With generous assistance from Lilly Endowment and many donors in our community, the Dearborn Community Foundation, Inc., (DCF), in 19 years, has become a vital instrument for the advancement of education, social activity, charity and culture in Dearborn County. The Foundation is a positive element that improves people’s lives primarily through grants and scholarships.

The Founding board members, donors and friends sought to promote philanthropy among the residents of Dearborn County and to respond to the changing needs of the community in perpetuity.

DCF (originally named Dearborn County Community Foundation) held its first official “Committee” meeting under the affiliation with the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County, Inc. in February of 1997. A small group of community leaders led by the Foundation’s Founding President Mike Kramer started the process to establish a community foundation in Dearborn County in 1995. Mr. Kramer served as President and then as the first Chairman of the Foundation board of directors for over eight years.

In May 1997, Andrea Rahe Thalheimer became the first executive director of the Foundation. The office for the Foundation was located on the second floor of the US Bank building in downtown Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

On December 29, 1997, the Dearborn County Community Foundation, Inc. was officially formed by the filing of its Articles of Incorporation and By-laws with the State of Indiana. The Foundation was classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization in April of 1998 (and reissued this determination in August of 2002 under our new name Dearborn Community Foundation, Inc.) Assets were transferred from the Community Foundation of Madison & Jefferson County on July 1, 1998.

The Foundation successfully completed Lilly Endowment’s GIFT II challenge grant (Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow) in March of 1998. This GIFT initiative allowed the Foundation to award $50,000 in special project grants. DCF also raised $100,000 for operating from the local business community. These funds were matched with $100,000 from the Rising Sun Regional Foundation and $100,000 from Lilly Endowment. The Foundation raised $600,000 in endowments and received $400,000 from Rising Sun and $500,000 from Lilly Endowment for its unrestricted endowment fund.

Lilly Endowment Offers More ‘GIFT’ Challenges

Lilly Endowment’s GIFT III challenge grant provided DCF with the opportunity to bring an additional $1 million provided that the Foundation raised $1 million for operating and endowment. This challenge grant program immediately followed GIFT II in April of 1998. The Board was successful and used $150,000 to continue the special project grants program, $250,000 for a matching endowment grant program, $100,000 for operating and $500,000 for the unrestricted endowment fund.

The Foundation participated in the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program that began in 1998. This program currently allows DCF to select one recipient to receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to any accredited public or private college in Indiana. In 1998, the first recipient was Ashley Fields.

In March of 1999, Lilly Endowment offered a new challenge grant, GIFT IV. The Foundation received $1.2 million for unrestricted and $300,000 for operating. The $1.2 million was allocated as follows: $350,000 direct community grants, $100,000 matching endowment grant program, $50,000 special project grant program, and $700,000 for the unrestricted endowment fund. Lilly Endowment put stipulations on the $300,000 for operating support that the funds needed to be used during a five-year period.

In September of 2000, Lilly Endowment announced a new initiative called “Taking Stock.” They awarded each community foundation $25,000 to step back, reflect, to obtain the assistance it needed to carry out an assessment of its own needs and priorities, to obtain views from the community it serves, and to set a direction for the future. The program culminated with the Foundation submitting a survey to Lilly Endowment. DCF also received $100,000 for the completion of the survey.

In August of 2001, Lilly Endowment announced another GIFT initiative (GIFT V). DCF needed to raise $50,000 in operating support in order to receive a $100,000 operating grant. The Foundation had the opportunity to bring an additional $2 million for its unrestricted endowment fund, if the organization raised $1 million in unrestricted endowment support and another $1 million for restricted endowment purposes from the community. The Foundation hired a firm to conduct a community awareness campaign. Through these efforts, the Foundation was able to raise all of the operating support needed and enough endowment contributions to raise $243,480 for the unrestricted endowment. The Rising Sun Regional Foundation granted DCF $80,000 towards the unrestricted endowment for matching purposes.

McCarter Becomes Second DCF Director

In 2005, Fred McCarter was hired as DCF’s Executive Director and the Foundation moved from its Aurora office to an office in Lawrenceburg. The Foundation also embarked on a mission to become operationally self-sufficient.

The creation of a Strategic Resource Development Plan to reach the goal of self-sufficiency was a part of the Lilly Endowment initiative “Sustaining Resource Development” (SRD). The Foundation received a $250,000 Lilly grant in late 2005. The SRD grant monies were to be used specifically for a three-year Resource Development budget outlined in the Foundation’s successful plan/proposal submitted to Lilly Endowment.

Also in 2005, the Foundation successfully garnered a $750,000 CAPE III grant from Lilly Endowment to establish school-based programs targeting at-risk students and their families.

