To say the Community Foundation of Whistler (CFOW) has come a long way in its 20 years in the resort would be a vast understatement.
The charity, which manages several permanent endowment funds that benefit a range of local organizations, was founded in 1999 with initial seed money of $25,000. Today, the organization has an asset base of $6.4 million to draw from—and yet, according to new executive director Claire Mozes, the CFOW still struggles with exposure in the community.
“I think it’s really about increasing the community’s familiarity with the foundation,” she said. “I know our grant recipients know about us, we have some amazing funders that fund us, but it’s making it a little bit more of a household name and explaining what we do.”
Part of those efforts this year will see the CFOW’s marketing team develop a clear vision statement, help define what the organization does as well as explaining the benefit of donating to the CFOW.
“I think the barrier is really just trying to understand how broad in scope the community foundation is,” explained Carol Coffey, who left the director position in May after seven years with the CFOW. “There are so many different areas of community that we address: the environment, arts and culture, youth and social services—so many different areas that it’s not as clear for people to understand what we do, and because we grant money and we don’t run our own programs, it’s just not quite as easy to wrap your head around as, say, understanding what Whistler Animals Galore does.”
In 2018, the CFOW garnered $691,924 in donations, up from $377,115 the year prior. At year’s end, it managed more than 30 endowment funds totalling roughly $6.1 million, including it’s largest, the Environmental Legacy Fund, the Jill Ackhurst Social Action Fund and the Whistler Employee Fund.
But more than being Whistler’s “long-term savings account,” the CFOW also serves as an important barometer of the community’s well-being, Mozes said, bolstered by its annual Vital Signs report, which compiles existing local, provincial and national economic and social data to provide a comprehensive look into the resort, as well as its Vital Café events, community talks that focus on the big issues impacting Whistler.
“Community foundations can show a lot of leadership for helping to support the community based on what their needs are,” noted Mozes, who previously worked as the manager of outreach services for the Whistler Community Services Society. “We’re not out there programming; that’s definitely up to the non-profits that are out there doing that great work, but we can bring them together and we can also help get them really familiar with these needs, so that, hopefully, they can work together collaboratively.
“I do think the community foundation can take a bit of a stronger, front-facing (role) to really show what some of these needs are and that we’re here to help make it happen.”
One Vital Café scheduled for the fall will focus on how local employers can help improve community belonging, while another will look at truth and reconciliation efforts with the area’s First Nations at the local level, Mozes said. The CFOW is also in the process of recording a podcast that will delve deeper into the topics addressed at the Vital Café talks.
“You really can’t have a conversation about belonging and inclusion if you’re not having a conversation about truth and reconciliation,” said Coffey. “Community foundations are trying to move the dial forward on this type of change at the community level, which is really important. The community foundation has a really key role to play in the community.”
To learn more, visit whistlerfoundation.com.