A small gift to The California Wellness Foundation in 2014 produced a legacy that continues to this day.
Colburn “Cole” S. Wilbur, former interim president of Cal Wellness, stepped away from the foundation in 2014 when current President and CEO Judy Belk stepped in. When he left, he decided to gift his remaining retirement benefit funds to Cal Wellness. He included a simple note with the check he mailed to the foundation: “The staff will know what to do with this.”
Indeed, they did.
A Grantmaking Program for Non-Grantmakers
Wilbur’s gift evolved into what became Cole’s Fund, a Cal Wellness program that allows non-grantmaking staff to learn the grantmaking process first-hand. Cole’s Fund grants are typically less than $5,000 and go to organizations in California with budgets of less than $1 million. In total, Cole’s Fund has given away $136,200 to 38 organizations since its creation.
“Cole’s Fund is an opportunity to really learn how to provide resources for smaller nonprofits, and to look statewide and at underprivileged areas and make an impact,” said Karen Wloch, grants administrator at Cal Wellness and participant in Cole’s Fund.
Cal Wellness staff who choose to join the Cole’s Fund committee engage in a multi-part process. The committee first identifies a focus for their grantmaking. Past focus areas have included experiential learning for children, domestic violence, and senior nutrition. Secondly, each member of the group researches organizations in California whose mission fits the focus area, with the goal of spreading the grantmaking throughout the state. Committee members contact their chosen organizations to let them know that a small grant is being considered. At this time, the organization has an opportunity to ask questions as the committee member seeks to better understand the work of the organization and its impact. The committee members then have an opportunity to share what they’ve learned and discuss their grant recommendation with the full committee. Finally, the committee presents to Judy for approval. One of Cal Wellness’ grantmaking team members serves as an advisor to assist the committee over the course of the process.