Helping Nonprofits to Serve Kosciusko County:
A Q&A with the Community Foundation
If you’ve been following along on the KREMC blog, it’s impossible to miss the Operation Round Up series as grantees tell their stories and thank the community. The series is coming to a close for now, but we’re looking forward to giving our grantees a platform to share again in the future. For now, we want to introduce Terrill Hooks, a program officer at the Kosciusko County Community Foundation. The foundation plays an instrumental role in the Operation Round Up grant process. We’ll let her explain.
KREMC Interviewer: Tell me about the role that you play at the community foundation in Operation Round Up.
Terrill Hooks: It’s three-fold. I work with the grant-seekers as they approach us to submit a grant proposal. At the foundation, we have different competitive grant cycles, and KREMC is one of them. As the grant-seeker describes the project or program they want funding for, we help them determine if it’s a good fit for the Operation Round Up grant. I’m also available to the grantees to help them put their best request forward. I am able to view their application in the grant portal, and I can make sure their application is complete and the questions are answered fully. Because we work with the grant committee, I hope to anticipate questions and help them communicate in a way that I know will be helpful for the committee.
After reading and evaluating grant proposals, I’m responsible for preparing documents that assist the grant committee. They do all the review through the grant portal, but we prepare some other documents that show grant history of the grantees, helpful information shared with us that’s not in the application, and information that shows how diverse the grant requests are and how they affect different parts of the county.
I also provide support to the grant committee. I support the grant applicant and the grant committee. For the grant committee, they might be in the grant portal doing the evaluation and have additional questions, so they’ll email or call me. The grantee never speaks directly with the committee. They speak with us. During the grant committee meeting, which I help facilitate, I help answer new questions that come up.
KREMC Interviewer: How do you stay connected with the grant requestors in the community?
TH: When an organization is going to submit a proposal, we require them to talk with us ahead of time. Before they ever fill out an application, we’ll spend a half-hour or hour talking with them, learning more about their organization and then more specifically, what program or project they are seeking funding for. If they have applied previously, we have the opportunity to sit down with them and ask them if there’s anything new. We also sometimes do a site visit at nonprofits to see first-hand the work they are doing. In the interim we host opportunities for nonprofits to come together to network and collaborate.
KREMC Interviewer: How does the Operation Round Up grant and funding process work?
TH: The Kosciusko REMC Operation Round Up Fund is a component fund of the Community Foundation. A component fund is established when a person or an entity gives or transfers money or property to the foundation. The donor names it and decides what the purpose is.
The foundation has been involved with KREMC Operation Round Up since 2002. At that time, a fund agreement was drawn up between KREMC and the Community Foundation. Most of the members of the grant committee are appointed by the KREMC board and one is a representative that gets appointed by our board. As you know, KREMC donates the money from members who choose to round up their bill to the fund at the Community Foundation and we invest and manage those charitable dollars.
We host an online grant portal, facilitate the Operation Round Up grant committee, and then our board votes on the recommendations that come from the committee. At the foundation, we make sure the grantee signs a grant agreement, we cut the checks, and we ensure the grant dollars are being spent by the grantee for the purposes they wrote on their application. Then we report back to the community through our annual report to explain how those grant dollars were awarded.
KREMC Interviewer: Why do you think Operation Round Up is important to the community?
TH: I think it’s important because of the type of grants it funds. Grants have helped feed the hungry, provide youth mentoring programs, support therapy and counseling services, literacy programs, provided wheelchair ramps for people with disabilities, and helped local fire and police with the purchase of rescue equipment. It impacts the community, and not just the low-income people. It provides a safer, healthier, and more enabled community through funding.
Some things would not be able to exist without those funds. It impacts community life, and it’s important that the committee itself is made up of co-op members so it impacts them. If you sat in the room with the committee, you would see how it impacts them. They take that responsibility seriously – that they are representatives of the entire co-op as far as how the dollars are distributed.
KREMC Interviewer: How is Kosciusko County’s nonprofit world unique from other communities?
TH: I see it as people who have a heart and a passion for something, and they see the need and want to do something about it.
In the case of KREMC, lots of people are having an opportunity to meet those needs, in their own way. Even though I’ve lived in this community a long time, that still fills my heart every single day I go to work. This is what I want to be doing – having the opportunity to communicate, collaborate, and facilitate. I want to be a part of helping the nonprofits to do what they do.
KREMC Interviewer: How do you see ripple effects of the Operation Round Up grants in the community?
TH: After a grantee uses its grant dollars, they submit a final report that points back to their application, what they said their objectives were, and if they accomplished them. We ask them if they have any impact stories to share, and that’s when I’m sitting in my office with tears running down my face because maybe it was only around $2500 but it was part of impacting a situation. That’s pretty cool!
We get thank you notes and emails sometimes, or we’ll see a press release about a grantee.
In one of the recent Operation Round Up grants, there was a second-grade teacher at Harrison. She’s been doing gardening at Harrison for more than 10 years. She’s been very instrumental with her classes, doing all kinds of planting on their property, doing a vegetable garden, and these kids have learned a lot about agriculture and growing fresh things. It’s really cool because they give it to their school, the school prepares it for lunches, and the kids from her classes can say, “I grew that!”
The other grades had been asking for ways they could get more involved in it. She saw an ad for Operation Round Up and applied for six raised bed garden kits, plus the dirt, seeds, and other supplies. They’re going to get the whole school involved, and they’re taking it to the next level. It was fully funded, and she expressed a lot of appreciation.
I don’t know how many KREMC members are giving their pennies to Operation Round Up every month, but it’s just a little bit. That’s what being part of a community is. Some of the co-op members probably don’t even know they’re a part of it but taking the little opportunities in life to do your part. That’s well illustrated by the Operation Round Up fund.
Learn more about the Kosciusko County Community Foundation.