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State of the Foundation FY 2018

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DCF President & CEO Stuart Comstock-Gay speaks about the State of the Foundation as Fiscal Year 2018 comes to a close. See the video of his speech or read the transcript below.

DCF Annual Meeting
June 12, 2018
Stuart Comstock-Gay
Goodstay Center, Wilmington Delaware

It’s been a good year the DCF.

Every year at this annual meeting, I like to provide both a state of the foundation, and a look at what’s coming.

To start, you’re going to me use the word opportunity quite a bit in these comments…

  • the opportunity for philanthropists to do wonderful things
  • the opportunity that the foundation provides for Delaware
  • and the opportunity gap in America that we all need to heed


I’ll begin with the year that has passed.

And it has been a good year at the DCF.

  • Our Investments have been strong, with SEI as our Outsourced Chief Investment officer. One year ago at this meeting, we were just starting with SEI. Since then, we’ve
    • launched our new investment options;
    • watched strong investment returns;
    • and received extremely positive response from fundholders.
  • Our operations are excellent, with new CFO Joyce Darling at the helm. We have dedicated significant resources to refining our fund offerings and administrative practices, to ensure

the most efficient and effective charitable funds in Delaware. 

  • In the fall, we launched our new monthly e-newsletter.

Thank you Allison. 

If you are not on the list, you should sign up. It’s a quick and story-filled digest of some of the exciting things happening at DCF.

  • We re-established our New Castle legacy lunch – for people who have included DCF in their personal legacy plans. A little over a month ago, we hosted about 30 of our committed future fundholders to discuss
    • DCF
    • philanthropy
    • Delaware and
    • legacy

If you create a legacy, we’ll invite you next year.

  • By the end of the fiscal year, we will have awarded close to $15 million dollars to hundreds of organizations.

and close to $400,000 in scholarships, to 209 scholars. 

We’re beginning a more expansive set of briefings for our individual and family fundholders, to provide information to them about options for their grant dollars, and to highlight critical work happening in the state.  Coming soon will be briefings about

  • Scholarships, in partnership with the Rodel Foundation
  • And about impact investing – a newer approach to making a difference in the philanthropic landscape,

If you’re particularly interested in either of those topics, let us know.

In terms of dollars in to the foundation, this year will turn out to be one of the most successful years in the foundation’s history, with gifts over $34 million.

Those gifts are from a wide range of philanthropists and organizations, for funds active now and funds that will become active later.

In the Donor Advised Fund arena, I’ll mention two:

First, a new multi- million dollar fund from a long-time Wilmington family and business… about which you’ll hear more in coming months. The fund will focus on education, health and opportunity.

– And the new Ballard Community Fund, honoring the late Corporal Steven Ballard.  In December, Corporal Ballard’s indefatigable widow Louise Cummings established this new fund to honor his commitment to community organizations – especially those working on children’s and veterans issues. The first grant went to the Delaware Adolescent Program.

Louise is here tonight as a new member of the DCF. 

We are honored to be working with you, Louise, and inspired by your passion.

We were pleased this year to work with, and now serve as host, to the Justice Holland Family Law Chair Endowment – which will provide an attorney to work at one of Delaware’s three civil legal aid groups, for two years at a time.  The organizations combined fundraising efforts, and have exceeded their $2 million dollar goal.

The fund ensures that low-income people have a fair opportunity when they are in legal straights in the civil courts in Delaware.

The Delaware Blood Bank endowment is now located at the DCF. That fund was part of the agreement between the New York Blood Bank and Delaware Blood bank, when they merged, and ensures a pot of funds for blood services in Delaware in perpetuity.

New scholarship funds

One of the coolest new funds in my mind is the Foster Care Transition Scholarship Fund, providing post-secondary help to children aging out of foster care.

One of the first recipients is Andrea Person from Wilmington who will attend Universal Technical Institute in Pennsylvania to study automotive and diesel industrial engineering.

A note here…the challenge faced by foster children – even to graduate from high school – is enormous – so creative funds like this – providing real educational opportunity – are essential. The Bob Martz Scholarship Fund, will be created after Bob’s passing.  It will create DCF’s first LGBTQ Scholarship Fund.

And many more.  In total this year, we welcomed 37 new funds …four of them scholarships.

Meanwhile, the Fund for Women – in its 25th year – has surpassed 2,000 founders and $2 million in grant dollars awarded since its founding – over $200,000 this year alone.

The African American Empowerment Fund will be re-launching its grant-making program later this year.

And here’s something about which we should be very proud.  Social Impact Bonds are something new to the philanthropic landscape.  The idea is that – if there’s a governmental intervention – say for reduced recidivism or achieving lower obesity rates – then a private entity funds the intervention.

IF AND WHEN THE intervention succeeds, based on specific pre-agreed upon measures, the government pays back the investor, with some kind of return.  To date, since the idea was conceived 10 years ago or so, there have been 22 of these pay for success initiatives in the country.

The twenty-third will soon be announced.

The DCF Social Impact Fund – created in partnership with Discover Bank – will be investing $450,000 in the Delaware Blood Bank, for a campaign to expand the number of millennial blood donations.  ((Blood banks across the country are suffering from too few millennial contributions.))

If, after three years, the blood bank is able to successfully increase their blood units from millennials by 500 units per year, DCF will be paid back – with interest – by the Longwood Foundation.

It’s an example of how DCF philanthropic leadership and partnerships show a new way of acting for the public good.

