Hamilton County Community Foundation Adopts Partner Model for Grants

After speaking with non-profit leaders and community members, the staff of Hamilton County Community Foundation (HCCF) had just one question: how can a funder make a significant impact with a limited money pool? At a time when grants of $2,500 or $5,000 aren’t going as far as they used to, traditional funding can create power imbalances, perpetuate inefficiencies, and prevent non-profit growth and innovation.  

For HCCF, multi-year funding provides an answer. This model gives non-profits a set amount of unrestricted funding over multiple years, allowing them to project resources and make strategic investments while freeing up the capacity that would otherwise go to multiple grant applications. Unrestricted funding over time is essential for creating stable, innovative, and effective organizations. 

How Does Multi-Year Funding Connect to Trust-Based Philanthropy?  

To fully understand multi-year funding, one must first understand the movement that inspired it: trust-based philanthropy. Trust-based philanthropy reimagines the role foundations can have in building a more just and equitable society through charitable giving. This movement puts the donor and the recipient on equal footing and fosters mutual accountability through transparency. Many organizations report that a trust-based approach allows their mission to be guided more by the needs and dreams of the communities they serve rather than the foundations that fund them.    

But to get to that point, funders must work proactively to change the power dynamics and structural barriers that get in the way of non-profits’ intended impact.    

That process of change relies on six interrelated principles:   

  1. Provide multi-year, unrestricted funding    
  2. Funder’s responsibility to get to know grantees 
  3. Simplify and streamline paperwork 
  4. Transparent and responsive communication   
  5. Solicitation of and reaction to feedback  
  6. Offer support beyond the check 
Multi-Year Funding in Action  

Multi-year funding is Hamilton County Community Foundation’s way of changing the power dynamics and barriers. HCCF has utilized multi-year funding in the past to support organizations and programs such as Hamilton County Youth Assistance, Shepherd’s Center of Hamilton County “Reaching Resources”, and the Westfield YMCA. With the conclusion of the multi-year grant with the Westfield YMCA in September last year, the Foundation launched its current iteration of multi-year funding in December 2023 with new processes and procedures in place to ensure continued success.  

In March, HCCF announced an investment of $240,000 over three years in support of two Hamilton County non-profits: Invest Hamilton County and Trinity Free Clinic.  

The original intent was to offer a grant of $120,000 over three years. Instead, the Board of Directors approved the Grants Committee’s recommendation to expand its support and award multi-year grants to the top two finalists. This was a big step in the process of prioritizing the core principle of trust-based philanthropy- multi-year funding.  

“The two non-profits we selected to receive this funding are both highly unique and enhance the lives of our Hamilton County neighbors in ways rarely seen at this scale,” said Tom Kilian, President of Hamilton County Community Foundation. “By granting these unrestricted funds over three years, Hamilton County Community Foundation is helping drive sustained impact and operational longevity for these non-profits and, ultimately, those they serve.”  

Grant Recipients  
Invest Hamilton County  

Invest Hamilton County is an economic development driver. It convenes and collaborates with partners to address critical community challenges including re-entry, behavioral health, childcare and workforce development.  

By leveraging its expertise in securing federal funds and forging strategic partnerships, Invest Hamilton County amplifies the impact of the funding it receives. For every dollar in operational support received, Invest Hamilton County has raised more than four dollars to support programming while sending more than two dollars back into partnering community organizations.  

“This support from Hamilton County Community Foundation will impact dozens of not-for-profit, educational, civic, and business partners while also helping to scale and sustain impactful training programs and community initiatives in areas like child care, disability employment, mental health, re-entry, and k-12 education,” said Mike Thibideau, President & CEO of Invest Hamilton County. “Through intentional collaboration, evidence-based innovation, and a passion for action, we will build paths that allow every person in Hamilton County to live the best life they can.”  

Trinity Free Clinic  

Trinity Free Clinic serves uninsured, underinsured, and low-income residents of Hamilton County and provides essential medical, dental, vision, and behavioral health services. It plays a vital role in addressing healthcare disparities and preventing individuals from falling into extreme poverty due to healthcare expenses. By ensuring that all members of the community have access to the care they need, Trinity Free Clinic’s mission intersects with Hamilton County Community Foundation’s mission to bring equitable opportunities for prosperity.  

“Nearly 35,000 people in Hamilton County cannot afford needed health services and risk being pushed into extreme poverty due to healthcare debt or a lack of access to care,” said Mel Wischmeyer, Executive Director of Trinity Free Clinic. “We have been the safety net clinic for low-income and uninsured individuals in Hamilton County for nearly 25 years.  These stable, multi-year funds will allow Trinity to go deeper in researching and addressing health equity and access in Hamilton County, including the nearly 50,0000 Hamilton County residents enrolled in Medicaid who have difficulty accessing care close to home.”  

Through these multi-year investments informed by trust-based philanthropy, Hamilton County Community Foundation leads the charge in supporting organizations that foster a resilient and equitable community.  

About Hamilton County Community Foundation  

Hamilton County Community Foundation is dedicated to mobilizing people, ideas and investment to make Hamilton County a community where every individual has equitable opportunity to reach their full potential—no matter their place, race or identity. We believe in building a community where opportunity meets growth for everyone, and philanthropic efforts support not-for-profit organizations doing vital work. Learn more at HamiltonCountyCommunityFoundation.org. 

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