Tuesday, February 11, was a big old day. Despite chilly rain and bumper-to-bumper drive home, folks were racing home either to learn the New Hampshire primary results or to see the finals of the Westminster Dog Show.
But the Communities Foundation of Texas‘ celebration get together seemed to trump all. The welcome mat had hardly been put out at 5 p.m. when the lobby was filled with CFT supporters like Sarah Losinger, Carter Malouf, Peter Dauterman, Dave Westberry, Ronnie Johnson, Pat Porter, Becky Bright, Andy Scripps, Andy Smith, Nancy Cozzie, Jan and Fred Hegi, Susan Swan Smith and Ellen and John McStay.
The occasion was to celebrate CFT’s hitting the $2B mark. Here’s a report from the field:
Confetti canons marked the occasion as Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT) board trustees, fund holders, and community leaders came together on Tuesday, February 11, to celebrate a momentous occasion and historic milestone – $2 billion in cumulative charitable grantmaking from CFT since its inception in 1953.
CFT held the celebration to thank donors, partners and champions who collectively made the grantmaking milestone possible. Many current and past trustees were present for the evening and were acknowledged for their excellence in leadership and stewardship, including Connie O’Neill, Bobby Lyle, Judy Gibbs, Tom Montgomery, Matrice Ellis-Kirk and former state senator, the Honorable Florence Shapiro.
Both new and longtime donors celebrated together, including Meredith and Jack Woodworth, whose family has a 50+ year relationship with CFT, as well as recent alumni and new members of CFT’s Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy cohort such as Amber Scheurer and Julian Mensah. Community partners and leaders mixed and mingled, from Gillian Breidenbach of The Dallas Morning News and CFT’s Monica Egert Smith to Ken Malcolmson, Judge Clay Jenkins, and Farmer’s Branch city council representative Cristal Retana.
CFT fund holders Ellie and Scott Boxer caught up with Jennifer Sampson at the event, as well as CFT board trustee Debra Brennan Tagg and CFT supporter Dianne Adleta.
Attendees enjoyed passed hors d’oeuvres served by crowd favorite Abraham Salum and wine by beverage sponsor E. & J. Gallo Winery’s Élevage Collection. Advanced sommelier Kristin Short was on hand to represent the wineries she selected to feature from Élevage’s “Women Behind the Wine“ series, which she suggested paired nicely to provide a warm welcome to CFT’s new female board chair, Alfreda Norman, senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Immediate past Board Chair Jim Bass and President/CEO Dave Scullin made welcoming remarks and introduced Alfreda. A new celebratory video was debuted at the event, overviewing highlights of the milestone and cameos of those there like Ann and Chuck Eisemann.
Dave’s remarks recapped some of CFT’s history: For 67 years, CFT has worked side by side with donors, nonprofit partners and community leaders on some of the most challenging issues in our community. CFT currently manages more than 1,000 charitable funds that support a wide range of issues – everything from education and the arts, to animals and social services. Some donors are well-known community leaders and longtime philanthropists who have invested in notable projects that have changed our community landscape – things like the Meyerson Symphony Center, Klyde Warren Park, AT&T Performing Arts Center and the Eisemann Center in Richardson. Other donors are folks who give quietly, behind the scenes, and prefer their names never be known, even as their giving to schools, hospitals, animal shelters and neighborhood development corporations transforms North Texas. CFT’s donors also include the 100,000 people who gave to their favorite causes last year on North Texas Giving Day, including young elementary school students who collect change and raise money through lemonade stands to support disaster relief following Hurricane Harvey or social service agencies through the Common Cents program for students at Dallas ISD.
CFT reached its first billion dollars in grantmaking in 2009 which took over 50 years, and it took only ten years to achieve the second billion.
Dave joked, “At that growth rate; we only have 2 years to give the next billion!” He then turned serious, noting, “The real story is not the dollars, it’s the thousands of people who give and the tens of thousands of people helped. That’s the secret sauce that makes for a vibrant community.”
Dave also noted that CFT’s grants support a wide array of causes and organizations, but it’s no surprise that over the years, the largest percentage of grant dollars – 26% – went to support education. CFT has had a deep focus on education for many years, but especially in the last 15 years following an extraordinary investment by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in what is now known as CFT’s Educate Texas. Educate Texas is a program of CFT that works on large-scale, systemic change by partnering with school districts across our state, as well as entities like the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the Texas Workforce Commission. Educate Texas is working with partners like Texas Instruments to prepare students for careers in the STEM fields, and with organizations like the Commit Partnership to ensure that schools are staffed with the very best teachers and principals. Of CFT’s $2 billion in grants, $80 million has been granted through Educate Texas.
CFT funding has also had an impact on helping to build economic security for working families in North Texas. Over the last several years, CFT has focused a significant portion of their discretionary funds on building the capacity of local nonprofits serving working families, partnering with donors and funders like J.P. Morgan Chase, Texas Women’s Foundation and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Thanks to these collective efforts, nearly 8,000 individuals have been helped along the path of economic security.
No highlight reel of CFT’s grantmaking would be complete without a mention of CFT’s largest fund and significant grantmaking muscle, the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Fund. The Caruth Fund was established by Will Caruth in 1970 to support innovative, transformational investments in and across education, public safety, and health. Since Mr. Caruth’s death in 1990, the Caruth Fund has granted more than $200 million in high-impact grants that seek to provide scalable solutions to some of the most difficult issues of our time. These are only a few examples of the breadth and depth of CFT’s work, as there are literally hundreds more behind the $2 billion milestone.
Jim Bass discussed from the podium how by lifting others, we all rise, and how it’s possible to be something much bigger than ourselves. Alfreda closed the evening by paying tribute to all who contributed to the grantmaking milestone, toasting to all that’s been accomplished in the past, and the opportunities that lie ahead in our future. As everyone raised their glasses for a champagne toast, Dallas Winds began to play, confetti cannons went off, and the room was filled with further fanfare and fun!
* Photo Credit: Kim Leeson