LAKE PLACID - While the Adirondack Community Trust recently changed its name to the Adirondack Foundation, the philanthropic organization's mission has remained constant since it was founded in 1997: to connect givers with their causes.
"We work with generous people to give back to the community in meaningful and impactful ways," said Adirondack Foundation Executive Director Cali Brooks. "We can help very wealthy people, and we can help you and me give back to the causes we most care about."
On Thursday, Brooks and the rest of the Adirondack Foundation team will launch their latest effort - a Kickstarter-like crowd-funding website called Adirondack Gives - during a nonprofit summit at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake.
Adirondack Foundation Executive Director Cali Brooks works at her standing workstation in the office at Heaven Hill Farm in Lake Placid.
(Photo for the Enterprise — Andy Flynn)
"So any organization - a nonprofit, school district or good cause - can put up a project on this website, and everybody can donate $5, $25, $150," Brooks said. "We want to make philanthropy accessible and open to everybody who cares about the Adirondacks."
The Adirondack Nonprofit Network and the Common Ground Alliance are sponsoring the event, called "The Power and Promise of Our Nonprofits" conference, and organizers will unveil a study that analyzes the economic impact of 36 regional nonprofit organizations. These groups pay more than $84 million annually in salaries and employ nearly 1,600 workers, according to the study.
The summit's agenda also features collaboration and networking opportunities for nonprofit officials. The cost of the day-long event, including lunch, is $40. For more information or to register, contact the Adirondack North Country Association at 518-891-6200.
It is no coincidence that Brooks and her staff will be at the nonprofit summit. The Adirondack Foundation's role as a philanthropic organization is coupled with regionwide leadership in the nonprofit sector, offering a series of development seminars for nonprofit board members and staff. It also administers and supports the Adirondack Nonprofit Network, which is a group of organizations working collaboratively across a variety of disciplines: health and human services, education, environment, arts and culture, historic preservation, etc.
"We're really creating a strong independent sector in the Adirondacks," Brooks said. "We are both working with very generous people, and we are helping really important organizations of this region. We kind of marry those two."
Brooks describes the Adirondack Foundation as "an institution that seeks to be a central, affirming element of our community - foundational to the place we seek to serve. We help improve the lives of people in the Adirondack region. We pool the financial resources of individuals, families and businesses to support effective nonprofits."
Basically, if you have some extra money and you want to give it away to a good cause, the Adirondack Foundation can help you find one or more causes that mean the most to you.
"We do a lot of matchmaking with charitably inclined people," Brooks said.
The Adirondack Foundation is one of 24 community foundations located in New York state and serves Essex, Franklin, Clinton, St. Lawrence, Hamilton and Warren counties. The closest community foundation to Lake Placid is the Watertown-based Northern New York Community Foundation Inc. that serves Lewis and Jefferson counties. Others serve the remaining counties of the Adirondack Park, such as Fulton, Herkimer and Saratoga. In all, there are more than 700 community foundations around the U.S., many created in the 1990s. In 1997, local organizers hopped on the bandwagon to create the Adirondack Community Trust.
"The founders saw very generous people but a lack of charitable capital in the Adirondack region," Brooks said. "There weren't foundations. There weren't a lot of big corporations doing philanthropy on a regionwide scale. There was a lot of local charitable giving."
Yet over the years there's been an ongoing problem with the name Adirondack Community Trust. It sounded too much like a bank. So they changed the name.
"When they figured out we weren't a bank, they thought were a trust company, which we also are not," Brooks said. "What we are is the community's foundation, so we really wanted to embrace that word."
The foundation part of Adirondack Foundation remains intact. This 501(c)3 nonprofit organization administers more than 220 distinct, personalized, charitable funds and organizational endowments ranging from $10,000 to $8 million (Crary Fund for Education). More than $34 million is pooled and invested, and each year those investments pay off in the form of grants and scholarships. In 2013, the foundation awarded $1,920,240 to their clients' causes.
Some of the Adirondack Foundation's funds are familiar to local residents: Thomas Shipman Memorial Youth Center Fund, North Elba Land Conservancy Stewardship Fund, Craig H. Randall Acorn Account, Bandshell Park Fund, Shore Owners Association of Lake Placid Fund and Wilmington E.M. Cooper Library Fund.
"Each charitable fund has its own mission, vision and purpose," Brooks said. "They can be very broad, or they can be very specific."
In addition to individual funds, there are community funds in Malone, Essex and the Gore Mountain Region, where committees are involved in distributing grants to the places and people that need it the most.
To learn more about the Adirondack Foundation, call 518-523-9904 or visit online at www.generousact.org.