In the fall of 2005, Julie Gosselink and Shannon Fitzgerald were looking at ways to become more creative and “hands on” in our grant making strategies. In keeping the founder’s entrepreneurial spirit and vision at heart, the Community Support Service (CSS) program was launched in 2006 with the commitment of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation’s board of directors to provide back-office services free of charge to all our partner organizations and funds involved with the program for the next 4 years.
The goal of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation’s Community Support Services program was to build organizational capacity and promote collaboration among the local nonprofit community by optimizing back-office support operations and creating efficiencies through shared staff and administrative functions, thus strengthening the missions of the local nonprofit sector to help improve the quality of life for the local area.
In the first year of the program, the CSS program served 6 organizations; Ahrens Park Foundation, Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation, Grinnell-Newburg Educational Excellence, GHS Alumni Association, GHS Capital Campaign and Dollars for Scholars. For the first four years of the program, all services were provided to our partners free of charge. In the the last ten years, over $3 million dollars in services has been provided by the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation for the Community Support Services program. Today the program serves over 15 partner organizations and 100 charitable funds. In addition, we have provided consulting services for Grinnell College, Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool, St. Francis Manor Foundation, Galaxy Youth Center and Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell.
Today’s economic climate has changed little in that nonprofits can no longer conduct business as they once did. Resource constraints are forcing many nonprofits to close their doors or merge operations in order to survive. More than ever, nonprofit organizations are in need of creative collaborative solutions to help them overcome financially challenging times. For this reason the CSS program continues to be one of two main priorities of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation’s charitable strategies for the community. We believe in our unique approach to providing greater quality of life in the community by strengthening the nonprofit sector. The CSS program allows our partner organizations to share the costs and the rewards of working together by paying fees that are below fair market value.
In 2010, the foundation was selected by the Council on Foundations, in Washington D.C., to receive their national Critical Impact Award, which honors grant makers who have supported innovative leadership, bold visions, and significant impact in advancing the common good through effective grant making, which can serve as a model for others in philanthropy. The Council on Foundations, formed in 1949, is a nonprofit membership association of grant making foundations and corporations. Members of the Council include approximately 2,000 independent,operating, community, public, and company-sponsored foundations and corporate giving programs in the United States and abroad. The assets of Council members total more than $307 billion. The Council’s mission is to provide the opportunity, leadership, and tools needed by philanthropic organizations to expand, enhance, and sustain their ability to advance the common good.