The Community Alliances to Promote Education (CAPE) grant allowed Dearborn County schools to implement a two-part program called “Project Connect.” The first component is aimed at increasing attendance rates by hiring one “Connect Counselor” for each school corporation. In January 2006, the counselors began working with students that have multiple absences and develop action plans to address the relevant issues. Through the program, educators can identify other resources and services available to families and students. The second component of Project Connect is an after-school tutoring program called “Homework Connection” established at 11 schools in the county in August 2006. The tutoring program assists at-risk students in completing their homework and succeeding in school. The tutoring program was an extension of an existing program at Lawrenceburg High School.

Donors Double Their Donations

DCF successfully completed its first of 10 “Double Your Donation” endowment matching programs in April 2008 – growing the Foundation’s endowment for the community by $550,000 in just 11 days. The Foundation’s goal for the matching program was to celebrate DCF’s 10th Anniversary with a gift encouraging philanthropy through endowment in the Dearborn County community. The first matching program began on April 1 and was over by April 11, when the last of the $275,000 in endowment matching funds were matched. DCF matched $1-for-$1 contributions made to new or existing endowments – doubling the original donation by contributors. Since that first endowment matching program, DCF has completed nine other matching campaigns, including the most recent, which began on May 1, 2017. The 2017 matching program was so successful that the $100,000 available were matched in less than 30 minutes. From its beginning in 2008 through 2017, generous contributions by donors during the matching program have increased the Foundation’s Endowment for the community by nearly $3.3 million. For 10 years, the program continues to inspire philanthropy with more than 50 new endowment funds established to support educational needs of students in our county and to help charitable organizations that make a positive impact on the lives of community members.

Foundation Moves To New Office

In October 2008, DCF moved into a newly renovated office at 322 Walnut Street in Lawrenceburg. The move was made possible by the kind support of the City of Lawrenceburg along with in-kind contributions made by many others. The Foundation’s address is 322 Walnut Street, but the office entrance is via the front door of the adjoining offices of the Dearborn County Chamber of Commerce, and the Dearborn County Convention, Visitor & Tourism Bureau. The DCF move brought about a new partnership that created a synergy that will aide all four organizations in making Dearborn County an even better place to live, learn, work and play.

DCF Participates in Regional Education/Training Grant from Lilly

In 2008, the Foundation was a part of a successful regional grant proposal to Lilly Endowment Inc. for a $38 million education and training grant. DCF received $900,000 over a three-year period to fund an Economic Opportunities 2015 (EcO15) coordinator and administrative assistant positions and to support and expand advanced manufacturing education in the county. The Community Education Coalition, Columbus, received $26 million of the Lilly Endowment grant with $12 million being awarded to the Heritage Fund – the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County for the program that covers 10 Southeastern Indiana counties. The two organizations provided leadership, oversight and management support services for the regionally-focused initiative. The EcO15 programs teach skills needed for an influx of jobs primarily in advanced manufacturing but also in healthcare services and hospitality and tourism in the Southeastern Indiana region. In August 2008, DCF hired retired bank executive Mark Neff, Aurora, as the EcO15 Coordinator for Dearborn County. DCF established an impressive EcO15 Task Force representing county educators, ranging from middle school to Ivy Tech Community College, along with manufacturers and economic development professionals to work on an advanced manufacturing proposal for Dearborn County.

DCF Receives National Seal of Approval

In January 2009, DCF received the Council on Foundations (COF) National Seal for operational quality, integrity and accountability in the community foundation sector. National Standards requires DCF to document its policies in donor services, investment management, grant making and administration. To receive confirmation of National Standards compliance, DCF submitted its organizational and financial documents, policies and procedures to a rigorous peer review. The National Standards Seal by the Dearborn Community Foundation’s name indicates official confirmation from the Council on Foundations that DCF has met the most rigorous standards in philanthropy. The Foundation was reconfirmed for the National Standards by the COF n 2014.

GIFT VI Provides Endowment Matching Funds for Community

In 2014, Lilly Endowment offered a new challenge grant, GIFT VI, to promote sustainable and effective community foundations in Indiana. The GIFT VI funds enhanced fundraising efforts to build endowed assets and sustain and improve operations. To balance long-term and short-term objectives, the funds helped build unrestricted endowment as well as provide support for short-term projects and needs. The Foundation received $250,000 to be used for matching unrestricted funds endowment fund contributions and $250,000 to be used for operating and other endowment fund contributions. The campaign was scheduled to run through March 2016, but DCF was successfully able to match all funds by November 2015. DCF added nearly $1.25 million to endowment including $500,000 to Community Funds. Over time as needs change and new challenges and opportunities present themselves Community Funds give DCF the ability to meet the needs of today in our community as well as those in the future through grants that are awarded by the Board of Directors each year.