Idaho foundations come in diverse shapes and sizes.
Some are family funds, often created upon the death of a wealthy person and run by surviving family members, that have supported favorite causes for decades. The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation in Boise, for example, gave grants in 2015 that ranged from $1,800 to pay for community concerts in Fruitland to $400,000 for the St. Luke’s Health System’s pediatric oncology and hematology center in Boise.
Some, like the U.S. Bank Foundation, are part of companies headquartered in other states that do business here and fund Idaho projects in arts and culture, education and more.
Some allow members to pool investments. Members of the Idaho Women’s Charitable Foundation commit $1,100 annually in three-year intervals to help causes the members support. The Idaho Community Foundation acts as an umbrella and manager for donors who do not want to seek 501(c)(3) status themselves.
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Foundations tend to have a long view, and they are very stable. That’s good for the nonprofit community because foundations typically gift and donate interest and earnings. They’re not going to give away the corpus. They will always be there, that’s great for giving and the overall charitable scene.
Janice Fulkerson, executive director, Idaho Nonprofit Center
In general, foundations do not perform “hands-on” work in communities. They fund charities that do. A typical private foundation gets its money from a single source such as an individual (often through an estate), a family or a company.
Of the Treasure Valley’s five biggest foundations, two were created from the wealth of now-deceased business tycoons, two solicit funds from anyone who will donate, and one is an arm of the largest for-profit employer in the valley.
Business Insider took a look at those financial powerhouses and how they put their money to work. Financial information is 2013 data, the latest available, from “Nonprofit Explorer,” a project of ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization that maintains data on nonprofits.
1. J.A. & KATHRYN ALBERTSON FAMILY FOUNDATION
Largest source: Dividends (80 percent)
Points of interest: The foundation, named for Joe Albertson, who opened the first of his iconic supermarkets in Boise in 1939, focused its giving in Idaho on learning, scholarships, classroom projects, large scale initiatives, plus community investment for many years, says Executive Director Roger Quarles. One major project was “Go On,” a campaign to interest more students in postsecondary education. The foundation gave $11 million in scholarships to universities and grants to mostly rural secondary schools.
The foundation has recently supported more projects outside the classroom, including a new YMCA on Eagle Road; Boise’s Rhodes Park, a skateboarding park in the River Street neighborhood; and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County. But Quarles notes that the foundation’s support of education remains strong, through current programs such as the Idaho PTECH Network, which helps rural students interested in aerospace, health care and computer science study and find jobs and internships in those fields; and BLUUM, a program to create new, high-performing school options in charter, private and public schools.
2. J.R. SIMPLOT FAMILY FOUNDATION
Largest source: Sales of assets (59.4 percent)
Points of interest: The J.R. Simplot Family Foundation is separate from the smaller J.R. Simplot Company Foundation. Simplot spokesman Ken Dey says the family foundation is focused on the JUMP project, or Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, a multidimensional complex of arts and crafts studios, tractor displays, meeting space and event space in Downtown Boise.
The company foundation, whose assets are $40,225,995, focuses its giving on five areas that “have evolved over time with the needs of the community,” says Dey: arts, education, youth, community and industry.
3. BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY FOUNDATION
Largest source: Contributions (65 percent)
Points of interest: The foundation benefits the university but is an independent entity with an independent board, says Chris Anton, its chief operating officer. As state money diminishes, the university relies more on philanthropy to pay for new programs like the College of Innovation and Design, new buildings like the planned fine arts building, and the recent $25 million gift from the Micron Foundation to build a materials research center.
Projects the foundation supports are often driven by donors’ passions for scholarships, athletics or other causes. Anton says the foundation’s recent priorities include the new fine arts building, the Micron center and an alumni and friends center across from Bronco Stadium.
4. IDAHO COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
Largest source: Contributions (67 percent)
Points of interest: The foundation provides a structure for donors to set up endowments managed by the foundation for a fee. The ICF is the only foundation of its type in Idaho, says Jennifer Oxley, chief communications and marketing director.
In addition, the foundation works with some donors who want their funds to benefit particular regions of Idaho or particular causes. Volunteer grants panels with representatives from every county in the state meet each year to consider applications from nonprofits seeking help and decide how to distribute grants.
The foundation also offers donors the chance to set up scholarship funds. “We’re a great alternative for people who don’t want a family foundation or their own nonprofit,” Oxley says. “We grant roughly $6 million a year including scholarships. It’s a good source of support for Idaho nonprofits and students seeking higher education.”
5. MICRON FOUNDATION
Largest source: Sales of assets (87.8 percent)
Points of interest: 1999
The foundation, founded by Micron in 1999, recently gave its largest donation to date, $25 million, to Boise State for a new materials science center. The foundation has a long history with the university. It gave $3 million to launch the materials science program in 2003 and $13 million in 2012 to start a doctorate program.
Dee Mooney, the foundation’s executive director, says the foundation has traditionally supported secondary and college programs in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. It will continue to support those programs, says Mooney, but has recently turned its attention to programs for very young learners. In 2015, the foundation gave $330,000 to the Discovery Center of Idaho to build the Micron Innovation Exhibit Lab. The foundation is also supporting the new preschool program in the Vista neighborhood with the city of Boise, the Boise School District, United Way Treasure Valley and others.
When Janice Fulkerson’s father, John E. Miller, died, he left a $30,000 charitable estate.
“One of my dad’s key things was how are people going to remember me?” says Fulkerson, executive director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. “He wanted to help people going through cancer treatment pay for things such as insurance, oil changes, even frozen embryos and sperm. We’ve donated to some interesting things.”
The family did not set up a foundation but took advantage of the expertise of an umbrella organization, the Gorge Community Foundation in Oregon, to manage the fund.
Sometimes, foundations are formed when a nonprofit organization changes its status to for-profit. One example is the Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, a community hospital that became a for-profit entity after a for-profit system bought it. The hospital formed a foundation to continue its charitable work.
Foundations evolve with the times, Fulkerson says. She has noticed a trend toward collaboration. Historically, foundations and other charitable organizations have had application processes. In some cases, the division between granter and grantee is breaking down.
“It’s more of a ‘We’re all in this community together. Let’s figure out how to partner, as a group of foundations and nonprofits, to pull together granters and funders,’ ” Fulkerson says.
An example is the Treasure Valley Education Partnership, which provides a support system for children through their school years and beyond. Partners include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, Boise State University, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, the Idaho Community Foundation and many others.