The Lower Columbia CAP Foundation Board, which was on track to create a $1 million endowment for the social service agency, voted to disband Thursday, with officials saying it’s better to have everything under just one board of directors. They also stressed that CAP’s mission and good works will continue.
Foundation board member Tim Welch acknowledged some friction between the foundation board and regular CAP board, but he said ultimately the move is an attempt to be more efficient. Still, he said he was sad to see the separate foundation board end.
“It’s disappointing, but that’s minor relative to the sense that we did something important for the community,” Welch said Thursday.
Welch, along with his wife, Lee Hutton-Welch, helped re-energize the foundation three years ago when they pledged $350,000 to the CAP endowment. The couple later agreed to use some of their pledge as matching money to get donations from others, with a goal of raising $1 million. The intent was to use interest on that endowment to supplement CAP’s budget.
The foundation now has $500,000, which it will turn over to the CAP board, Welch said. Officials stressed that the endowment will remain intact.
The shakeup comes at a time when CAP, the area’s largest non-governmental social service agency, is facing declining revenues. It had budgets of $10.5 million in 2010, $9 million in 2011 and just under $8 million in 2012.
Foundation board member and Daily News Publisher Rick Parrish said he was sad to see any change to the foundation’s momentum, although the vote to dissolve was unanimous.
“Tim Welch and many other great folks have given huge amounts of money and time in an effort to help CAP build a security blanket for the future,” Parrish said. “It’s disappointing the foundation couldn’t harness that energy to be successful in the long term.”
Welch said he believes the foundation would have reached the $1 million mark in the next year or so, but that success was double-edged. As the foundation grew, so did its administrative needs.
Foundation board members said they needed an executive director to run the organization as well as some funds to help cover cash-flow shortages. The regular CAP board, though, said it didn’t have any money to spare.
“The decision was more a financial one,” said Mary Gillespie, president of the CAP board. “It just really wasn’t possible for CAP to fund an executive director for them. CAP dollars that are not designated directly to a program usually need to go to in-fill some other program.”
The Lower Columbia Community Action Program (CAP) runs a variety of programs to help people improve their lives — such as job training and home ownership initiatives — and “safety net services” such as the Help Warehouse food bank, senior community lunches and energy assistance.
CAP Executive Director Ilona Kerby said that as federal funding has dried up her administrative staff has been cut nearly in half in the past two years to help assure no program funds are cut.
Welch said there were some “bad feelings and misunderstandings” between the two boards in recent months as the final decision to dissolve was reached. He attributed that to a “corporate culture” of CAP employees interacting with the all-volunteer group of the foundation and said he hopes that’s alleviated with the change. Welch also stressed he wasn’t criticizing CAP’s work.
“We have every confidence in CAP’s board of directors and their management,” he said. “And most important, we are all passionate about the mission to help families one family at a time. … The community would be poorly served if CAP wasn’t there.”
Kerby, though, said she wasn’t aware of problems between the boards and she sees the change as a positive one.
“I think things are just fine between the boards,” she said Thursday afternoon. “I continue to be committed to the endowment … and it will still move forward toward growing to that $1 million goal.”
While Thursday’s vote now brings a series of legal filings and transfers, all involved said the general public shouldn’t notice much difference in CAP’s programs.
“It’s really an administrative move,” Gillespie said.
All of the money donated to the foundation endowment will remain in the endowment and be overseen by former foundation members appointed to a new endowment committee under the CAP board’s authority. The transfer agreement allows just 4 percent of endowment funds to be used annually for CAP programs, with the rest invested to gain interest, Welch said.
“What we’re hoping to do is internalize the good work the foundation was doing within the CAP board,” said foundation board member Max Anderson.
While money already donated to the foundation is secure, Welch said people who have made pledges aren’t obligated to fulfill those with the change. He and his wife are evaluating their next move.
“We’re waiting to see how things shake out to decide whether we wish to continue our pledge,” he said. He added they’ve already contributed roughly two-thirds of their original $350,000 pledge.
Gillespie, though, said she doesn’t expect fundraising to be affected.
“I don’t think it will be a big impact,” she said. “I still have a pledge to the endowment and it certainly still will be given, because the need hasn’t changed.”
“I haven’t talked to anyone who intended to change their obligation,” Kerby added. “The people I’ve talked to said ‘I made that and I’m going to continue it.’ … It’s still going to the same purpose.”