And that of course is the point.  In the end, most importantly, the money entrusted to us continues to make a major difference in Delaware…to strengthen the quality of life and ensure opportunity for all.

So it’s been a good year at DCF.


What’s next?

As we think about DCF’s vision for the future, and we talk about our mission, we talk first about

  • the quality of life in Delaware –
    • about our commitment to a strong quality of life now and in the future.
  • …and about ensuring that all Delawareans have the opportunity to take advantage of all the wonderful benefits of this state.

We are passionate about Delaware.

And we believe that any philanthropy is good philanthropy.

We believe that all of our 1200 funds are making an important difference in the state.

Last year, I also mentioned that we would be leaning in on some specific projects.  Over the coming months, you will hear about some expanded initiatives.

First, The Latino and Hispanic population of the state sits at eight and half percent and is growing.

Many people in those communities are struggling mightily with

  • health-care,
  • mental health issues,
  • transportation,
  • education
  • and employment

Following on the leadership of the Arsht-Cannon Fund at DCF, we will be looking at how we can most effectively support interventions to expand opportunity in those communities. Latino communities in Sussex County are already seeing additional support.

In addition, we are partnering with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to investigate a mapping project, to identify with more specificity the needs and opportunities for Delaware’s diverse Hispanic communities.

Second, perhaps the most consistent theme amongst DCF fundholders is a passion for engaging young people, and providing better opportunities.

DCF has also made a commitment to expanding our work around youth opportunity.

  • Already, we see hundreds of grants coming out of DCF funds each year
  • We have a strong scholarship program
  • Our Youth Philanthropy Boards are thriving
  • Out NextGen programs are getting stronger every day
  • And importantly, the Rodel Foundation, one of DCF’s largest partners – is fully committed to strengthening the educational opportunities for all

With the leadership of the Board and our new VP for Community Engagement, Sarah Grunewald, we are investigating when and where DCF expanded engagement on youth issues will be most effective.

More broadly, DCF is also committed to deepening our support around racial diversity, and ensuring that these questions are part of everything we do.  We’re just starting on this journey, and looking for the right roles, expect to hear more about this.


Now, let me say two more things.

Opportunity.  I told you I would mention opportunity a lot.

One of the great challenges in America today – and in Delaware – is that it has increasingly become too hard for some people to make a go of it in America right now.

We have all grown up with the idea that with hard work we can have great success. But that is simply less true now than ever before in America.

In fact, the chance that a child born into the bottom 20% of American economic life will jump to the top 20% is now lower than in every single other western Country.

Of course we can all tell stories of people who’ve made the jump.

And yet the stories are too few.

It’s why so many of you are concerned about the quality of education, and of early brain science, and job training, and college readiness programs.  It’s why we care about quality healthcare for all, and arts for all, and recreational opportunities for all.

The problem is about

  • generational poverty
  • and about race
  • and about family life
  • and about culture
  • and about official policies

The problem is about many things.

And the problem is about the American dream and what kind of country we are now, and want to be in the future.

The Opportunity Gap.

To help us think about this – and about how all of our work in philanthropy is related to this – we are bringing Robert Putnam to speak in Wilmington in November.

Professor Putnam – who has been called by the Guardian newspaper the world’s foremost public intellectual – popularized the notion of social capital in 2000 with his book Bowling Alone.

He has written about religion in America.  He has written about how democracy works.  And in 2015 he wrote the powerful book Our Kids – describing the data behind the opportunity gap in America, and how critical it is that we pay attention.

In addition to his talk – on November 14 at the Baby Grand, we are organizing various activities throughout the fall.  If you want to participate, let Sarah know.

And oh yeah, this event – bringing a national speaker to highlight critical issues – it will also be an annual event.


Finally, one more word – about the unique role that a community foundation can play – and I believe must play.  Think about the types of funds and activities I discussed.  Think about the incredible diversity of issues, and people.

  • Rural, urban, suburban
  • White, black, Hispanic
  • Conservative, liberal, moderate, apolitical
  • Male, female
  • Gay, straight
  • Young, old

The DCF is an umbrella for all of us.  We are an organization – DEDICATED TO A PLACE – where all people are welcome and encouraged and celebrated.  And in this strange time on the national political scene, we need organizations like the community foundation to step up and be counted.

I’ve spent a good bit of time over the past year in national conversations about the bitter partisan divide, and what foundations can and should do about that.

I’ve sat across the table from leaders from the Rockefeller Foundation, Koch Brothers Foundation, Soros Foundation, George W. Bush Institute, and Obama Foundation.

To a person, the questions of

  • demonizing others, and
  • dismissing people for their thinking,
  • of an erosion of civility

…they are a concern to all.

None of us have a magic bullet to address this. Depending on who you talk with, the enemies are Fox News, MSNBC, President Trump, ex-President Obama, or somebody or something else.

While there doesn’t seem to be a silver bullet, here’s what I know.

I know that the kind of work we do –

bringing together diverse ideas and people –

…for civil discourse

…all of us committed to a high quality of life for all, and opportunity for all…

…I know that this matters.

And I know that we are playing the right role, can expand our role, and that the state needs us to play that role.

So… please continue your good work. Continue to care about Delaware – about your neighbors, about your community.  Continue to share your dreams and ideas. Continue to work with us.

We are here and we will be here.

  • We are here because of people like Helen Eliaison, who committed to DCF over 20 years ago
  • to Louise Cummings, who joined us in December
  • to Bob Martz, whose fund will be set up on his passing

We will be here now and we will be here in 50 years.

Making a difference.

Thank you.