continued support from many Islanders, whether they live here year-round or seasonally. We all know the Island is a special place. We hope to be a part of ensuring that Martha's Vineyard remains a vital community and, with the fund's support, that it is able to address the priorities of our entire community.
Debbie Hale lives in Tisbury. She is president of the Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha's Vineyard