The foundation now holds $133 million in assets.
“A lot of these funds have a purpose, so it’s not that we get to use them for anything other than what the purpose is,” Braswell said. “We have some unrestricted funds that have been left to the foundation to meet the needs of the community.”
Hamilton’s foundation charges a 1 percent fee to manage the various funds. Such organizations typically charge between 0.5 percent and 2 percent, depending on the size of a fund and its purpose.
“I think it was very visionary of the folks back then to think, ‘Well, this town is booming now, in the ‘50s, ‘60s, with all these businesses in town,’ and to think for the future there’s going to be needs in this community that the Hamilton Community Foundation can address,” Braswell said.
The foundation helped trigger Hamilton’s economic-development uptick, which is happening largely because of the under-construction $165 million Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill, which will be the country’s largest indoor sports complex by square footage. Businesses are opening to serve the 10,000-plus expected to visit the city some weekends.
The community foundation pledged $13 million of its investment assets to help Spooky Nook secure a loan. Those fixed-income securities remain the foundation’s property but back the loan while the foundation continues to earn interest on them.
“It’s a lot of fun to see everything growing and thriving in our community,” Braswell said. “We’re really blessed to be able to be here, to make all this happen.”
Traci Barnett, executive director of Middletown’s foundation, said foundations “connect people who care with causes that matter.”
“A lot of people who set up funds, they may know where they want to give the money, but they may not,” Barnett said. “They may say, ‘I just want it to do the most good. You tell me what organizations need this the most.’”
Usually, foundations spend only interest from donations they receive. But that spending of interest can add up. While Middletown’s foundation oversees $43 million, “Over the many years between 1986 and 2021, we have actually given away approximately $60 million,” said Barnett, who along with Linda Yarger of Fairfield’s foundation recently announced their retirements.
The Greater Oxford Community Foundation, led by Betsy Hope, covers 144 square miles within Talawanda’s school district boundaries and has $13 million in assets.
The foundation has grown overall in the past 18 months and also was helped by its largest gift ever, $3.5 million from Dr. Kenneth Buerk, who made a bequest to preserve local agricultural land and resources.
“Donors come to us all the time and tell us what they care about, and we help them to structure a gift to do the most good in their own community, keeping the money local,” Hope said.
“One of the main wonderful things about community foundations is that we’re here forever. That’s because most donations grow over time through conservative investments, with only the earnings granted out.”
The Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty, founded in 1999, already has $23 million in assets, only about half of them coming from the two communities, and the rest coming from places like Indian Hill, Montgomery and Mason, Loveland and Madeira.
“We specialize in working with financial advisers, CPAs and attorneys to set up charitable funds,” said Erin Clemons, president and CEO there.
In such a young community, there are many ‘first-generation philanthropists,’ who came from humble beginnings, she said.
While the money may come from elsewhere and go to national charities, the 0.5-to-1-percent charges help the foundation and the community, she said. Several years ago, her foundation did a needs assessment to determine the community’s needs, and focused on transportation, education (especially kindergarten to third grade) and workforce development.
Here’s a sampling of projects the foundations have supported:
- Middletown several years ago launched a program called READY! that raised $2.7 million to fund local organizations that support young children and their families in a various ways, including nutrition, vocabulary-improvement and parenting skills,
- Hamilton’s Keeley Orthodontic Fund, which started in the 1960s, helps finance 75 percent of the cost of braces to straighten teeth of needy children.
- In July, West Chester/Liberty will give the Reach Out Lakota food bank, $200,000 in endowed funds “so that they are around to take care of the community needs forever,” Clemons said.
- Middletown’s foundation began the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program, which provides free books each month to children from birth to age 5, and recently handed that over to the MidPointe Library system, while continuing to support it financially.
Linda Yarger, president of the Fairfield Community Foundation, said her organization was created in 1999 by businessmen, some of whom had served on Hamilton’s foundation and who each pledged $5,000 spread out over five years. Today, the assets are nearly $5 million.
For people with charities they want to give to for many years, “they can set it up that each year that particular charity will get X amount of dollars,” Yarger said. “What better way to leave this world?”
The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program was run for 12 years by the Middletown Community Foundation, and it was turned over in recent years to the public libraries in Middletown, Franklin and Springboro. From left: Cari Hillman, MidPointe Library; Ginger Bruggeman, Women Enriching Lives committee member; Fran Sack, WEL committee member; Allyson Doliboa, MidPointe Library; and Traci Barnett, Middletown Community Foundation. Missing from picture: Elaine Garver, WEL committee member; Rita Kolp, WEL committee member; and Travis Bautz, MidPointe Library. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Butler County’s five community foundations
- Hamilton Community Foundation. Founded in 1951. Total assets: $133 million. Serves Greater Hamilton. Contact: 513-863-1717. Website: www.hamiltonfoundation.org.
- Middletown Community Foundation. Started in 1976 as part of United Way, but went dormant about 10 years before becoming an independent entity in 1986. Total assets: more than $43 million. Serves Middletown, Madison, Monroe, Franklin and Trenton. Contact: 513-424-7369. Website: www.mcfoundation.org.
- Greater Oxford Community Foundation. Founded Oct. 23, 1996. Total assets: $13 million. Serves Oxford and Riley, Hanover and Milford townships (the area of the Talawanda school district). Contact: 513-523-0623. Website: www.oxfordfdn.org.
- Fairfield Community Foundation. Founded in 1999. Total assets: Almost $5 million. Serving Fairfield and Fairfield Township. Contact: 513-829-6355. Website: fairfieldcommunityfoundation.org.
- Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty. Founded in 1999. Total assets: $23 million. Serving West Chester and Liberty townships, but half the assets actually are donated from people in nearby areas, to not necessarily all local causes. Contact: 513-874-5450. Website: www.wclfoundation.org.