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Editorial: Community Foundation marks centennial by honoring local visionaries

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, in marking its 100th anniversary, is offering everyday people the chance to turn other everyday people into philanthropists.

It’s a unique opportunity and one that asks: Who in the community has worked tirelessly for the greater good? The answer might come easily. After all, angels on Earth do exist, and plenty of them live in Western New York, some working in high places, others in the shadows.

The organization, founded in 1919 by George Rand Sr. and Edward Letchworth, is set to identify these “regional change-makers” and, in their names, do good. Twelve activists and advocates will direct grants and endowments in their names totaling $1 million this September.

Starting Feb. 11 and continuing until March 22, the foundation is inviting members of the public to nominate someone they believe has made a difference in Western New York. Nominations can be made in four categories:

  • Champion Award: This honors a change-maker who has made a meaningful change for a group of people.
  • Cause Award: This category recognizes a change-maker dedicated to addressing a pressing issue facing our region.
  • Community Award: This honors a change-maker who saw the hidden potential in a place.
  • Up and Comer Award: This award recognizes an emerging leader currently mobilizing action around a place, an issue or people.

Four individual finalists, one in each category, will be able to distribute $200,000. These finalists will make a grant for $100,000 to the organization of their choice. The second $100,000 will go to an endowment in the winners’ names which will grow and be given out in perpetuity, based on the winners’ designations.

The eight finalists who do not win the largest awards will each grant $25,000 to an organization of their choice. All grants, regardless of the amount, must go to Western New York-based nonprofits. Endowments, however, are not restricted to the area.

These monies come from assets the Community Foundation has set aside from surpluses over the last five years in anticipation of its centennial this September. Already designated as charitable dollars, the funds will now be used to honor the winning individuals and the contributions they have made to Western New York. The endowment fund will allow them to continue to make an impact in their names, forever.

Nominations can be made at any Western New York library branch and at Nearly 40 demographically diverse selection committee members will choose the winners.

These awards represent a creative and dynamic way for the foundation to mark its centennial. They may be transformational for the organizations that ultimately reap their benefits and they help to raise the foundation’s own profile.

The Community Foundation has proven itself an asset to Western New York for 100 years. Unlike other foundation, it is a foundation of foundations, with more than 400 active clients and 500 legacies that it continues to steward while benefiting the region it serves.

Here’s hoping the celebration marks the start of another century of work by the foundation, building an ever better and stronger community.

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