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Milestones: Promoting Generosity

CFO marks 50 years of giving by hitting record $426.7 million in assets

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The numbers tell the story for Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc.

The charitable foundation that is celebrating its 50th anniversary began June 18, 1973, with $1,500 in seed money. In an account to CFO a decade ago, the late Vincent Tyndall, a member of its inaugural board of directors, recalled how the initial funding was secured, as members of the board went hat-in-hand to local financial institutions asking for $100 each.

“Before the foundation was able to give money, it had to have money,” he wrote.

“It wasn’t easy asking for money from these institutions for a new organization with no funds of its own, only a post office box for a home and hopes for meeting the needs of the community someday in the misty future.”

That early deposit book has grown significantly over the course of a half-century.

CFO reported this month that the foundation ended fiscal 2023 on June 30 with record assets of $426.7 million. Gifts to funds held by CFO hit a record $98.1 million, and grants and distributions hit another high of $71.8 million. Nearly 250 new funds were opened during the year – CFO’s third-highest total – and there are 3,600 funds in all.

CFO’s philanthropic services include fund management for nonprofits and donors, grantmaking and scholarships. Since its founding, CFO has granted and distributed more than $580 million, mostly in its 62-county region in southern Missouri.

How it’s going
Today, Brian Fogle is the foundation’s president and CEO – the third professional administrator to head the organization, after Jan Horton, hired in October 1988, and Gary Funk, who joined CFO in 1999 and became president in 2003.

Under Horton’s administration, in November 1993, the Greene County Community Foundation brought on its first affiliate, the Nixa Community Foundation. Today, there are 53 affiliates throughout the southern half of Missouri, with offices in Springfield, West Plains and Cape Girardeau. The name change from the Greene County Community Foundation to CFO happened in 1997.

When Horton began, according to CFO archives, foundation funds were at $1.7 million. When she left, assets were at $52.5 million, with 19 affiliates. The organization continued to grow under Funk’s leadership, and when Fogle joined in 2008, there were $120 million in assets. Fogle became CFO’s third president in 2010.

Fogle, who plans to retire at the end of the year, said his first year was a doozy.

“In the fall of 2008, the financial world fell apart,” he said. “The staff used to joke, ‘You know, things were pretty good until you got here.’ But we weathered the storm.”

There are about 850 community foundations in the country, Fogle said, and CFO is the 69th largest. But in terms of transactions, he said it’s the third busiest.

“We represent the Ozarks. It’s a generous place, but not a real wealthy place,” Fogle said. “A lot of folks give a lot of checks.”

On an average workday, CFO takes in about 103 gifts, he said.

CFO is one of seven community foundations in Missouri. Fogle helped to start the Alliance of Missouri Community Foundations in 2014.

“The thing that makes the community foundation world work is that we’re place-based,” he said. “What works in the Ozarks would not work in Tulsa. They have a different model that fits perfectly for Tulsa, but it wouldn’t work well here.”

Fogle said the largest asset group for CFO, at 26%, is the more than 700 nonprofits that have funds with CFO, which manages funds and endowments on their behalf. He added CFO administers close to 500 donor-advised funds – 24% of its assets – that people use to make their own charitable gifts while letting CFO handle administrative aspects of giving, such as recordkeeping for taxes.

CFO takes in 2% of the assets it administers to make direct investments into communities. One example is the magnetic resonance imaging machine CFO owns in the Salem Memorial District Hospital in Dent County. It leases the equipment back to the hospital so that it can have MRIs on demand, rather than relying on visits from a mobile unit.

In Ozark County, CFO leased a biomass HVAC system to the Gainesville School District over 10 years, saving the district about $80,000 per year and allowing it to generate heat with wood chips – plentiful in the county because of its sawmills.

Closer to home, CFO bought the building housing Rare Breed, a center for homeless youth run by The Kitchen Inc., and leased it back to the organization until a donor read about the arrangement and paid off CFO, then sold the building to The Kitchen for $1.

Fogle said in the fiscal year that just ended, CFO gave $1.8 million in scholarships, while also administering designated funds for particular recipients and field-of-interest funds that fund specified areas, like the arts, hunger or literacy.

“Our goal is to promote generosity,” he said. “The numbers get bigger as we continue to grow.”

How it started
In 1973, 45-year-old tax attorney Fred Hall was asked to help establish the foundation.

As Hall, now 95, tells it, he was called to a luncheon at the Kentwood Arms Hotel. Springfield Mayor Jim Payne scheduled the meeting following a vacation he and his wife, Eve, had taken to a Texas city.

On a tour, he asked the leader how such a small town could afford a nice zoo.

“The young lady said, ‘Oh, we have a community foundation,’” Hall recalled. “Jim thought, ‘Wow, we need three or four of those.’”

Payne brought the idea back to Springfield. The mayor called upon John Carnahan Jr. of Union National Bank, which is now shuttered, and requested that he create the organization. Carnahan assembled three key players at that luncheon: C. Wallace “Wally” Walter, an attorney; Hearld Ambler, a certified public accountant; and Hall.

“Wally and I prepared the articles of incorporation and the bylaws, and Hearld Ambler made the application for exempt status,” Hall said.

He credited a number of key players for making the organization happen. Businesswoman and former Springfield City Council member Anne Drummond helped pull together the first board, headed by President Walter. Much of the board was drawn from the Greene County Estate Planning Council, an organization that still exists.

Pat Walker and Mary Kay Meek were two volunteers who researched what grant opportunities were available in the early days.

Fifty years later, Hall marvels at what CFO has become.

“I’m extremely proud of what they have accomplished,” he said. “Of course, I take no pride in doing that. The only thing I did was to help create it, but I’m very proud of the work they have done, because they have given millions of dollars to very worthy causes that otherwise would not have occurred.”

Krystal Simon, CEO of children’s charity Care to Learn, said CFO has been helpful with sharing not only money, but information and best practices.

“They are so great to support us with those resources,” she said. “They take a holistic approach that has made them a phenomenal partner.”

Bart Brown, president and CEO of Ozarks Food Harvest Inc., noted the capacity-building efforts of CFO. When he started with the food bank in 1999, it had nine employees and an annual budget under $500,000. Now, it has a $35 million operating budget, 90 employees, 3,000 volunteers and a 100,000-square-foot warehouse. Where it once distributed 3 million pounds of food per year, it now distributes 25 million pounds to 300 nonprofits.

“We’ve really grown through their help of sharing not only funds but training and expertise,” Brown said. “They’ve been a great help throughout the life span of our organization.”

Jill Reynolds, senior vice president of Commerce Trust and former CFO board chair, said she watches the organization with awe.

“I am their biggest fan,” she said. “I just think they do a fantastic job in bringing people together and trying to lift up the whole community. They bring a lot of people together for the common good, and they make things happen.”

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