Notes from a Young Foundation

When friends in our small town ask what I’ve been doing lately, it’s hard to know where to begin. I work for a brand-new, 60 year old foundation. The roots of the Fauquier Health Foundation stretch to the 1950s. That makes us one of the older charitable organizations in this largely rural community near the foot of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Begun through the efforts of local citizens helping to build our first modern hospital, the foundation has a long history of fundraising to support health services in our area. Now we are branching out in some very new directions. 

In 2013, Fauquier Health formed a joint venture with LifePoint Hospitals, Inc. With the creation of a new, for-profit venture, the nature and role of our foundation changed, too. We joined the growing number of conversion foundations around the country created from the nonprofit assets of newly for-profit health systems. Also known as health legacy foundations, we and others like us are in the process of re-imagining how to honor generations of community generosity by investing it back into community benefit through effective grant making.

The board and staff of the Fauquier Health Foundation have spent the last 16 months methodically and strategically rethinking everything. In less than a year and a half, we have adopted a new mission; enacted new bylaws, charters, policies and procedures; reorganized our board of directors; rewritten old job descriptions and hired additional staff; crafted and ratified a new strategic plan; articulated our funding priorities; launched a new website; moved to new offices; hosted town halls; conducted hundreds of nonprofit meetings on our extended listening tour; and, granted more than $100,000 to local nonprofits.   

PresentationIt’s been a whirlwind–more like drinking through a fire hose, in the words of Christy Connolly, our President/CEO–but my coworkers and I agree it’s some of the most exciting and fulfilling work we’ve ever done. 

One of the first tools we knew we’d need was some powerful grant software. Elizabeth Henrickson, our Director of Administration and Programs, and Susan Necci, our Accounting Assistant, did a lot of research and decided on Foundant as the best combination of product, cost, and customer service. This last aspect was a lifesaver — remember that we were creating our grant guidelines and procedures at the same time as we were building software processes to support them.  In our many training sessions, Sammie was more than a teacher; she was an essential member of our grants team. 

The more we learned, the more we appreciated how dynamic and adaptable Foundant’s platform is. When we wanted to create a database of all local nonprofits, Foundant’s engineers helped us design a program that lets us map philanthropy across our region and create connections between potential partners. We now have an intern from George Mason University building out the data that we hope will become a useful tool for us and other nonprofits.

We’ve come so far in such a short time; it’s hard to even begin to imagine where we’ll be in another year or two. We’ve got some big ideas–including creation of a volunteer center, and new collaborations to support childhood wellness, mental health, senior services, and access to healthcare. Wherever we are, it’s going to be exciting.

PS:  In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced Faw-KEER.  🙂

About the Author

Kristen Dueck

Kirsten Dueck joined the original Fauquier Health Foundation in 2009. With more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit programming, Kirsten has worked with institutions ranging from the venerable J. Paul Getty Trust to young regional organizations, including the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership and Loudoun Therapeutic Riding Foundation. She directed the Latin American division of Sotheby’s from 2001-2004 before moving to Virginia to become Executive Director of the George C. Marshall International Center in Leesburg. Kirsten is a panelist for the City Arts Projects of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and was recently named to the Placemaking Leadership Council of the Project for Public Spaces.

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