The West Des Moines Community Enrichment Foundation (WDMCEF) was created in 2007 to make a positive impact on the city — to improve the quality of life in West Des Moines by engaging and encouraging others to give back to their community, while also serving as a catalyst for specific projects.
Since the foundation’s inception, more than $250,000 has been raised from families, businesses, individuals and Polk and Dallas counties. It has granted nearly 90 percent of the money raised and also established an endowment fund to support artistic, cultural, recreational, historic, social and natural resources.
The foundation has supported a range of projects and causes — from feeding hungry school children and supporting the construction of a new archery facility to helping launch a temporary public art exhibit.
Some gifts they have received have been up to $10,000 from larger businesses, says Kristi Davick, president of WDMCEF’s board of directors. But she stresses that each gift is important, with the foundation walking donors through the giving process.
“Any gift matters,” Davick says. “No gift is too small.”
How it began, how it works
“We’re talking about a grassroots effort to raise funds to improve the quality of life in West Des Moines,” says Steve Jacobs, who sits on the foundation’s board of directors and is past president.
That $20 you think won’t make a difference definitely does, when it’s multiplied by 10, 20 or 30 people who are giving the same amount.
The foundation itself had small beginnings, starting with a group of 10 individuals representing businesses, the government and community of West Des Moines, Jacobs says. They came together in 2007 to discuss how they could help support projects and nonprofits in their community that needed help.
The best way to do that was by establishing the West Des Moines Community Enrichment Foundation as an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, he says. Doing so meant not having to “recreate the wheel.”
The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines receives all the gifts from donors and manages the funds. It also takes care of the behind-the-scenes work, from providing tools and resources for marketing to handling accounting, finance and legal functions, says Wade Den Hartog, director of affiliates and charitable partners at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.
“We have 39 counties and communities that we help facilitate giving through our affiliate program,” Den Hartog says. “We have the processes and procedures and just the framework for them so they don’t have to necessarily ‘recreate the wheel.’”
This allows affiliates like the WDMCEF to devote more time in their communities to do work like reaching out to donor prospects, he says.
The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines currently manages more than $359 million in assets and administers more than 1,320 charitable funds.
The WDMCEF’s board considers grant requests and also discusses where the needs are in their community, collaborating with the city and county to identify those projects that take priority.
Donors have some decisions to make when deciding to give, including where their money will go. The WDMCEF and Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines have an in-depth understanding of the issues, needs and opportunities to help in the community. They can assist donors in finding the right match for their current passions and philanthropic interests.
Donations to the WDMCEF can go to a specific program or organization, or to its permanent endowment fund. When people make donations to that fund, they are eligible to receive Endow Iowa tax credits — a 25 percent Iowa tax credit that’s in addition to normal federal charitable income tax deductions for certain charitable gifts.
The WDMCEF decided to build that endowment to $100,00, a goal that they’ve nearly reached, before using the funds. They’ll then have about $5,000 annually that they can use for projects to be determined, Jacobs says.
There are a number of ways donors can give. They include: cash, stock, real estate, planned gifts designated in a will or estate plan, donations from retirement accounts, grain and personal property such as artwork and boats.
Den Hartog says they work with “donors of all shapes and sizes,” receiving gifts of $5, $20 and $50.
“Our mission is to meet the donor where they’re at,” he says.
Donations at work
The WDMCEF has supported a wide variety of projects and groups in West Des Moines. They include:
• “Booster Pak” program. This year, the foundation gave $1,500 to the program, which helps at-risk students in the West Des Moines Community Schools by providing food and personal care items.
• West Des Moines Human Services. The agency, which assists low-income, elderly and disabled residents, received $1,000 from the foundation.
• “Everybody Wins!” Everybody Wins! is a national program that pairs students with reading mentors to promote children’s literacy and a love of learning. The West Des Moines Leadership Academy started the Everybody Wins program at Hillside Elementary, which the West Des Moines Community Enrichment Foundation donated $1,000 to. The foundation also annually sponsors a $1,000 scholarship to an individual attending the West Des Moines Leadership Academy.
• Rock climbing wall. The foundation donated $20,000 to install a rock-climbing wall at the West Des Moines Teen Center, located at 1401 Vine St. It opened in 2011.
• Raccoon River Park Archery facility. The facility, located at 2500 Grand Ave., opened this year. It is the first of its kind in Iowa, and there are only two others like it in the United States, according to the WDMCEF. The foundation donated $20,000 to the project and also applied for a grant from Polk County, receiving $75,000. Funding for the facility was a collaboration between the Polk County Board of Supervisors, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the WDMCEF and City of West Des Moines.
The foundation was also instrumental in launching a public art temporary exhibit, located around the lake adjacent to West Des Moines’ City Hall. It granted $3,000 to the West Des Moines Public Arts Advisory Commission to assist with costs such as the artists’ stipends and the construction of pads for the pieces to sit on.
Ten pieces were featured in 2013, the exhibit’s first year. This year, there were 13. All of the artists are from Iowa. Children’s activities were also created to accompany the exhibit.
“We thought, ‘What a great way to raise awareness in the community on a very limited budget, to bring public art to the community, but also give opportunities to local artists,” says Tamara Kenworthy, who serves on the West Des Moines Public Arts Advisory Commission.
Kenworthy is also a current board member of the WDMCEF.
“It shows the synergies of the organizations working together in West Des Moines,” she says. “The foundation is supporting other organizations in place that are doing good things in the community.”
The goal of the West Des Moines Public Arts Advisory Commission is “to raise awareness for and generate opportunities for public art in West Des Moines,” which is a vital component of quality of life in the city, says Kenworthy.
“What public art brings to the table is one piece of the fabric that weaves together for a total quality of life package that helps you keep people in your community, brings people to your community and it brings businesses to your community,” she says.
Supporting her community
West Des Moines resident Karen Boettcher first learned of the foundation when she received a letter and donation request in the mail. Boettcher, who does a lot of international giving, says she decided to support the organization because the needs in our communities should also be addressed.
“We always have to remember that we have local issues and that we need to also stay close to home in our giving,” she says. “I think it’s important to support your community. And they’re doing good things.”
Boettcher’s family has lived in West Des Moines since 1997. She wanted to give back to the city, which has provided a safe and clean place to live, along with great parks and trails.
“It’s just a great community, and I’m happy to have chosen to raise our kids here,” Boettcher says.
Some may think that what they can afford to give won’t make a difference. But she likened it to people supporting a political candidate, who receives gifts big and small. If 50 people each gave $25, it would add up.
“Everything is helpful and needed,” says Boettcher, who has given a couple of donations of $50 each to the foundation. “You don’t have to give a lot.”