When an application for the Ford Foundation and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Leadership Challenge Grant crossed Peggy Ogden’s desk in 1987, she knew the award could provide an amazing opportunity for the Community Foundation to broaden its role in the community. At the time, Ogden was serving as the Community Foundation’s vice president for finance and administration and was the soon-to-be-successor to President and CEO John Dietz.
She had a vision for taking our organization to the next level —both in growing our unrestricted funds and establishing us as a community leader. When we were chosen as one of 10 community foundations nationwide to receive the $500,000 challenge grant, Ogden was tasked with raising $1 million towards our permanent unrestricted endowment. While she and our board members had five years to achieve that ambitious goal, it took just over one year due to the tremendous generosity of our local community members.
“We expressed to our supporters that we don’t know what the needs of the community are going to be 50 years from now,” said Ogden. “But we do know that there’s going to be a thoughtful group of people around the board table that will make the best decisions in the interest of the community.”
With $500,000 now in hand available to address an immediate local need, the board decided to focus on the availability of high-quality, affordable child care, a cross-cutting issue that affects working parents, employers and those living in poverty. Instead of passing the money on to child care organizations to disperse, we formed an Advisory Board comprised of more than 80 people from many different disciplines and points of view. Collective planning and problem-solving brought the large group together towards a shared vision, forming strategies that made the vision a reality.
Thirty-five grants were awarded through the five-year Child Care Project to increase awareness of local child care issues, expand resources for providers and increase the capacity of area agencies. Funded programs included such things as a library reading program for language development, home-based training for family care providers, infant and child first aid classes and the establishment of a family child care association.
Upon the project’s completion, a data collection project resulted in a report to the community on the trends and challenges of local child care that was distributed to legislators, organizations and providers. The Community Foundation was honored for its efforts with the 1992 Decade of the Child Award for outstanding contributions to New York children.
Successfully garnering the Leadership Challenge Grant and implementing the Child Care Project set the stage for what would become a long history of the Community Foundation tapping the powers of collective philanthropic capital and thoughtful collaboration to make significant community change.