Second Helpings and Recession and Human Services and Central Indiana Community Foundation and Fairbanks Foundation and Arts/Culture and Foundations and Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and Economy and Philanthropy

Grant-makers, stung by market crash, favor safety-net causes, discourage new applicants

February 2, 2009

Some major foundations in central Indiana are narrowing grantmaking criteria so they can funnel their reduced asset streams toward pressing needs brought on by the recession.

"This is not the year to be wide open," Central Indiana Community Foundation President Brian Payne said.

Two major funds under the CICF umbrella, the Indianapolis Foundation and the Legacy Fund in Hamilton County, are discouraging first-time applications in 2009.

"We want to focus on organizations we have a long relationship with—organizations we feel are really core to Indianapolis' social safety net and vitality," Payne said.

Payne is also president of the $115 million Indianapolis Foundation, the largest grant-making fund CICF operates. The new guidelines are significant, he said, because in the past the foundation was pleased to fuel not-for-profit startups, such as Second Helpings, which rescues food from restaurants and grocery stores to cook hot meals for needy groups.

"We take great pride in the fact we were one of the early funders," Payne said. "We look forward to getting back to that."

The Indianapolis-based Clowes Fund and Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust also changed their grant-making policies dramatically. Clowes will not award grants to any first-time applicants in 2009, and the Pulliam trust will not support capital campaigns, an area where it has a history.

Many foundations shifted gears as soon as the market crashed last fall. The Indiana Grantmakers Alliance found in a survey of 71 members that 69.5 percent expected smaller budgets in 2009, and that 51.4 percent were responding by shifting their grantmaking priorities.

The result is that 2009 will be difficult for grant seekers, especially for fledgling organizations or those making requests that don't fill an immediate need.

When the Clowes Fund was open to a preliminary round of grant applications, it would see as many as 200 new applicants, on top of 100 returning applicants. Executive Director Beth Casselman said delivering the news to first-time grant seekers was difficult.

"There are some where I think they're well-aligned with our mission," she said.

But the decision saved money. Clowes also makes grants in New England, so working with known organizations means less travel, Casselman said.

The Clowes Fund changed its policy in May 2008. The move, intended to be temporary, stemmed from an ongoing attempt to improve efficiency, but it was serendipitous. After a 30-percent reduction in 2008, the fund is worth $50 million. It recently laid off one of three full-time staff members.

Casselman said the foundation, which granted about $3 million last year, has about $1.5 million in uncommitted funds to give out in 2009.

Clowes has also transferred about $4 million worth of art to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Because of those gifts, Casselman said the foundation could meet the IRS requirement to disburse 5 percent of its assets without giving away any cash. But, she said, "our board is committed to meeting the needs of grantees."

In October, the Pulliam Charitable Trust decided it would not fund capital campaigns so more money would be available for everyday operations.

"We need to be a little more nearsighted and have funds available for emergency needs," President Harriet Ivey said.

Working in Phoenix and Indianapolis, the Pulliam trust has given hefty sums to the Indianapolis Museum of Art for its Art and Nature Park, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

The botanical garden, which received $500,000 for its endowment-building campaign, was hoping for another round in 2009, Ivey said. "We had to tell them we're really sorry."

Ivey said $2 million would be diverted from capital campaigns toward general grant-making. She added that the trust would definitely consider fixing brick-and-mortar problems, such as the leaking roof at the St. Vincent DePaul Society's food pantry.

Still, grants from the $285 million Pulliam trust, which lost about 25 percent of its value in 2008, will be reduced in 2009, Ivey said. About $14.3 million will be available, compared with $15.7 million last year.

The Pulliam trust was one of five organizations that in December pitched in to create a $3.2 million emergency relief fund. (Other contributors were Lilly Endowment Inc., CICF, United Way of Central Indiana and the Richard F. Fairbanks Foundation.)

While the foundations appear to be shepherding cash toward food and shelter, not-for-profits that aren't in the human services business will still have a shot at funding.

Payne was quick to say arts organizations are also crucial to the city's "vitality." In the art world, too, he said, "There are going to be emergency needs."

The Indianapolis Foundation's grantmaking capacity fell from $170 million in December 2007 to $115 million last month.

Last year, the foundation awarded $8.5 million. That will drop to $5.7 million to $6.7 million in 2009.

The Indianapolis Foundation—as well as its affiliate, the Legacy Fund, which has about $300,000 to give away in 2009—has a new focus.

Guidelines posted on its Web site say it will favor organizations it has worked with in the last five years, and that it will spend money in certain ways: basic needs for people in poverty, dealing with foreclosure, job training, and arts enrichment for underserved populations.

The Legacy Fund and one of CICF's donor-advised funds, the Indianapolis Retirement Home Fund, posted similar guidelines.

The rule against first-time applicants isn't hard and fast. If an organization's work aligns with CICF's "leadership" initiatives, it might be invited to apply, Payne said.

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