Community Foundation invests in South Okanagan-Similkameen

The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan is a success story that benefits everyone.

The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan is a success story that benefits everyone.

The organization got its start 23 years ago, with an original investment of $200,000 from the founding donors, which included the Penticton Rotary Club, the City of Penticton, HSBC and the Vancouver Foundation. In 1994, their first granting year, the CFSO distributed $2,600 to six organizations.

Today, the grants come from investment earnings on endowment funds that have grown to nearly $10 million. In 2015, the CFSO plans to award $340,000 in grants to charities throughout the Okanagan Similkameen.

“Next year, we will be well over $2 million total grants. That will be a significant milestone,” said Aaron McRann, CFSO executive director.

It’s an incredible story of growth, especially considering that the group only passed the milestone of $1 million in grants in 2012. The work of the CFSO doesn’t stop with managing the fund and distributing grants.

“We have been transitioning over the last number of years beyond simply grant making. We are helping donors and community members with a lot more in the philanthropic world,” said McRann.

That includes supporting programs like the Random Act of Kindness day, and 100 Women Who Care, which McRann describes as a giving circle combined with social interaction.  They also sponsor the Vital Signs report, which surveyed communities throughout the South Okanagan and Similkameen on 10 issue areas from arts and culture to the environment and work, “taking the pulse of our communities to provide citizens with a sense of where we’re at and where we might be going.” And through the Smart and Caring communities program, the CFSO has branched out to help communities create their own investment funds.

“We now have investment funds in every community in our region,” said McRann. “That has been a huge success and is really the future of the foundation in a lot of ways.”