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Friday Focus: The Community Foundation of Southern Maryland

By Monica Meinert • April 25, 2014

community foundation logo
Guided by a vision to make Southern Maryland “the best place to live and give”, the Community Foundation of Southern Maryland is a driving philanthropic force in Charles County. Incorporated in 2005, the Foundation provides advice on all types of giving and uses its in-depth knowledge of the community’s needs to help direct funds to a multitude of organizations. We talked with the Foundation’s executive director, Gretchen Hardman, for an inside look at the Foundation’s work and what visitors to the upcoming Annual Potomac Waterfowl Festival can expect this year!

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.).

A: The Community Foundation of Southern Maryland is an autonomous 501 (c)(3) tax exempt public charity created by and for the people of Southern Maryland. We are made up of charitable funds (endowed or non-endowed) established by many donors, which are used to provide grants to nonprofits and scholarships to students.

We are literally the community’s foundation. Individuals, families, corporations and other nonprofits use us to create custom-made charitable funds to do any number of things: to memorialize or honor a loved one; to use in lieu of a private foundation; to establish a scholarship fund that supports local schools and schools across the US; to support their church or local high school or elementary school; to create a giving circle with friends who want to focus on a certain area of interest; to create a legacy in their family’s name that will always and forever be tied to good works in our community; or to simply receive a tax deduction.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: We have several favorite moments, as we get to provide grants to folks who need it most! Some of our favorite moments include:

  • Providing over $500,000 in grants from our charitable funds back to the community since our first fund was created in 2008.
  • Connecting out-of-state donors to charitable causes in Southern Maryland by providing over $50,000 in grants to nonprofits representing the tri-county area.
  • Advocating for donors through the passage of Endow Maryland – a 25% tax credit for folks who give to an endowment at their local community foundation in Maryland.
  • Affirming our commitment to financial security, transparency and accountability by receiving an accreditation from the National Standards Board at the Council on Foundations which serves as a blueprint for internal development and provides benchmarks for external assessment. We were required to document our policies in donor services, investment management, grant making and administration. Our accreditation states that our grant making includes an open, competitive process designed to address the changing needs of our community.
  • The one-time fund established by FBLA high school students called BLiNG (Business Leaders Interested N’ Giving) to support youth-related nonprofits.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Our biggest challenge at this point is getting the word out about the Community Foundation. We would like to be able to get in front of civic groups, nonprofit boards, folks who are creating their wills and families to introduce them to the Community Foundation of Southern Maryland and encourage them to create endowments for our community for the future.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: The weekend of May 23 and 24, our 8th Annual Potomac River Waterfowl Festival will take place at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds. The purpose is to promote arts, culture and our heritage by inviting decoy carvers and wildlife artists to exhibit and sell their wares. We have the finest decoy carvers, wildlife artists and local crafters joining us for this year’s event. Folks can shop for decoys, wildlife and related art; barter at the Buy, Sell and Swap tables; dust off their decoys and bring them in for free appraisals and identifications; register for the Bourbon and Rye Tastings; reserve a bluebird box to build; participate in the Duck and Goose Calling Contest and Clinic for all ages; sign up for the Wine and Design painting class; and for carvers, register decoys in the Working Decoy Competition. To find out more, visit www.cfsomd.org.

Friday, May 23, from 6 to 9 p.m., we will hold our Cattails and Cocktails Dinner and Auction. Tickets to the event are $75.00 and must be purchased in advance. Enjoy fresh-from-the-farm food to your table and our seasonally inspired menu, wine, beer and beverages. Shop and barter from artists and collectors or bid on unique auction items.

Join us on Saturday, May 24 for the festival. The Decoy and Art Auction will take place at 8:00 a.m., and the festival opens at 10 a.m. Admission is $5.00.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: The Community Foundation offers many ways for folks to get involved and since we are fairly new, we have many opportunities for people to establish committees and contribute new ideas to set a foundation for the future. Those interested in getting involved can

  • Join our Board of Directors
  • Join a committee – Grants, Development, Investment and Finance & Administration
  • Help with special events – Kickball Tournament, Waterfowl Festival or Philanthropy Day Luncheon
  • Establish a Charitable Fund/Giving Circle at the Foundation
  • Volunteer at the office and help with administrative duties