1Why give to The Community Fund (TCF) rather than directly to nonprofits of my choice?
We encourage you to give to your favorite organizations, but contributing to TCF is important for several reasons. • There are local nonprofits that provide significant services but are not as well known or do not have the necessary funding. We ensure that these critical, lesser-known nonprofits continue to receive support. • TCF does the due diligence for you. All nonprofits that we support undergo annual reviews, including on-site visits to insure that they are operating effectively and your dollars are spent appropriately. • TCF serves the entire community and is involved in all areas of human services needs. Through our ongoing relationships with nonprofits and human services organizations, we are in a unique position to know and address our community needs on an ongoing basis.
2Why should I increase my contribution to TCF?
Human services needs are continually increasing while funding sources, like government grants, are generally decreasing. With more of our donors’ dollars, TCF would be able to make a greater impact on addressing these growing needs. Your one gift to The Community Fund of Darien can be used to help so many organizations and individuals. You can have confidence that we are wise stewards of your donation.
3Who are your donors and how do you fundraise?
Donations come from local residents and businesses.
• We have a very active development committee made up of board members. Our primary fundraising is conducted through a community-wide mailing, letter writing and personal solicitations.
• Donors also give online through our website: www.communityfunddarien.org.
• Donors also give through their workplace campaigns by designating The Community Fund of Darien (IRS # 06-0737286). Please contact us at (203) 655-8775 for assistance in having your contributions directed to TCF.
• Please consider including The Community Fund of Darien in your will or estate plans.
4How does TCF decide what nonprofits to support?
Nonprofits are invited to apply for funding each year. Invitations are issued based upon a comprehensive review of nonprofits serving human services needs in Darien, Norwalk and Stamford. Nonprofits are invited to apply for one of our four funding priorities: Basic Needs, Youth Success, Self-Sufficiency and Eye on Darien. The Grants Executive Committee conducts ongoing due diligence on our grantees to insure that they are performing according to their stated goals and donors’ dollars are being spent wisely. Occasionally, nonprofits that are not meeting TCF standards/criteria are not invited to apply again, and new nonprofits are screened for consideration. The number of grantees is generally between 25-30 each year, including both small and large grants.
5How do you decide how much of your funds raised go to the nonprofits?
Each year, a corps of over 50 volunteers review nonprofit grant applications and help us conduct our “due diligence.” These volunteers devote many hours to reviewing applications, making on-site agency visits and participating in lengthy discussions. Nonprofits are assessed on their programs, board governance, organization and staffing, strategic planning, funding sources, impact and financial soundness. After careful review, the panels make recommendations on funding and follow-up. Their recommendations are presented to the TCF Grants Executive Committee and then go to the TCF Board for approval. Based on local needs assessments, TCF has four funding priorities for the allocation of our resources: Basic Needs, Youth Success, Self-Sufficiency and Eye on Darien. Each grant review panel is assigned to several nonprofits in one of these categories to help it better understand and assess the needs that each agency addresses. In addition, our resources support other important initiatives, such as Small Grants (one time grants for smaller agencies or emergency grants to help with extraordinary needs), Touch-a-Life Funds (to support individuals with financial hardships, including emergency flood relief, who are identified and vetted by Darien’s Department of Human Services) and the Community Impact Reserve Fund (which is currently supporting the Thriving Youth and Crowdfunding community initiatives).
6How do you choose volunteers for the grant review process?
Grant review is the basis and heart of our funding process. We identify local residents who are active volunteers in our community to serve on the grant review panels, as well as receive recommendations from Board members.
7What communities does TCF cover and who are your donors?
• TCF funds agencies and initiatives to meet health and human services needs in Darien, Norwalk and Stamford • TCF receives contributions from people who live and work in our area, including Darien and Rowayton and local businesses.
8What is the difference between TCF and the Darien Foundation for Technology and Community?
TCF funds agencies and initiatives to meet health and human services needs in Darien, Norwalk and Stamford, and The Darien Foundation for Technology and Community funds capital projects in Darien.
9What is the Human Services Planning Council?
TCF recognized the need for local collaboration regarding social services and therefore established the Human Services Planning Council (HSPC) in 2005. The HSPC’s mission is to:
• Assess health and human services needs in our town
• Identify resources and services to meet these needs
• Identify gaps in services
• Address those gaps.
HSPC members include representatives from key community organizations including, the Board of Selectmen, the Superintendent of Schools, the Police Chief, as well as representatives from the Council of Darien School Parents, Darien Dept. of Human Services, Child Guidance, Family Centers, Liberation Programs, STAR, the Depot, local clergy, community volunteers and Darien's Youth Director. It is co-chaired by TCF’s Executive Director and a member of the Board of Directors.
10What is HSPC’s current involvement in the community?
The HSPC is currently pursuing a number of initiatives to address gaps in local human services, including:
• Thriving Youth: Connected Community - town-wide collaboration to strengthen developmental assets for our youth. After three rounds of teen surveys in Darien schools, the work of Thriving Youth was recognized statewide when The Community Fund received a competitive grant from the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to develop and implement a five-year strategic prevention plan to reduce underage drinking and promote teen mental health.
• Crowdfunding Initiative – As a result of our needs assessment, The Community Fund is currently developing a crowdfunding platform to allow nonprofits from Lower Fairfield County to post projects online and use crowdfunding strategies for cost-effective online fundraising and community engagement around local needs.
• In a partnership with the Darien Department of Human Services, HSPC members write informative e-blasts about current issues and resources and posts those blasts to the PTO school e-blast distribution lists.
• Thriving Youth members write "parent tips” for the “Asset of the Month” campaign for the PTO school e-blast newsletters.
• In support of our continuous efforts to educate the community about human services needs and resources, members regularly write op-ed pieces and letters to the editor for our local papers on topics of current interest and relevance to our Greater Darien Community.
11How does TCF measure its impact in the community?
TCF measures its impact in terms of outcomes, dollars and people. We have adopted a results-based accountability model to help our grantees evaluate the effectiveness of their work. We also assess the effectiveness of our community initiatives. We are proud of our broad community financial support with nearly $1 million dollars raised annually. Our volunteer support – with 27 board members, 14 advisory board members, over 50 grant review volunteers, and nearly 50 youth group members – is a sign of our respect in the community. We are thought leaders in philanthropy with our HSPC initiatives and our leadership in community collaboration.
12What are the responsibilities of Board members?
Board members are expected to oversee the organization, attend board meetings, participate in board governance, fundraising and community outreach, support events and sit on at least two committees (Campaign, Marketing, Finance, Nominating, etc.) • 100% of TCF Board members are financial supporters.
13From TCF’s perspective, what are the most important human services needs in the community?
Based on our extensive involvement in our community, our interactions with all facets of human services, and our strong relationships with nonprofit leaders, we believe the critical needs and issues in Darien, Norwalk and Stamford are:
• Affordable housing
• Accessible and affordable mental health services for adults and youth
• Academic support for at-risk youth
• Hunger and access to nutritious food
• Substance abuse
• Inclusion of people with special needs
• A growing Hispanic population needing assistance integrating into our community
14Other than participating in the grant review process, how can I get involved with TCF?
TCF is involved in numerous programs and events throughout the year. Please contact us for more information if you are interested in volunteering in any of these activities.
• Annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon in May
• Annual Darien Road Race in September
• Volunteer Fair at Darien High School
• Other committees – campaign, marketing, web site management, mailings and office support
• Additional volunteering opportunities