A nonprofit that’s changed the state

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is low key. Its name doesn’t announce what it does. It doesn’t collect donations by payroll deduction like the United Way. It doesn’t have cans on store counters, send people door to door or raise money by direct mail. As a result, people know that it’s there and that it does good – but that’s about it.

The truth is, New Hampshire would be a different place, far poorer in every respect, if not for the foundation’s work.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of its founding. From its start in Concord, with $18,858 in 1962, it has grown to a foundation that oversees nearly a half-billion dollars in assets. It is one of the oldest and largest philanthropic organizations of its kind in the nation.

On Tuesday, the foundation celebrated its birthday and discussed how it plans to go on building strong communities and helping people succeed in the next 50 years.

Running the foundation is complex, but the concept of it, at heart, is simple: create a place where people who want to give back to their community can go that will accept their donation, create a fund with the name of their choosing, and use professionals to administer the money and target its use in ways that meet the donors wishes.

The Charitable Foundation now holds 1,675 funds, both large and small. Many are scholarship funds, and each year, nearly 2,000 New Hampshire students benefit from them. For some, it makes the difference between whether they go on to higher education or not.

Some funds were set up to aid specific charitable organizations, others to support the arts, protect the environment, combat substance abuse, help meet basic human needs or spur entrepreneurship.

Perhaps most important in the long run, the charitable foundation launched a program to build community and foster civic engagement that’s been a model used all across the country. That’s work that does more than money to make the nation and world a better place.

These are just a few of the things the foundation
has done for New Hampshire over the past half century:

• In 1974, a gift from the foundation helped save Manchester’s Palace Theater.

• In 1982, its grant was instrumental in the creation of New Hampshire Public Radio.

• The following year, the foundation helped to establish the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which has made housing affordable for thousands of state residents.

• In 1986, the foundation was instrumental in the creation of the Trust for New Hampshire Lands, a public-private partnership that preserved from development more than 100,000 of the state’s most pristine and threatened acres.

The foundation offers funding, but it also serves as a catalyst that makes other nonprofits possible: They include the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies and New Futures, an organization devoted to reducing the state’s alarming rate of alcohol and drug use by children and teens.

Many of the foundation’s donors give sizeable sums. Oliver Hubbard, the University of New Hampshire graduate who went on to found Hubbard Farms, and his wife Leslie contributed $31 million to fund New Futures.

But one needn’t be rich to help. Elisabeth Robinson is a nurse practitioner, and her husband Jeffrey is a sixth-grade teacher. To help instill the spirit of giving in their three children, as a Christmas gift, they used $25,000 to create a family fund at the foundation. For the rest of their lives, the three children will help direct how the fund will be used.

Christmas is still six months away, but the creation of similar funds is a great any occasion gift for children, the charitable foundation and New Hampshire.

– Concord Monitor