Spotlight on the Maine Community Foundation

Here at DAFinitive®, we are continuing our series of profiling donor-advised fund sponsors and community foundations. Let’s head north, to the Maine Community Foundation (MaineCF). Founded in 1983 with a $10 challenge, the Maine Community Foundation’s mission is to work with donors to improve the quality of life for all residents of Maine. These modest beginnings have grown to more than 650 scholarship funds, of which more than $2 million are awarded each year, and more than 20 grant programs. Donors include individuals, businesses and private foundations. In 2020, MaineCF awarded more than $52 million in grants and scholarships. President and chief executive officer Deborah Ellwood joined the organization in March 2022 and leads a team of nearly 50 at their offices in Ellsworth and Portland.

Their statewide approach covers several major topics, including early childhood education, adult education and professional development, racial equity (including economic opportunity grants for business development as well as nonprofit leadership consulting for BIPOC residents), thriving older people (allowing Maine residents to age with dignity and on their own terms) and entrepreneurship grants to specific towns within the state. MaineCF works with both individuals and businesses who can establish or contribute to funds.

Additional focus areas include addressing climate change (weatherization and energy efficiency, conservation, environmental education and other leadership activities), women and girls (the Maine Women’s Fund, recently closed, has transferred its $3 million in assets to MaineCF), COVID-19 response grants (which supported community action programs, homeless shelters, food pantries and childcare for frontline workers, to name a few) and regional funds for each county in the state.

As well as including traditional investment information on their website, MaineCF offers unique ways to learn about their partners, grantees and community members through the monthly Maine Ties podcast. The recorded interviews are a great way to see the impact that donor dollars can have. Also helpful are a series of YouTube videos to guide prospective grantees through the application process for several of their programs. Donors stories feature prominently throughout their website.

Besides learning about MaineCF donors and grantees, the foundation offers information on a variety of financial topics. Each type of planned gift vehicle has a corresponding illustration, as well how to make a donation (real estate, insurance, IRA rollovers, etc.). The tax benefits for a donor are clearly explained. As other foundations do, MaineCF has a team of advisors to help their donors in their philanthropic endeavors. However, they go a step further with easy to access sample forms, links to helpful websites and other articles. Several times per year, MaineCF hosts continuing education programs for professional advisors. Their finance section includes general business news, information about tax law and pending legislation and guidance on planning for senior care, assisted living and retirement.

The foundation has more than 650 scholarship funds and awards more than $2 million each year. In 2020, MaineCF awarded more than $52 million in grants and scholarships. Grants made through MaineCF average $1,500, and per the foundation website, “96% of grant dollars are directed to organizations that the donor advisor knows directly.”

However, the Giving Together program allows organizations to submit funding needs to their portal, where the proposal is available for all donors to view, or offline through staff contact with donor advisors. This program provides an avenue for donors to find programs that match their interests that they may not have previously known about. MaineCF allows donors to search for potential grantees by geographical region, interest or other features. Full proposals, budgets and other information are all available for the donor to consult as they choose who to fund.

MaineCF’s commitment to “ensuring that Maine is a welcoming place for all people” is well represented on its website. By making the act of philanthropic giving (and information on how to do so) an easily accessible and encouraging venture for those in their communities, the foundation is playing a part in improving the lives of all in the state that it calls home.