By and For the Community

The history of MCF's Community Impact Fund

A sign reading Library hanging from a building and reflected in the glass window.
The Community Impact Fund has provided support for libraries throughout Dane County.

Every fall, MCF’s staff and grantmaking committee consider nearly 100 letters of inquiry as part of its grantmaking process. The strongest inquiries receive invitations to submit full grant proposals, which are carefully reviewed. The grants that are ultimately awarded through this process come from MCF’s Community Impact Fund. And while this fund is one of many at MCF from which grants are distributed, it is certainly the most well-known.

MCF has a long and rich 81-year history, but it wasn’t until about halfway through its existence that it developed its own grantmaking program. The grantmaking program’s creation was a testament to the community’s belief in MCF’s mission and vision, and a desire by many people to contribute to the common good through MCF.

In 1986, MCF created the Founders’ Fund, giving community members an opportunity to contribute to an unrestricted endowment that would be used for current and future grantmaking. The goal for the fund was $100,000.

The fund proved to be popular, and the generous gifts of community members allowed MCF to begin a competitive grantmaking program focused on supporting causes such as civics & environment; culture & arts; education; elderly; health & human services; and youth organizations and programs. By the start of 1994, 43 individuals and couples in the community had contributed $5,000 or more to build the Community Foundation’s grantmaking capacity.

An Extraordinary Gift Accelerates Impact

In January 1991, MCF’s Board President W. Robert Koch announced that MCF had received what was at the time the single largest philanthropic gift in Madison’s history — a $15 million bequest from Marie Graber, former president of Graber Industries in Middleton. Graber’s gift was endowed alongside the Founders’ Fund to expand MCF’s competitive grantmaking.

These funds together form the core of what is now known as the Community Impact Fund — a resource that will support the community for generations to come.

Supporting Construction of a Landmark Venue

Since 1991, MCF has awarded more than $43 million in Community Impact grants to more than 500 organizations — changing the skyline of Madison and providing opportunities for thousands of people.

One of the earliest grants awarded from the fund was a $1 million gift for the construction of Monona Terrace — lending financial legitimacy to the project and helping spur additional gifts by others in the community. In turn, the development of Monona Terrace prompted other developments in downtown Madison — from Overture Center to condominiums — all strengthening the heart of our community.

Continued Growth Allows Larger Impact

Today, 30 additional named funds and the contributions of hundreds of individuals are combined with the Founders Fund and the Anna Marie Graber Martens Fund to support MCF’s grantmaking programs. Distributions from these endowments support nonprofit organizations that are addressing the needs and opportunities found in our community each year.

At the heart of these endowments is the recognition that, as Aristotle observed, “… the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Each year people in our community — with varying levels of capacity — come together united by their love for this community, and desire to make it stronger. They make gifts to the Community Impact Fund, creating a larger permanent resource to support our community this year, next year and for decades into the future.

Learn about the projects MCF has supported through grants from the Community Impact Fund.

Make a gift today, and be part of the impact.

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