What is a community foundation?

We’ve welcomed many new folks to our community in recent years and have said goodbye to many friends. With all this turnover, new islanders may not know that Bowen has a community foundation—let alone what it does and how it works. To that end, we thought we’d take a moment to introduce ourselves––we are your Bowen Island Community Foundation (BICF).

What is a community foundation?

A community foundation is a tax exempt, non-profit, publicly supported charitable organization. It works to improve the overall well-being of residents in a geographical area. Community foundations steadily build permanent endowment funds, drawing on a portion of the income those funds generate to support local charitable organizations through grants and special projects.

What is an endowment fund?
An endowment fund is an investment fund that produces income for charitable purposes. A typical endowment fund will distribute only the income generated from its investments; its principal remains untouched. It therefore generates income in perpetuity.

We work with individuals, companies, and charitable agencies to create permanent endowment funds, then use the income to support dozens of Bowen Island charities. The current market value of BICF’s endowment funds is approximately $1,037,000. Since its inception, the BICF has distributed more than $635,500 in grants, scholarships, bursaries, and donor-directed funds to our community.


How is the BICF different from other Bowen nonprofits?

Most nonprofit organizations have a focused mission whereas the mission of community foundations is very broad: to improve overall quality of life in the community.

This breadth of mission allows us to serve a wider group of potential donors on the one hand and, on the other, a wider group of charitable organizations. We consider local organizations our partners in improving the social, economic, and ecological well-being on Bowen Island.

Simply put, the BICF is a funder of other Bowen nonprofits. We direct our granting according to the needs and priorities that the community identified in the two Vital Conversations workshops hosted in 2014 and in 2017. We then provide financial and other support to local nonprofits to fill those needs. Community foundations do not provide services but rather help other organizations that do.

Besides having grant money available, some nonprofit organizations ask us to manage an endowment on their behalf. For example, the BICF provided the initial seed funding for the Knick Knack Nook (KKN)––Bowen Island’s wonderful re-use-it store––in 2008. Once established, KKN came back and endowed a fund with the foundation. Just last year the KKN was able to grant back more than $20,000 to community projects and more than $25,000 in scholarships for Bowen students.

As it grows, a community foundation gradually becomes a center for charitable giving. We connect people who want to give with those who need support. In this way, we keep Bowen’s money on Bowen.

What is your vision?
Bowen is as much about people as it is about the natural beauty we all cherish. We need both in our lives.

“The Bowen Island Community Foundation helps build a resilient community and strengthens Bowen Islanders sense of belonging by engaging citizens, organizations and local government to work together and contribute their money, time, ideas, expertise and energy to serve our community,” reads our website.

We are a member of Community Foundations of Canada, the national membership organization of 191 community foundations across Canada. These foundations contribute time, leadership and financial support to local initiatives.

What kind of things do you fund?
BICF grants have helped construct playgrounds and bike parks, plant public gardens, build an art gallery, design a senior’s residence, plan affordable housing, map local marine life, expand the children’s centre, hold truth & reconciliation workshops, help neighbours through personal emergencies, and much more.

Who can apply for a grant?
BICF can only grant to registered charities, not to individuals or businesses. If you are an individual with a great idea, consider partnering with a local charity with similar interests and apply for a Foundation grant. In addition to grants, there are a number of bursaries and scholarships available each year for individuals. For more details, please see our grants page.

How can I help?

We warmly welcome donations of all sizes. Gifts can be given in many forms besides cash, including through life insurance and stocks, as well as by leaving a bequest in your will. You can donate directly to many of our existing funds, including the flexible Community Impact Fund, at bowenfoundation.com.

Thank you for working with us to build a healthy, vibrant, and livable Bowen Island.


Holly Graff
Chair, Bowen Island Community Foundation

Published in Bowen Island Undercurrent
September 3, 2019