Gates Foundation gives $700,000 to Vancouver philanthropic clearinghouse

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

Updated: May 24, 2012, 6:50 PM

 

What's the best way to interrupt the cycle of poverty and ensure that needy children get a chance to get ahead?

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington will try to find out. Armed with a new four-year, $700,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the homegrown philanthropic clearinghouse will consult nonprofit leaders, other local experts and the public to study the issue. Then it will regrant the money it received from Gates.

"We want to demonstrate that you can use charitable dollars in a specific area to disrupt the pattern of intergenerational poverty," said Community Foundation Executive Director Richard Melching. "How do you best break the cycle so children growing up in poverty don't stay in poverty?"

Early childhood education, job training and affordable housing are likely areas of exploration, Melching said, but the Community Foundation will probably choose one beneficiary in the end rather

than spreading the money around. Seven hundred thousand dollars seems like a lot until you divide it by four years; further dividing it among different agencies would almost certainly dilute its effectiveness, he said.

"We've already spoken with some nonprofit providers but the process needs to be broader than that," he said. "We need to engage more people. This is just a starting point." Specific plans for a process will be announced within the next couple of months, he said.

The Community Foundation operates as a clearinghouse, amassing, managing, investing and distributing money to a wide variety of community causes. It is one of nine philanthropic partners in the Pacific Northwest that will regrant a total of $5 million from Gates, based in Seattle.

David Bley, director of the Pacific Northwest program for the Gates Foundation, said philanthropic agencies such as the Community Foundation are the experts about the mix of needs and nonprofits in their own communities. "Local partners are best positioned to know the needs in their communities and to sustain their work through local support," he said.

Both Gates and the Community Foundation "are trying to strengthen the philanthropic sector," Melching said. "When you get down to it, you have to be focused and disciplined and your progress has to be measurable. We want to be able to go back and demonstrate real progress."

To learn more, visit The Community Foundation.